What are the Common Medications for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2019
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Obsessive compulsive disorder, a type of anxiety disorder, is commonly treated with antidepressant medications. Though a doctor may prescribe a range of medications to treat obsessive compulsive disorder, clomipramine, fluvoxamine, and fluoxetine are among the most common. Likewise, paroxetine and sertraline are frequently used to treat the condition. The goal of treatment with these antidepressants is to increase a person’s levels of a brain chemical called serotonin, as levels of serotonin may be lower in individuals who have obsessive compulsive disorder.

While many antidepressants exist that may help those dealing with obsessive compulsive disorder, one specific class of antidepressants stands out as the most commonly prescribed. Doctors most frequently prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors for this disorder. They work by increasing a brain chemical called serotonin. The increase in serotonin is said to help decrease symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder. Some tricyclic medications, which increase levels of norepinephrine and serotonin in a person's brain, may help as well but cause more side effects.

The list of the most common medications for obsessive compulsive disorder includes five different drugs. They include clomipramine, fluvoxamine, fluoxetine, paroxetine, and sertraline. With the exception of clomipramine, these medications are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Clomipramine is a tricyclic antidepressant.


Though using the most common medications for obsessive compulsive disorder usually proves effective, choosing the right medication can be difficult. One drug may work wonderfully for one patient but fail to control the symptoms of another. Often, doctors switch medications until they find the option that proves most effective for a patient. In some cases, combining medications works, and some doctors even use a combination of antidepressants and anti-psychotic drugs to treat their patients. Additionally, psychotherapy may prove helpful when used in conjunction with medications for obsessive compulsive disorder.

Mildness is one of the main reasons selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are so popular as medications for obsessive compulsive disorder; tricyclic antidepressants are usually much harder on the body. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors can, however, cause side effects, such as nausea, sweating, and difficulty sleeping. Some people also experience decreased sexual appetite while taking these medications. In addition to the potential side effects of medications for obsessive compulsive disorder, harmful effects may also occur when a person uses them in combination with other drugs. For this reason, doctors often advise obsessive compulsive disorder patients to consult with them before consuming any new over-the-counter or prescription drugs.


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