Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is defined by Psychology Today contributor, Dr Clifford N. Lazarus PhD as follows: ‘… In general terms, the main features of OCD are intrusive, horrific, and relentless irrational thoughts or images (obsessions) that drive tremendous anxiety with specific, usually excessive, repetitive, or unrelated behaviors (compulsions) that are performed in an effort to neutralize or reduce their anxious thoughts, feelings, and sensations.’
This salient and colorful definition of OCD is striking. It describes two components of the mental health condition which characterize OCD, namely the obsessions, and the compulsions. Put differently, OCD is depicted by unwanted, invasive thoughts which overwhelm the individual, and the actions that person takes to try and quell those thoughts. On any given day, a person who is suffering from OCD finds it near impossible to focus all their attention on work, study, or interpersonal activities. The OCD is omnipresent, and usually related to cleanliness, hygiene, disease, safety, security, and performing specific routines.
New Approaches that are Being Used on a Widespread Basis
Deep TMS™ is a relatively new treatment regimen being used for treating OCD. It is a major upgrade over traditional, figure-8 TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) systems, enabling deeper and broader stimulation. Deep TMS is considered next-generation, as far as treating OCD is concerned, and is the first platform TMS system to be FDA cleared for the treatment of OCD. This treatment uses specialized devices with magnetic waves to target neural activity in the brain said to be responsible for OCD and anxiety disorders. According to a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry (AJP) a clinical response was achieved in approximately 75% of people (according to data collected from 1000 participants) being treated with Deep TMS.
An effective treatment regimen, Deep TMS is non-invasive, nonsurgical, and a non-drug means of treating depression and OCD in patients. By activating neuronal circuits in a part of the brain responsible for OCD and depression, it can ‘rewire’ neural activity. Typically, patients undergo 5 daily sessions spanning 20 minutes each over a 4 – 6 week period. There are minimal side-effects with Deep TMS, notably temporary headache or pain, but these side effects are short- lived. Once a patient has undergone an evaluation, the Deep TMS procedure will be determined based on the needs of the patient and the severity of the OCD.
Conventional Treatments for OCD
OCD can be treated any number of ways. The efficacy of the treatment depends upon the quality of the therapist, the appropriateness of the medication, and the availability of viable options that may need to be considered. People with OCD are highly reactive to specific triggers. This invariably initiates an anxiety-related response within the individual which spurs a series of thoughts and actions.
People with OCD may perform specific rituals such as hand washing, locking and unlocking doors, cleaning and tidying, over and over again in an attempt to allay these invasive thoughts. Unfortunately, these routines don’t help OCD and should not be encouraged as a treatment regimen.
Rather, there are traditional forms of treatment which OCD sufferers respond well to. These include therapy and medication. Firstly, an accurate diagnosis of OCD must be made before any treatment protocols are initiated. A treatment plan customized to the individual patient must be prioritized.
Treatments don’t always result in cures, but they can bring about an alleviation of the overwhelming stress and anxiety faced by the patient. Medications are commonly prescribed, including following:
When choosing a specific medication, it is important to get a thorough diagnosis from a medical practitioner, or psychiatrist. Not every medication is tolerated the same way by people, so the side-effects should always be reported to your doctor. The objective of any medication is to control the symptoms of OCD at the lowest possible dose.
You may have to take a cocktail of medications such as SSRIs, SNRIs, mood stabilizers and/or antipsychotic medications. These types of psychiatric drugs come with side effects which vary in severity from patient to patient. They may not be tolerated well with other medications and alcohol, so caution is advised.
Therapy is an effective way to treat OCD, particularly psychotherapy known as CBT. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy involves exposure and response prevention. In other words, the OCD sufferer is exposed to the very thing that arouses anxiety. Over time, the patient learns to resist the compulsions which ensue. It is a lengthy process, but given the right instruction and/or medication, CBT can certainly be highly beneficial when dealing with this mental health disorder.
There are also surgical procedures to treat OCD, but they are not without side effects. Bilateral Cingulotomy is one such procedure used as a last option for OCD and MDD. Infection risk, surgical risk, and risk of death during surgery must be weighed against any benefits. The same is true of other surgical treatments for OCD. For these reasons, non-surgical treatments are often preferred since there are lower attendant risks. The best OCD treatment is one that the individual patient responds best to, with minimal side-effects.