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Health Concerns

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

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Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder in which people suffer from recurrent, unwanted thoughts or ideas (obsessions); engage in repetitive, irrational behaviors or mental acts (compulsions); or both. Among people with OCD, carrying out compulsive behavior tends to ease feelings of anxiety while repressing compulsive behavior causes stress (Sudak 2012; Veale 2014; Yip 2014; Nicholas 2009; Mayo Clinic 2013).

Because the distressing thoughts may be embarrassing or shameful, OCD patients often do not reveal them to healthcare professionals or family members (Yip 2014; Sudak 2012; Veale 2014). This is unfortunate, because not disclosing OCD symptoms to a healthcare provider can delay diagnosis and treatment. In fact, one survey of 701 patients with OCD symptoms found that an average of 10.2 years elapsed between the onset of OCD symptoms and the first attempt to obtain professional help, and an average of 7 additional years elapsed before the patients received effective treatment (Hollander 1997).

Conventional treatment for OCD relies primarily on specific forms of psychotherapy such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure-response prevention therapy, as well as serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SRI) medications (Sudak 2012; Yip 2014). Up to 70% of patients experience significant improvement with treatment, though up to 25% of patients receive minimal benefit and many patients never become completely symptom free (Sudak 2012; Pittenger 2011; Yip 2014).

Only about one-third of OCD patients receive evidence-based drug treatment, and less than 10% receive evidence-based psychotherapy (Grant 2014). Many of the psychotropic drugs used in OCD have significant side effect profiles (Soomro 2012), and the outcome of long-term treatment with these medications in OCD has not been firmly established (Soomro 2008).

Novel treatments for OCD have been the subject of recent scientific inquiry. These include transcranial magnetic stimulation, neurofeedback, and remote cognitive-behavioral therapy. Moreover, several integrative interventions, such as N-acetylcysteine, glycine, and inositol have been shown to reduce OCD symptoms in clinical trials.

In this protocol you will learn about some of the suspected causes of OCD, and how to recognize the symptoms and signs of this insidious condition. Conventional diagnosis and treatment of OCD will be outlined, and a number of promising emerging therapies and natural agents that may benefit those with OCD will be described.