Have you ever heard someone joke about having obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) after washing their hands frequently or checking multiple times to make sure they turned off the oven? Many people know that the condition is associated with repetitive, perfectionist behaviors, but what they may not know is that symptoms can be extremely serious and debilitating for some individuals. These habits and activities must interfere with daily function and quality of life before OCD is officially diagnosed.

 A person who has OCD has intrusive, unwanted thoughts and repeatedly performs tasks to get rid of the thoughts. For example, they may fear that everything they touch is contaminated with germs, and in order to ease that fear, they repeatedly wash their hands.

The effects of OCD range from mild to severe. OCD can disrupt an individual's social life and relationships as well as their ability to work, make a living, or go to school.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 2.2 million men and women in the United States have OCD. About 80% of individuals who develop OCD show signs of the disorder in childhood, although the disorder usually develops fully in adulthood. Also, OCD is more common among people of higher education, IQ, and socioeconomic status.

Though its course is chronic and usually lasts a lifetime, symptoms may be managed with medication. If you're looking for natural, alternative therapies that could help relieve your OCD symptoms, read on...

The Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com) has provided an evidence-based list of potential treatments that may be able to help. Please remember to talk to your doctor or pharmacist before starting any new alternative medicine.


Psychotherapy is an interactive process between a person and a qualified mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed counselor. Its purpose is the exploration of thoughts, feelings, and behavior for the purpose problem solving or achieving higher levels of functioning. Psychotherapy is conducted in private individual, couple, group, or family sessions. Generally, sessions range from 50 minutes for individuals to 90 or 120 minutes for groups. According to Natural Standard, psychotherapy has been given an evidence grade of B, meaning that there is good scientific evidence supporting its effectiveness in managing OCD.


The practice of yoga also has a Natural Standard evidence grade of B in reducing symptoms of OCD. Yoga is an ancient system of relaxation, exercise, and healing with origins in Indian philosophy. It is often practiced by healthy individuals with the aim to achieve relaxation, fitness, and a healthy lifestyle, and has been recommended for a variety of medical conditions. Yoga techniques can be learned in classes or through videotape instruction. Classes last from 30 to 90 minutes and are offered at various skill levels.


Caffeine is consumed regularly in the United States and throughout the world, as it is found in many beverages, including coffee, chocolate, some energy drinks, and tea. More than seven kilograms per person of caffeine are consumed in the United States per year. Some studies have looked at the potential benefits of caffeine. However, it receives a Natural Standard evidence grade of C, indicating that there is unclear or conflicting evidence on its effectiveness for OCD.

St. John's Wort

Extracts of St. John's wort have been recommended for a wide range of medical conditions. The most common modern-day use of St. John's wort is the treatment of depression. Numerous studies report St. John's wort to be more effective than placebo and equally effective as tricyclic antidepressant drugs in the short-term treatment of mild-to-moderate major depression (1-3 months). Although it has been studied for use in managing OCD, St. John's wort also has an evidence grade of C for unclear or conflicting evidence.

These natural, alternative therapies may help OCD sufferers manage debilitating symptoms that keep them from living happy, anxiety-free lives. If you have OCD, talk to your doctor or pharmacist to see if any of these treatments might be a good fit for you.

Hopefully you'll be able to go about your day, confident that the garage door and your OCD case are closed. Wait a minute. did I spell check this?...

About the Author

Catherine Ulbricht, Pharm.D.

Catherine Ulbricht, Pharm.D., co-founder of Natural Standard Research Collaboration, is the Senior Attending Pharmacist at Massachussetts General Hospital.

You are reading

Natural Standard

Dietary Supplement Interactions

Even all-natural herbs and supplements can interact.

Music Therapy for Health and Wellness

Music has been studied as an integrative therapy for many conditions.

Attention: Integrative Therapies

Herb and supplement use in ADHD