Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a debilitating mental health condition where the individual is plagued by obsessive thoughts and compulsive actions. The condition is oftentimes related to cleanliness (concern over viruses, bacteria, disease, and dirt), safety and security, or any other focal point such as education, exercise, monetary well-being, et cetera.
In all cases, the individual is racked by unwanted thoughts (pervasive thoughts), and attendant actions designed to placate those thought processes. Unfortunately, no amount of thought/action interaction can ameliorate OCD – it simply fuels the mental health condition.
In terms of treatment options, one first has to recognize the existence of a mental health condition, and identify OCD as the culprit. It is estimated that some 2.1% – 2.5% (about 1 in 40) of people in the US suffer from OCD, making it a top 5 mental health disorder in the country.
OCD can occur in anyone at any time, although certain people have a predisposition for the condition, particularly when genetic considerations are accounted for or environmental-related issues are at play.
While OCD can certainly help people to become perfectionists at specific vocations, the condition itself is regarded as extremely debilitating by way of the pervasive, intrusive, and ubiquitous thoughts which cloud any rationality.
Traditional Treatment Options for OCD
According to the International OCD Foundation, the most effective treatments for OCD will vary from patient to patient. There is no doubt that CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is highly effective at treating this mental health condition. When used in combination with medication, CBT can be highly effective.
There are specific effective treatments within the CBT realm known as Exposure and Response Prevention, a.k.a. ERP. Only Licensed Mental Health Counsellors should perform ERP since it is a highly sensitive field where the efficacy of the treatment is largely determined by the professionalism and expertise of the LMHC.
Medication is commonly prescribed to treat OCD, and it is effective at doing so. Of course, a person’s response to medication such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors – SRIs – will vary from patient to patient. It is incumbent upon doctors and their patients to gauge the effectiveness of these SRIs, to ensure that the right medication and the right dose is being administered.
When viewed in perspective, serotonin reuptake inhibitors and therapy are regarded as standard treatments for OCD. If those treatments don’t work well, or if the patient is not responding to those treatment regimens, other more intensive options are required.
Alternative Treatment Options for OCD
The variety of alternative OCD treatments spans a long list invasive and non-invasive procedures. These include Gamma Knife, Brain Surgery, ECT, Deep Brain Stimulation, Glutamate and new OCD Medications, and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS).
On the spectrum of effectiveness, there is certainly merit in electroconvulsive therapy, which requires an anesthesiologist, doctor, nurse practitioner, and involves invasive surgical procedures. The efficacy of ECT has been documented, although there are significant side-effects of the procedures.
According to the Mayo Clinic, electroconvulsive therapy – which is performed under general anesthesia – requires the patient to be subjected to small electric currents, triggering minor seizures. It is performed for the treatment of agitation and aggression in people with dementia, catatonia, severe depression, severe mania, or treatment resistant depression.
There are certainly risks involved in these procedures, including medical complications, pain, memory loss, and confusion. While viable, it does appear to have undesirable side effects that can probably be avoided by seeking alternative treatment options.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is emerging as the next best treatment regimen for people with OCD. TMS is well tolerated with few side effects. At its core, TMS is a non-invasive, nonsurgical procedure where the patient wears a specialised helmet with a magnetic field.
TMS is nonsurgical – no incisions are necessary, no anesthesia is required, and no medication is needed. To the unassuming observer, TMS may appear to be the equivalent of an individual in a hair salon with a hairdryer helmet placed above his or her head.
The breakthrough technology within the helmet is capable of targeting regions of the brain – deep within the brain – which are suspected of being associated with OCD, notably the anterior cingulate cortex, as well as the medial prefrontal cortex. This FDA-approved treatment regimen has generated positive responses.
The efficacy of treating OCD with deep TMS reflects a positive response rate of 38.1% and a partial response rate of 54.8%. Whenever individuals are strongly resistant to traditional OCD treatments, TMS can certainly help. It is also effective when coupled with medication. Patients undergo 18 minute sessions of intensive treatment every day for several weeks (5 – 6 weeks) and by the end of it there are notable results.