medication for OCD

Medication for OCD

Medication for OCD

Table of Contents

What is OCD?

According to the International OCD Foundation, OCD “is a mental health disorder that affects people of all ages and walks of life, and occurs when a person gets caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions.”1 These compulsions can vary from fears of germs to obsessively thinking about something or needing to act out a compulsion. Treatments and medication for OCD is available,

How Common is OCD?

It is believed that 1.2% of adults in the United States have OCD, or around 1 in 100.2 Women are 3.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with OCD than men.

How Is OCD Diagnosed?

Doctors will use the criteria from the DSM-5 to determine if a person has OCD. They will do a psychological evaluation that will cover things such as thoughts, symptoms, emotions, and behavior patterns. They will try to determine if the disorder interferes with the patient’s quality of life. After that, they will do a physical examination to make sure no other things are causing the issues.3


Several things can trigger OCD compulsions and obsessions. According to Bhandari, OCD can be triggered by abuse, a crisis, a negative event or experience that has a significant impact, the death of a friend or family member, or exposure to a chronic fear.4 Depending on the individual, this experience could trigger an obsession, meaning a thought, image, or impulse that happens repeatedly and cannot be controlled, or a compulsion, meaning behavior that one uses to try and make the obsession go away.

Medication for OCD

Normally, people will use medication to manage their obsessions and compulsions. Some common medications that are used for OCD include clomipramine, fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, paroxetine, and sertraline.

Doctors will try to help control these symptoms at the lowest dosage possible. Normally, OCD medication is a process of trial and error to figure out what works best. Medical professionals will also try to minimize the side effects of the medication.

OCD Medication Side Effects

All mental health medications have side effects. They can vary depending on what you use. Some potential side effects are:5


  • Insomnia
  • Nausea, migraines, drowsiness, and dizziness
  • Decrease in sexual desire/erectile dysfunction
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry mouth

Obsessional Fear About Taking OCD Medication

People with obsessive-compulsive disorder can develop an obsessional fear regarding medication. They can have obsessive thoughts about bad things happening when they take the medication. Because it takes a few months for OCD medication to take effect, people must continue to take the medication on schedule.

OCD and Substance Abuse

Many times, people will misuse substances to suppress certain thoughts or feelings. Because of this misuse, people who struggle with OCD might turn to substances to control their symptoms. However, chronic drug and alcohol use over time can make OCD symptoms more severe.6


Substance use disorder can mess with treatment plans and distance people from loved ones that are supportive and helpful. Almost 30% of people who struggle with OCD have struggled with addiction for a period in their life. People who struggle with OCD symptoms and substance use disorder are at a higher risk of suicide.6

How to Treat OCD Without Medication

Sometimes, people who struggle with OCD decide that it is best to treat the disorder without the use of medication. This decision can be due to personal conviction, fear, or many other reasons. There are a few other treatment options that someone can use, including therapy and neurofeedback.


Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a very common form of therapy to treat not only people struggling with OCD but several other disorders. Part of CBT is something called exposure and response prevention, referring to when the doctor slowly exposes a person to something they fear, whether it is germs, other people, or an obsession. The therapist will then try to help the client not give in to their compulsion. The goal is to create better coping mechanisms while also building up a resistance to compulsions and obsessions.


Neurofeedback therapy is an intervention that tries to train the brain to function more efficiently or in a specific way. This form of therapy takes time, but it can be very effective.

What is Neurofeedback?

Neurofeedback is a non-chemical form of treatment that focuses on the subconscious level of thinking. The goal is to reward the brain for appropriate patterns. Medical professionals will perform surgery to place sensors in the scalp to create a brain map of EEG activity.7

Process of Neurofeedback

Neurofeedback is a non-invasive therapy method. It starts with surgery. After that, the doctor will create a treatment plan with the patient. Then, they will perform several sessions to help train the brain. This form of therapy normally sees results quickly after beginning treatment.

How to Prepare for Neurofeedback

It is important to avoid caffeine, sugar, alcohol, or any processed foods 48 hours before a neurofeedback appointment. Because these things activate the brain’s reward center, they can harm the results. You should have clean hair before the appointment but avoid hair products.

One beneficial way to prepare for your appointment is by working out the day before. Working out helps relieve stress and anxiety. Additionally, make sure to get plenty of rest before the appointment.

The number of neurofeedback sessions varies from person to person. Most people need anywhere between 20-100 sessions before they have completed treatment.

Benefits of Brain Training for OCD

There are many benefits to getting brain training for OCD. One of the most significant benefits of brain training is that it can provide long-term, permanent changes to minimize obsessions and compulsions. The retraining mixed with regular, minor behavioral changes can help someone get to the point where they might not need medication anymore.

There are multiple ways to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder. OCD medication is the most common way to handle the disorder. This treatment is normally the first option doctors will go to alongside therapy. If you have questions about ways to treat OCD, feel free to reach out to your doctor about treatment options.