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How OCD is Treated With SSRIs


It is estimated that approximately four million people in the United States currently suffer from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

While this is a very difficult mental disorder, there are several treatment options for patients that have seen varying levels of success. These treatments include:

This entry will examine medication as a treatment option for OCD; specifically, medication in the class of drugs known as SSRIs, or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors.

Selective-Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors

SSRIs are the most widely prescribed class of anti-depressant medications. Their use has quickly grown in popularity over the recent years for disorders ranging from depression to fibromyalgia. SSRIs work by blocking the reuptake of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. By altering the brain's serotonin balance, brain cells appear to send and receive chemical messages with greater ease, boosting one's mood. The result is to effect an improvement in the patient's mood, which is believed will help to curtail their symptoms. SSRIs chiefly affect serotonin to the relative exclusion of other neurotransmitters.

Popularly prescribed SSRIs include:

  • -- Escitalopram (marketed as Lexapro)
  • -- Citalopram (marketed as Celexa)
  • -- Fluoxetine (marketed as Prozac)
  • -- Fluvoxamine (marketed as Luvox)
  • -- Paroxetine (marketed as Paxil)
  • -- Sertraline (marketed as Zoloft)

Side effects from SSRIs tend to be relatively mild but can be annoying or even prohibitive in some patients. Not everyone will experience side effects, but when they do they might include nausea, diarrhea, sexual dysfunction, sweating, drowsiness, restlessness, or insomnia.

OCD Treatment With SSRIs

According to a retrospective review of the efficacy of SSRIs in treating OCD, at least four SSRIs have shown to be effective in the treatment of OCD

  • -- Fluoxetine (marketed as Prozac)
  • -- Paroxetine (marketed as Paxil)
  • -- Fluvoxamine (marketed as Luvox)
  • -- Sertraline (marketed as Zoloft)

In clinical trials these SSRIs performed as well or better than clomipramine (Anafranil), a different kind of anti-depressant traditionally used in treating OCD. In fact, people taking SSRIs for OCD reported fewer side effects than those taking clomipramine.

A more recent Cochrane Review of SSRIs used in the treatment of OCD versus placebo revealed more of the same—namely, that certain SSRIs are effective in OCD symptom reduction, and that they are able to achieve symptom reduction with only minimal side effects, the most commonly reported side effect being nausea.

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