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What are the Different Types of OCD Treatments?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 29 October 2016
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There are a limited number of obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD treatments. No treatment cures the illness, and the two most common therapies used are medication and psychotherapy, usually with third wave behavioral therapies. With the combination of these two therapies, people have rates of improvement that average between 50-80%. Occasionally, the illness can be so severe that more extensive help is needed, and this could range from hospitalization for closer management, to tactics like deep brain stimulation or electro-convulsive therapy (ECT), which is also known as shock therapy. Limited research is available on the benefits of these last two OCD treatments and they aren’t used often.

The most common OCD treatments that involve medication use a few of the antidepressants. Not all work, and those most often employed may be fluvoxamine (Luvox®), fluoxetine (Prozac®), setraline (Zoloft®), and paroxetine (Paxil®). These are all selected serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and they usually must be taken in larger doses than those typically given to treat depression or anxiety. A few other medications may be of use and these include the tricyclic antidepressant, clomipramine (Anafranil®), the serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), venlafaxine (Effexor®), and occasionally atypical antipsychotics like quetiapine (Seroquel®).

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It’s seldom recommended that OCD treatments consist solely of medication. Most people are best helped with combined medicine and therapy. The most accepted OCD therapy form is cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT, which can be used in conjunction with supportive or other talk therapies to address coping with the difficulties of this condition. Other potential therapeutic methods could include dialectical behavioral therapy or acceptance and commitment therapy. In all cases, the goal is to help reduce impact of intrusive thoughts so that compulsive behaviors don’t have to occur. Such reduction may take a while to accomplish.

In some instances, OCD is so severe that a person is not safe outside of a hospital. The goal of hospitalization would be to help reduce risky behaviors through both medication and therapeutic support. The primary object is to help patients regain enough functionality so that living outside the hospital is safe.

Severe cases might also involve OCD treatments that are less common. One of these is deep brain stimulation, where a small mechanism is placed in the brain that gives off a series of non-painful electric waves, similar to a pacemaker. This may help dull compulsive behaviors or obsessive thinking,

Another of the OCD treatments that might be considered is electro-convulsive therapy. Mostly used for depression, there are some studies that suggest it is of benefit in some OCD patients. Still, it is not a first-line treatment.

OCD remains a challenging illness to treat, and is not fully curable. It also bears resemblance to schizophrenia spectrum disorders and is a risk factor for development of schizophrenia. It is important to rule out schizophrenia prior to creating a treatment plan for OCD because if this second illness is present, OCD treatments alone won’t restore functionality.

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