OCD Treatment

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in Amherst and Cambridge, MA

Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder in which a person suffers from uncontrollable, repetitive thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that they feel they must enact to alleviate the anxiety that accompanies the repetitive thoughts.

Signs & Symptoms

People with OCD have obsessions, compulsions, or both. These symptoms can interfere with all aspects of life, such as work, school, and personal relationships.

Obsessions are repeated thoughts, urges, or mental images that cause anxiety. Common symptoms include:

  • Fear of germs or contamination
  • Unwanted forbidden, or taboo thoughts involving sex, religion, and harm
  • Aggressive thoughts toward self or others
  • Needing to arrange things symmetrically or maintain a perfect order

Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that a person with OCD feels compelled to do in response to an obsessive thought. Common compulsions include:

  • Excessive cleaning and handwashing
  • Arranging things in a particular, precise way that cannot be disturbed
  • Repeatedly checking on things, like if you locked the door or turned the oven off
  • Compulsive counting

Not all rituals or habits are compulsions. Everyone double-checks things sometimes. But a person with OCD generally:

  • They can‘t control their thoughts and behaviors, even if those thoughts or behaviors are understood as excessive
  • Loosing at least 1 hour a day to these thoughts or behaviors
  • Feels no positive emotions from performing the behaviors or rituals in themselves but may get temporary relief from the anxiety the obsessions cause
  • Experiences significant problems in their daily life due to these thoughts or behaviors

Some individuals with OCD also have a tic disorder. Motor tics are sudden, brief, and repetitive movements, such as lip movements and eye movements, grimacing, shrugging, and jerking of the head or shoulders. Common vocal tics can be repetitive throat–clearing, sniffing, or grunting sounds.

Symptoms may come and go, relax over time, or worsen. People with OCD may try to ease their condition by avoiding situations that trigger their obsessions or using alcohol or drugs to calm themselves. Although most adults with OCD recognize that what they are doing doesn’t make sense, some adults and most children may not realize that their behavior is out of the ordinary. Parents or teachers typically recognize OCD symptoms in children.

Risk Factors

OCD is a common disorder that affects adults, adolescents, and children all over the world. Most people are diagnosed by about age 19, typically with earlier onset in boys than in girls, but onset after age 35 does happen.

The causes of OCD are unknown, but risk factors include:

Genetics

Twin and family studies have shown that people with first–degree relatives (such as a parent, sibling, or child) who have OCD are at a higher risk for developing OCD themselves. The risk is higher if the first–degree relative developed OCD as a child or teen. Ongoing research continues to explore the connection between genetics and OCD and may help improve OCD diagnosis and treatment.

Brain Structure and Functioning

Imaging studies have shown differences in the frontal cortex and subcortical brain structures in patients with OCD. There appears to be a connection between OCD symptoms and abnormalities in certain brain areas, but that connection is unclear. Research is still underway. Understanding the causes will help determine specific, personalized treatments to treat OCD.

Environment

People who have experienced abuse (physical or sexual) in childhood or other trauma are at an increased risk for developing OCD.

In some cases, children may develop OCD or OCD symptoms following a streptococcal infection—this is called Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS). For more information, please read this fact sheet on PANDAS.

Treatments and Therapies

OCD can respond to medication, psychotherapy, TMS, ketamine, or a combination of these modalities. Although most patients with OCD respond to treatment, some continue to experience symptoms. While the administration of TMS and ketamine differs, both can be fast-acting and highly effective for various anxiety disorders.

Regarding advanced anxiety disorder treatment in Boston, Cambridge Biotherapies™ is the top TMS and ketamine therapy provider. These treatments are more effective than conventional medications for anxiety in patients that have not responded to previous medication trials. Both treatments address the brain areas most commonly associated with anxiety and depression. Ketamine works chemically, while TMS works electromagnetically to rewire the brain, diverting regions and actions linked with anxiety disorders.

Sometimes people with OCD also have other mental disorders, such as general or social anxiety, depression, and body dysmorphic disorder, in which someone mistakenly believes that a part of their body is abnormal. These accompanying disorders must be considered when making treatment decisions.

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