Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can be a serious mental health condition that interferes with normal day-to-day activities. The patient suffers from invasive thoughts and performs compulsive actions to calm things down. Obsessive hand washing, cleanliness rituals, relentless checking and rechecking, are examples of OCD in action. For the most part, psychotherapists are unequivocal in their estimation: Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) + medication (SSRI + SNRIs) are the most effective forms of treatment for OCD.
According to the International OCD Foundation, approximately 70% of OCD patients benefit immeasurably from a combination of ERP and medication. The therapy component involves Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and more specifically Exposure and Response Prevention as a subset of that therapy. This particular cocktail has been shown to be the most efficacious treatment regimen for OCD sufferers. The medications that are used are largely Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). These antidepressant medications include the likes of Paxil, Zoloft, Lexapro, Prozac, Luvox, and Vilbryd, among others.
Side Effects of Medication for OCD
OCD medication, like antidepressant medication, is associated with certain side effects. These can vary in severity from patient to patient. Typical side effects of SSRI meds include joint pain or muscle pain, dizziness, nausea, drowsiness, blurred vision, headaches, difficulty sleeping, decreased libido, sexual dysfunction, dry mouth, agitation, anxiety, diarrhea, and related complications. It is possible, although unlikely, to have suicidal thoughts. Since SSRIs are designed to stimulate the production of serotonin in the brain, too much serotonin production can be problematic. This can occur in the case of multiple medications being combined.
As with any other medication (prescription or otherwise), a cocktail of medications can be harmful. All Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors were designed to perform a similar function; therefore, the side-effects of these meds are generally the same across the board. However, it may be necessary to switch from one SSRI to another, since they are chemically different medications. In terms of efficacy, SSRIs generally take between 4 weeks – 6 weeks to start working. The full impact of an antidepressant medication usually requires several months of treatment before results are seen. Regardless of the specific antidepressant medication that is being taken, it is important to stick to the regimen. Patients who discontinue medication suddenly are susceptible to withdrawal.
TMS is Going Viral as an Effective Treatment for OCD
A popular alternative is evolving in the treatment of OCD: a non-surgical, non-medication option known as Deep TMS™. Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation is a breakthrough technology that has been cleared by the FDA for treating Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), Smoking Addiction, and OCD. As noted by the International OCD Foundation, TMS is regarded as a potentially effective treatment in severe OCD cases. This occurs when the OCD is resistant to therapy and medication. In fact, the International OCD Foundation recognizes Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation alongside other surgical alternatives such as Brain Surgery, Gamma Knife Surgery, and Deep Brain Stimulation. Unfortunately, the surgical options have attendant risks, while Deep TMS is virtually risk-free. Any surgical procedure runs the risk of surgical malpractice, infection, nerve damage, tissue damage, paralysis, loss of function, perhaps even death.
Since Deep TMS as an obsessive compulsive disorder treatment is a non-invasive procedure, there are no surgical risks whatsoever. It is non-invasive, no anesthesia is required, and no incisions are made. This specialized treatment involves the use of a cutting-edge helmet that sends out magnetic fields to regulate neural activity in the brain. This targets problematic areas thought to be responsible for depression, and other mental health conditions. Specifically, Deep TMS targets the medial prefrontal cortex of the brain and the anterior cingulate cortex. Given its non-invasive nature, Deep TMS has been highlighted in multiple studies as safe. Its effectiveness is certainly bolstered by combining it with other forms of therapy such as psychopharmacology (SSRIs, TCAs, SNRIs), Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), among others.
People with OCD are thought to suffer from an imbalance in brain chemistry, specifically neurotransmitters. Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are the go-to treatment of choice for rebalancing brain chemistry. For many people, medications work, but not for all people. In recent years, psychiatric research has focused on neural networks vis-a-vis their effect on OCD. Neurons interact with one another on a neural network, much like a computer motherboard, or circuit board. Research is now focusing on this actual network, and not the neurotransmitters. As an effective brain stimulation therapy, Deep TMS is developing a strong following in the psychiatric community. The use of medical devices as opposed to medications is growing in popularity. However, medical devices can be subdivided into surgical/invasive treatments and nonsurgical/non-invasive treatments. Another subcategory is convulsive treatments such as ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy). While there is no surgical component, anesthesia is required and convulsions take place, so there are major risks. For all of these reasons, the relatively benign Deep TMS regimen is fast gaining ground as the safer alternative and the preferred treatment option for non-responsive OCD.