OCD Treatments From a Psychiatrist
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a chronic and debilitating mental health condition that affects people of all ages. Fortunately, treatment options are available to help those with OCD live a more normal life. Most treatments aim to reduce anxiety levels and improve quality of life by reducing symptoms caused by this order. This article will review the common treatment options used to treat OCD.
What is OCD?
OCD is an anxiety disorder that affects individuals of all ages, genders, and races. It is classified as a mental illness and psychological condition; however, it can also be considered a psychiatric diagnosis. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) states that OCD is “a common, chronic, and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (“obsessions”) or behaviors (“compulsions”) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.”
The International OCD Foundation estimates that around 1 in 100 adults, equivalent to 2-3 million adults in the United States alone, are living with OCD. In children, they estimate that 1 in 200, or approximately 500,000, have been diagnosed.
Signs of OCD
Obsessions are unwanted, repetitive thoughts, impulses, or images that cause anxiety. Compulsions are behaviors a person feels driven to perform in response to an obsession. Some examples of obsessions include:
- Fear of being contaminated by germs and bacteria
- Fear of harming others with one’s actions (also known as checking or contamination)
- Worrying about having committed religious sins or aggression
- Constant unwanted thoughts of unpleasant sexual images
Some examples of compulsions include:
- Frequent hand washing to remove germs from the body
- Checking appliances for possible electrical problems before turning them on
- Constantly checking or worrying about if a door is locked or shut
- Silently and constantly repeating words or phrases
How a psychiatrist can treat OCD
Psychotherapy is a type of treatment that can help patients learn how to manage their symptoms and prevent them from interfering with their life. It often involves meeting with a psychologist or psychiatrist, who will help the patient understand the cognitive distortions that fuel their specific type of OCD.
Medication can help reduce symptoms of OCD by altering the way the brain functions. It can also reduce the severity of obsessions and compulsions and help reduce anxiety and depression associated with OCD. Four types of psychiatric medications may be used to treat OCD: antidepressants, antipsychotics, benzodiazepine (a type of sedative), and topiramate (used to treat epilepsy). Among this class of drugs, antidepressants are the most effective at reducing symptoms.
Deep brain stimulation
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a treatment for OCD using electrical impulses to interrupt faulty signals in the brain that trigger obsessive thoughts and repetitive behaviors. The procedure involves the surgical implantation of electric roads into the patient’s brain, which will connect to a neurostimulator device. This device then sends electrical impulses to targeted areas of the brain. The neurostimulator is typically implanted under the collarbone and secured by surgical staples or stitches, as it can cause discomfort if it moves around too much.
The precise targeting of DBS is crucial for its success in treating OCD symptoms; however, this precision comes at a price. DBS can only be used by people diagnosed with specific types and severe forms of OCD, such as those characterized by chronic tic disorders or Tourette’s syndrome.
Intensive outpatient and residential treatment programs
Intensive outpatient and residential treatment programs are run by a psychiatrist, clinical psychologist, and sometimes other mental health professionals. Treatment programs usually last 12 to 16 weeks. Patients meet the psychiatrist and clinical psychologist for about 1 hour per week during this time frame. However, many also participate in group therapy sessions that last longer than 1 hour daily. After the patient finishes the program, a clinical assessment will determine the next steps they will need to take.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive treatment that uses magnetic pulses to stimulate the brain. It is an alternative to electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), which involves putting electrodes on the patient’s scalp and delivering an electric current that causes seizures. TMS is often used as a first-line treatment for people who do not qualify for ECT because of medical conditions, age, or other factors. TMS is also an option if the patient has had bad side effects from ECT in the past.
Seek treatment today
OCD can be very difficult to live with and can make completing everyday tasks unbearable. However, there are many treatment options available for people with this disorder. It is important to remember that while treatments may not cure OCD completely in everyone who has it, a psychiatrist will help craft an effective plan to live a more normal life.
If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of OCD, we invite you to call our Massapequa office at (631) 773-1096 today to schedule an appointment. We will be happy to help you explore all available options.
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