OCDdrop is an online treatment system developed by Professor Ken Kirkby, Dr Allison Matthews and Dr Joel Scanlan at the University of Tasmania.
The team also developed FearDrop, which addresses phobias.
The current research trial is being conducted by Rosie Maunder, a Masters student in the UTAS School of Psychology.
In Australia, approximately two per cent of the adult population suffer from OCD in any 12 month period.
OCD is a debilitating anxiety disorder in which the sufferer experiences obsessions and/or compulsions which may be performed for several hours a day, impacting on a person’s daily life, employment and personal relationships.
One common obsession is a fear of dirt or contamination which can result in obsessions around washing or cleaning.
Recent studies have suggested that as many as 52 per cent of people suffering from OCD do not receive treatment.
“Those suffering from OCD may be ashamed of their disorder, may not understand that there are treatments available, or do not have access to them and so do not seek treatment,” Miss Maunder said.
In recent years there has been increased interest in computer treatments for many different anxiety disorders in an attempt to increase the accessibility and ease of treatment.
“The OCDdrop program is an interactive online computer-aided vicarious exposure (CAVE) treatment which is designed to help people overcome their fears through learning a common psychological technique known as exposure with response prevention,” Miss Maunder explained.
“Exposure with response prevention involves confronting the anxiety provoking situation without engaging in rituals, until anxiety decreases to a manageable level.”
In OCDdrop people learn the principles of exposure with response prevention, by directing a character around a virtual world in order to reduce the character’s obsessive-compulsive symptoms. Points are earned when the character is directed to do something which helps reduce their anxiety.
“The learning that occurs online may act as a stepping stone for real life exposure and may help people to reduce their obsessive-compulsive symptoms in everyday life,” Miss Maunder said.
“We are currently conducting a research trial to assess the effectiveness of the treatment and to work out the best way to achieve the maximum benefit.”
It is also hoped that this treatment will be a useful aid for therapists to use as part of traditional face-to-face treatments.
Volunteers with OCD symptoms who are interested in participating can register for the treatment trial at no cost by visiting www.OCDdrop.com