Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is an anxiety disorder that currently affects more than 3 million Americans every year. Usually beginning in adolescence or early adulthood, OCD causes feelings of extreme panic, fear, and guilt and compels the sufferer to perform certain actions. When left untreated, OCD can reach frightening levels, impacting on a person's relationships, home life, and career. If you are suffering from OCD, it is important to know that you are not alone. The causes of OCD are largely biological, and a variety of effective treatments exist to treat the symptoms of OCD.
Diagnosis of OCD
Diagnosing OCD can be complicated, especially considering the variety of symptoms sufferers may experience, which may seem bizarre or nonsensical. Many sufferers of the disease do not want to admit they have these obsessions or compulsions. In order to be diagnosed properly, it is important to reveal as much information as possible about your symptoms.
In order to be diagnosed with OCD, your health care provider will have to study your symptoms. Obsessions, compulsions, or both must be present in order to be diagnosed with the disorder. Your health care provider may perform a physical exam in order to rule out any other causes for the behavior.
Sometimes OCD can be misdiagnosed, especially in children. Younger children suffering from OCD may be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) by accident, because this is often an "easier" diagnosis. OCD is also commonly mistaken for depression. Many OCD sufferers also battle other psychiatric disorders, including panic attacks, social phobia, and eating disorders. It is important to let your doctor know about these symptoms in order to prevent misdiagnosis.
There are no available cures for OCD. In the past, there weren't even many available treatments for OCD. Instead, sufferers had to battle through their symptoms on their own and most lived in agony for years. Today, a variety of very effective treatments are available to those suffering from the disorder. It is important to find the right therapy for you and to begin therapy as soon as possible. The earlier treatment is begun, the less likely you are to develop complications from the illness.
Medical treatments are available from your health care provider to help reduce your symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder. Medical treatments work best in conjunction with other therapies to reduce symptoms.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs): SSRIs work to improve mood and reduce anxiety by boosting levels of serotonin in the brain. If you are suffering from OCD, it is likely that you have low serotonin levels, which may be contributing to the disorder. SSRIs are associated with few side effects and are safe long-term treatment for OCD.
Tranquilizers: Tranquilizers are sometimes prescribed to people with more severe OCD symptoms. Tranquilizers relax the muscles in the body, reducing compulsive urges. Tranquilizers may be habit-forming so they should only be used for short periods of time.
Psychosurgery: Psychosurgery is performed only in extreme cases in which OCD symptoms are debilitating and unresponsive to all other treatments of OCD. Psychosurgery has replaced the lobotomy procedure, which often produced unexpected brain damage and memory loss in patients. Psychosurgery involves severing or disabling certain parts of the brain with an electrode. Unlike the lobotomy, psychosurgery uses magnetic resonance imaging in order to select an appropriate place in the brain for surgery. More than a third of all psychosurgery patients report dramatic improvements in their OCD.
Psychotherapy is an extremely effective treatment for obsessive compulsive disorder. It should always be the first-line treatment for OCD, especially in children. Psychotherapy can be done one-on-one with a trained specialist or within a group setting. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the only proven form of psychotherapy for OCD.
Cognitive behavioral therapy for obsessive compulsive disorder is highly effective. It is a type of therapy that focuses on changing thought patterns by altering behavior. The patient will be gradually exposed to the obsession which causes fear and told not to engage in compulsive behavior. With increased exposure, the patient will experience less and less anxiety as she realizes that nothing bad is happening. After ongoing treatment, 50% to 80% of patients cease all compulsive behavior.
It can be challenging to find a clinician that is qualified to administer proper treatment for OCD. Although the treatment is usually time-limited and not complicated, many community professionals are not trained to provide the most effective therapies for this disorder. The best places for treatment tend to be academic medical research centers, where they offer the most current, cutting-edge, validated therapies. These centers can be expensive, but usually they offer low cost options as needed and free treatment for people who are available to participate in research studies for OCD.
Inositol is a naturally occurring isomer of glucose. It is part of the vitamin B family and is found in phytic acid, a component of fiber. When you consume phytic acid, the bacteria in your intestines release the inositol from the phytic acid. Inositol can naturally be found in nuts, seeds, whole grains and citrus fruits. But how does this help people with OCD?
Inositol has been found to work and help relieve OCD symptoms in much the same way as SSRIs. However, inositol does so without the same side effects, thereby making it an attractive alternative to conventional psychiatric medications. In clinical trials, patients who received 18grams of inositol showed a marked improvement in their symptoms, comparable to the results achieved by SSRIs, over those participants who received a placebo. While inositol has been shown to be effective in OCD sufferers who have already had a positive response to SSRIs, inositol should be avoided by women who are pregnant should.
Alternative Treatments for OCD
The only proven alternative treatment for mild cases of OCD is St. John's Wort. However, some people with OCD may also find that meditation, exercise and other natural stress relievers may help ease their anxiety symptoms.
If you would like to take St. John's Wort for your OCD, be sure to discuss the issue with your doctor first. Herbal remedies can be just as potent as prescribed medications and may interfere with other drugs you may be taking.