Mindfulness and OCD

As mindfulness-based treatments gain currency in mental health treatment, it’s natural to wonder how many types of problems mindfulness can solve.

Research shows us that mindfulness can be helpful in the treatment of chronic pain, worry, stress and other difficulties. Given these positive results, some ask, why not use it for other problems? This is not a bad idea on its face, but it is important to know whether clinical research suggests it can help for a given problem.

As of this posting, to my knowledge, there have not been any systemic controlled clinical trials of mindfulness-based therapies for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).  Hopefully this will change very soon, but for now it is important to remember that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)  is a much more established treatment for OCD.  

Some well-informed CBT therapists treating OCD may find ways to integrate mindfulness techniques into conventional CBT, but these techniques should be considered a supplement to treatment and not an alternative to CBT. Stay tuned to this blog for developments on research on the use of mindfulness for OCD and other disorders.

Conceptually, mindfulness overlaps a lot with CBT for OCD.  Some might contend that being trained to use exposure techniques for OCD is really a form of mindfulness training.  Patients using exposure are trained to experience their reactions to an anxiety-provoking situation without avoiding them or indulging them.  This overlaps very strongly with mindfulness skills.  However, mindfulness skills are applied much more broadly to any and all situations we encounter in life, whereas exposure-based skills are focused solely on situations relevant to OCD.  If you’d like to use mindfulness to address your OCD, doing so in the context of standard CBT for OCD is recommended.