Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition involving recurring thoughts and repetitive behaviors that are difficult to control. Treatment can include therapy and medication. Some people also find that meditation helps them manage OCD symptoms.

OCD affects 1–2% of the population and is usually a chronic and long lasting disorder. Some research suggests that meditation may help people manage the symptoms, reducing obsessions and compulsions.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), meditation can help calm the mind and enhance a person’s overall well-being. Some meditation techniques involve focusing on sensations, such as breathing. And some may incorporate the practice of mindfulness, which involves bringing attention to the present moment without judgment or evaluation.

This article will explain whether meditation can help with OCD symptoms and will discuss techniques and tips a person can use to manage obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.

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The history of meditation goes back thousands of years to the Vedic times of India, encompassing a variety of techniques that place focus on mind and body integration. Such techniques can calm and relax the mind, which is the usual purpose of meditation in Western nations.

In Vedic traditions, the true goal of meditation was for a person to connect to their inner self. In modern times, meditation has enjoyed a resurgence thanks to technology, with the rise of apps such as Headspace, Calm, and Aura.

Discover 9 of the best meditation apps here.

Breath awareness meditation

When a person has OCD, they may experience repeated intrusive, upsetting, and persistent thoughts. These thoughts often happen outside of a person’s control.

Breath awareness is a type of mindful meditation that encourages mindful breathing. The goal is to focus only on breathing and ignore the thoughts that may enter the mind.

Techniques involve:

  • finding a comfortable position
  • breathing slowly and deeply
  • counting each breath
  • remaining focused yet aware
  • accepting that a busy mind will happen, with the goal of being aware of thoughts without acknowledging them, as if watching a TV show

Breath awareness offers many similar benefits to mindfulness, including:

  • reducing stress and anxiety
  • improving sleep
  • relaxing the body
  • calming the mind

Read more about breathing techniques here.

Mantra-based meditation

A mantra is a word, sound, or syllable a person repeats during meditation. Using a mantra can help calm the mind against unwanted thoughts, distractions, or unpleasant emotions.

Techniques for mantra meditation include:

  • finding a comfortable position
  • having an intention for the practice, such as overcoming destructive thoughts
  • focusing on breathing
  • chanting the mantra, which gives the mind something to hold and focus on when thoughts are particularly overwhelming

Transcendental Meditation

Transcendental Meditation is a type of silent mantra meditation that Maharishi Mahesh Yogi created decades ago. It involves 20-minute, twice-daily meditation, silently repeating a word or phrase in the mind.

It differs from other forms of meditation in that it requires:

  • no concentration
  • no controlling of the mind
  • no contemplation
  • no monitoring of thoughts

During a session, a person focuses on a mantra, which they may choose. People may choose a mantra that relates to an issue they are facing, such as relationship difficulties, fears, or anxieties.

A small 2014 study involving 40 teachers found that practicing Transcendental Meditation effectively reduced the participants’ levels of stress, depression, and burnout.

Mindfulness involves being aware of the present moment and noticing what is happening in the surroundings. Being present in surroundings, without judgment or evaluation, can help a person become:

  • calmer
  • less stressed
  • more focused
  • more self-aware
  • better able to control their reactions to thoughts and feelings
  • better at managing negative or unpleasant thoughts, especially those that are obsessive


Mindfulness techniques involve being aware of the present. OCD thoughts can be negative and triggering, ultimately affecting how a person acts and feels.

By bringing their attention to the present, a person can move their focus onto their surroundings rather than their negative thoughts.

Techniques include:

  • noticing how thoughts come into the mind and leave
  • listening to the body
  • focusing on sensations such as breathing, heartbeat, and muscle tension


Yoga is a popular mind and body practice that began in India alongside meditation. It involves using movement, meditation, and mindfulness techniques to promote health, wellness, and physical, emotional, and mental well-being.

A 2019 study suggests that yoga may help people with OCD symptoms, particularly those whose condition has not responded to first-line therapies.

Types of yoga that may help with OCD include:

  • Restorative yoga: This is a relaxing type of yoga that can help a person sink into deep relaxation without exertion, effort, or a requirement to hold a pose. People may use props such as blankets or bolsters.
  • Sivananda yoga: This type of yoga uses a five-point philosophy to maintain proper breathing, diet, exercise, relaxation, and positive thinking, bringing together an overall healthy yogic lifestyle.
  • Hatha yoga: This category includes any type of yoga that teaches physical poses. It is a gentle practice with breathing and mindfulness work.

Read more about how yoga can help still the mind here.

Meditation has various benefits that can improve overall health and wellness. According to the NCCIH, meditation can help people with many conditions and symptoms, including:

It may also help people manage their weight and change their eating habits.

However, more research is necessary.

Read more about the health benefits of meditation here.

Many treatments are available for OCD. Practicing meditation alongside these forms of treatment may further help people manage distressing symptoms.

Treatments include:

  • Exposure and response prevention: This treatment encourages a person to confront obsession thoughts while resisting the urge to carry out compulsive behaviors. It may involve putting a person in deliberate situations that induce anxiety and teaching them to tolerate and manage it.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: This therapy focuses on how a person’s thoughts can influence their beliefs, attitudes, and behavior.
  • Cognitive therapy: This therapy focuses on identifying negative thoughts and feelings.


Possible medications for OCD include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and clomipramine, a tricyclic antidepressant.

Other antidepressants that health professionals may prescribe for OCD include:

Find more strategies for managing OCD here.

Meditation may help people manage symptoms of OCD, including distressing, negative, and obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.

Meditation can help calm the mind through techniques such as breathing and mindfulness practice. Overall, it may help improve a person’s mental and emotional well-being.