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OCD Sufferers May Find Benefit From Helping Others


A recent Boston Globe article reports that performing altruistic behaviors sometimes eases the suffering of those with obsessive-compulsive disorder and other anxiety disorders. The article describes in detail the accounts of two individuals who claim to have experienced drastic reductions in OCD symptoms as the result of performing tasks designed to benefit others. While it’s not considered stand-alone therapy for obsessive-compulsive disorder, clinicians are now being encouraged to add a prescription of volunteerism to their overall treatment strategy.

Broken down into chemical components, the act of giving releases dopamine, which stimulates the vagus nerve, counteracting an important part of the distressing fight-or-flight mechanism prevalent in the anxiety disorders. Michael A. Jenike, M.D. a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist, was interviewed for the article. Like other mental health professionals, he has witnessed the effects of helping others first-hand with his patients and now refers to altruistic behavior as “an essential part of the treatment” he provides.

Altruistic behaviors can be simple or complex, ranging from mowing the lawn for an elderly neighbor to opening a charity for the less fortunate. While the intrinsic benefits such as improved self-esteem and a sense of productivity offer stimulus for all volunteers, those with obsessive-compulsive disorder may benefit even more, thanks to their body’s own chemical structure.

Read more: http://www.boston.com/news/health/articles/2010/11/29/how_to_help_yourse...

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