Treatmenti Options for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

By  , Expert Content
Aug 27, 2012

Treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder can be challenging and in many patients, the treatment may not result in its cure. Many patients with OCD may need treatment for a prolonged duration that may even be for the rest of their life. Although, treatment may not cure OCD, it can help control symptoms so that they don't interfere with your daily functioning.

Treatment options for obsessive-compulsive disorder: Main treatment options for obsessive-compulsive disorder are:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Medications

Your doctor will recommend treatment after discussion with you and considering your personal situation and preferences. In many patients, a combination of medications and psychotherapy is used to control symptoms.

Psychotherapy for obsessive-compulsive disorder

Psychotherapy (or talk therapy) can be effective for OCD. This therapy is based on the principle that cure for a person's mental disorder lies within him or her and that cure with this method can be achieved by forming a trusting, supportive relationship with the psychotherapist. The therapist tries to make the patient identify the problems and focuses on changing his/her thinking (cognitive therapy) and behaviour (behavioural therapy) in OCD. In cognitive behavioural therapy, the mental health specialist tries to change the patient’s thought patterns and routines so he/she can control his/her compulsive behaviour.

In one CBT approach, the person is exposed to the feared object or obsession, such as dirt and is then taught various healthy ways to cope with anxiety. This method of treatment is called exposure and response prevention. The therapy can help improve quality of life once you learn to manage your obsessions and compulsions.

Medications for obsessive-compulsive disorder

Some psychiatric medications that are basically meant for treatment of some other type of mental health disorder can help control the obsessions and compulsions of OCD (such as antidepressants-basically used for treatment for depression-are often used first). Antidepressants are probably effective in treating OCD as they may increase levels of serotonin, which is probably deficient in OCD.

Antidepressants approved for treatment of OCD are:

  • Clomipramine
  • Fluvoxamine
  • Fluoxetine
  • Paroxetine
  • Sertraline

Many other antidepressants and other psychiatric medications though not approved are also used to treat OCD.

Aim of treatment with medications is to effectively control signs and symptoms with the lowest possible dosage. This is done to minimize the side-effects while achieving the desired effect. No one medication has been shown to be effective in every one with OCD. Your doctor will start medication based on your clinical symptoms and only move forward if that is best for you. In most cases, improvement is noted after weeks to months from starting a medication. Many patients need a combination of medications, such as antidepressants and antipsychotic medications to control symptoms effectively.

It is important to take your medications at the recommended dose and not stop them without consulting your doctor (even if you're feeling better). Stopping the medicine or changing the dose can cause relapse of OCD symptoms.

Other treatment options

If medications and psychotherapy aren't effective to control OCD symptoms other treatment options may be considered. Other treatment options used for OCD include:

  • Psychiatric hospitalisation
  • Residential treatment
  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation
  • Deep brain stimulation

As there are no studies to establish the effectiveness of these treatments in OCD, they are not used commonly.



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