Obsessive Compulsive behavior, better known as OCD, is a psychoneurotic disorder that affects millions of kids and adults across the world. With the most significant problem being dealing with obsessive and unwanted thoughts which leave affected individuals with fears which make them think that can only be resolved by yielding to the compulsions, and the increased risk of major depressive disorder threatening the lives of these individuals, scientists and psychiatrists are coming up with diverse forms of medications to help the condition.
Since individuals don’t have similar obsessions and compulsions, and also because we all respond to medication differently, the course of treatments for OCD vary. Medications and psychological therapies are the most common forms of OCD management.
In this article, we look at the OCD medications. The medications approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) offer significant relief to between 7-10 people with OCD and out of these individuals, their OCD symptoms reduce by up to 60 percent. It should, however, be noted that prescribed medications should be taken as directed for them to work.
While you may experience some adverse side effects, that shouldn’t be your reason to stop taking medication – if experienced, you should speak to your doctor immediately so that the issue with the drug is addressed. At the same time, you should talk to a psychiatrist early on if you have obsessive thoughts because if OCD isn’t managed soon, one may develop major depressive episodes which are hard to deal with. Depression often means that you lose hope and you may not take your medication as you should. So, speak to your doctor if anything arises. You could be given alternative medication, or your dose may be changed to meet the needs and the tolerance level of your system.
So, which medications work for OCD?
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI)
The Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors are better known as antidepressants. These medications target the serotonin pathways in the brain. Why serotonin pathways? It’s been well established that people with OCD have low serotonin levels hence the moodiness and extreme fears or negativity.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, and it’s necessary for communication between nerve cells. With low serotonin levels, the nerve cells do not communicate effectively. By altering how the serotonin pathways, it is possible to manage OCD obsessive thoughts and compulsions.
Medications approved by the FDA under the SSRI category include Fluoxetine (Prozac), Fluvoxamine (Luvox), Paroxetine hydrochloride (Paxil), Sertraline (Zoloft), and Clomipramine (Anafranil). The latter is a tricyclic antidepressant, and it has been in use for the longest time. These antidepressants appear to be useful in managing OCD.
You should, however, note that not all antidepressants can help manage OCD and some like amitriptyline or imipramine are only effective for depression. Paxil is suitable for adults only, Prozac for kids above 7 and adults, Fluvoxamine for adults and kids above 8 years, and Zoloft for kids above 6 years as well as adults.
Duloxetine (Cymbalta) is also one of the most effective medications for OCD especially in patients who have not responded to other medications above.
Note that these medications do not act immediately. Since they have to affect the production and the activity of the serotonin in the central nervous system, you should only expect the medication to work after 12 weeks. This means that you should expect to be on OCD medication for prolonged periods, especially if your case is severe.
Medications which have not been approved by the FDA include Celexa (Citalopram), Lexapro (Escitalopram), and Effexor (Venlafaxine).
Exploration of this strategy shows that it’s an effective strategy aimed at improving the odds of managing and relieving the symptoms and compulsions of OCD. Through augmentation therapy, patients use drug combinations rather than single drugs, especially in patients who are nonresponsive to the standard OCD medications listed above.
Why is augmentation therapy recommended? While the selective serotonin inhibitors work for some patients, reports show that between 40 and 60 percent of OCD patients do not respond to the SSRIs and the use of combination medications appears to offer more relief to these patients.
In augmentation therapy, antipsychotic drugs are combined with antidepressants. The drug combination increases the effectiveness of the medication in that; the SSRIs increase the production of serotonin whole the antipsychotic medications increase the levels of the neurotransmitter, dopamine. This works because low dopamine levels and activity have been reported in OCD patients. The antipsychotics include Risperidone (Risperdal), Olanzapine (Zyprexa), and Quetiapine (Seroquel).
But, that’s not all the antipsychotics do – these drugs help control obsessions and compulsions by changing the way these individuals think.
Nonetheless, the combination drug therapy isn’t without some unwanted elements. The first issue with the first-generation medication being side effects like Tardive dyskinesia which is characterized by uncontrollable and involuntary movement of different body parts including the face and the mouth. On the other hand, the second-generation antipsychotics affect metabolism causing elevation of blood cholesterol and sugars, as well as weight gain.
While these medications are relatively effective in the management of OCD, you should be careful when taking them. Before taking any antidepressants or antipsychotics, beware of the known side effects, the potential risk of suicide, interactions with other substances like alcohol, and you should know when to stop taking the medication. These considerations in mind, you should speak to a professional and only take prescribed medication.
Here are some tips to help you manage the condition
- Learn more about the condition
- Join a support group
- If pregnant, talk about it to your doctor before taking any medications
- Be focused on the long-term goal
- Use relaxation and stress management strategies
- Keep a regular schedule of activities
- Practice management techniques