Are Toys a Better Alternative in Treating OCD Compared to Modern-Day Medical Methods?

Are Toys a Better Alternative in Treating OCD Compared to Modern-Day Medical Methods?

Have you heard of a fidget spinner? A fidget spinner is a toy consisting of a ball barrel and structures that surround the barrel. These structures revolve around the ball barrel in 360-degree rotations both clockwise and counterclockwise with the flick of a finger. These toys come in many different forms and designs, becoming wildly popular within the United States and worldwide in early 2017. So why did such a simple toy become a worldwide sensation?  According to Edmund Salitbus, a fidget spinner collector located in Brooklyn, NY, “There was a great deal of hype that surrounded the toy, everyone wanted one, there were so many options to choose from, and people used the toy as coping mechanisms for attention disorders like ADHD and OCD.” Edmund’s statement raised another question: are toys that have the ability to treat symptoms associated with obsessive compulsions disorders (OCD) a better alternative to treating OCD compared to modern-day medical treatments? 

It is first important to acknowledge what OCD is, the symptoms associated with OCD, and modern-day medical treatments for the mental illness. Two words that generalize the definition and symptoms for OCD is obsession and compulsion (National Institute of Mental Health). Obsessions consist of repetitive thoughts and compulsions consist of repetitive behaviors. Current modern-day treatments for OCD are psychotherapy and prescription medication. There are different forms of psychotherapy used to treat OCD. One form of psychotherapy is behavioral therapy where therapists continuously help their patients face what they fear most. This repetitive exposure is to help patients face their obsessions and compulsions until they are no longer troubled by them. Another form of psychotherapy is cognitive therapy, where patients are taught to recognize their obsessions and compulsions and then think of positive alternatives that are less psychologically threatening (Kelly, 2020). 

A combination of psychotherapy and prescription medication can go a long way in treating OCD. However, these methods have some drawbacks. The cost of a therapist and prescription drugs is expensive. In 2017 the “United Census Bureau” reported, 7.9% of Americans were medically uninsured, the number rising to 8.5% in 2018. In addition, many insurance companies do not cover expenses to see a therapist unless it is a matter of life and death. This leaves people having to pay for their own treatments for OCD. Furthermore, a study done by students from the University of Rochester has shown that in order for psychotherapy to work effectively, a patient must be motivated. This raises a problem since during psychotherapy patients have to go through tough mental experiences. These experiences can lead patients to give up on therapy. 

On the other hand, toys are not expensive and people who suffer from OCD are not usually faced with difficult circumstances that make them shy away from toys. How exactly do toys help people cope with OCD? Simply put, toys help people avoid obsessions and compulsions by allowing the person to focus on something else. However, this is not the best form of treatment because toys help people avoid the problem they are facing, modern-day medical treatments work on tackling the obsessions and compulsions people face. Toys may serve as a temporary comfort, but they fail to resolve the problem in the long term.  Dr. Trelles, a psychiatrist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City says, “Devices should be used in conjunction with these things because only using a toy to cure your anxiety isn’t going to get you where you need to be.” Toys alone may not entirely help people cope with OCD, and might be more effective if used in conjunction with other treatments. 



Bureau, U. (2019, November 08). Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2018. Retrieved September 13, 2020, from

Julia Naftulin May 08, & Naftulin, J. (2017, May 08). Can Fidget Spinners Really Help Anxiety and ADHD? An Expert Weighs In. Retrieved September 13, 2020, from

National Institute Of Mental Health, N. (2019, October). Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Retrieved September 13, 2020, from

Owen Kelly, P. (2020, April 24). Psychological Therapy for OCD. Retrieved September 13, 2020, from

Richard M. Ryan, M. (2010, February 10). Motivation and Autonomy in Counseling, Psychotherapy, and Behavior Change: A Look at Theory and Practice 1ψ7 – Richard M. Ryan, Martin F. Lynch, Maarten Vansteenkiste, Edward L. Deci, 2011. Retrieved September 13, 2020, from

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