Somatic OCD

By Dr. Chad Brandt


Somatic OCD is a subset of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in which people hyper-focus on neutral physical stimuli. For instance, a person may hyper-focus on their blinking and fear that they would never be able to stop noticing their blinking. They may also hyper-focus on the bodily functions of others and fear that they will not be able to stop noticing. Gone unchecked, this fear will continue to grow until it consumes a significant portion of a person’s day.

Common compulsions include trying to create a perfectly quiet environment in order to focus on something other than bodily functions or learning to live with distractions that keep one from focusing on bodily functions. Other forms of distraction or rituals that may reduce the likelihood of unwanted physical sensations may also grow into complicated and time-consuming rituals.

Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is scientifically shown to be the best treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder. ERP treatment would include voluntary exposure to feared sensations with the goal of testing the OCD theory that a person would never be able to focus on something other than the stimuli and getting used to having typical sensations happen while being able to engage meaningfully in their day. If you are struggling with OCD, a therapist trained and specialized in ERP would be able to help you understand and engage in exposure therapy.

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DISCLAIMER: The content found here is intended to serve as educational content and is not intended to replace therapy. For treatment-related questions, please be sure to work with your local provider or contact a local clinician.