Obsessive-compulsive neurosis; OCD
OCD is treated using medications and therapy.
The first medication usually considered is a type of antidepressant called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). These drugs include:
- Citalopram (Celexa)
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Fluvoxamine (Luvox)
- Paroxetine (Paxil)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
If an SSRI does not work, the doctor may prescribe an older type of antidepressant called a tricyclic antidepressant. Clomipramine is a TCA, and is the oldest medication for OCD. It usually works better than SSRI antidepressants in treating the condition, but it can have unpleasant side effects, including:
- Difficulty starting urination
- Drop in blood pressure when rising from a seated position
- Dry mouth
In some cases, an SSRI and clomipramine may be combined. Other medications, such as low-dose atypical antipsychotics (including risperidone, quetiapine, olanzapine, or ziprasidone) have been shown to be helpful. Benzodiazepines may offer some relief from anxiety, but they are generally used only with the more reliable treatments.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown to be the most effective type of psychotherapy for this disorder. The patient is exposed many times to a situation that triggers the obsessive thoughts, and learns gradually to tolerate the anxiety and resist the urge to perform the compulsion. Medication and CBT together are considered to be better than either treatment alone at reducing symptoms.
Psychotherapy can also be used to:
- Provide effective ways of reducing stress
- Reduce anxiety
- Resolve inner conflicts
OCD is a long-term (chronic) illness with periods of severe symptoms followed by times of improvement. However, a completely symptom-free period is unusual. Most people improve with treatment.
Long-term complications of OCD have to do with the type of obsessions or compulsions. For example, constant handwashing can cause skin breakdown. However, OCD does not usually progress into another disease.
Calling your health care provider
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if your symptoms interfere with daily life, work, or relationships.
Review Date: 02/11/2010
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; and Michelle Benger Merrill, MD, Instructor in Clinical Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.