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Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental illness that affects the way a person thinks and feels. People with OCD have obsessions and compulsions that take up more of their time and energy than is healthy.

Someone with OCD might use rituals, such as counting or checking, to reduce anxiety triggered by obsessive thoughts. OCD can be challenging to live with, but there are many treatment options available to help ease symptoms and improve the quality of life for those who suffer from it.

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One common treatment for OCD is medication. There are several types of medication that may be helpful when living with OCD, including serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs), selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), antipsychotics, atypical antipsychotics, and benzodiazepines. Here’s a brief look at how various drugs can help decrease the symptoms of OCD:

SRI Medications

A first-line medication treatment for OCD is the SRI (serotonin reuptake inhibitor) class of antidepressants. SSRIs can be helpful in treating OCD because they increase the amount of serotonin in the brain. People with OCD might have lower levels of serotonin, which could cause obsessive thoughts and compulsions. If a person’s serotonin levels are boosted by taking an SRI, it can help ease OCD symptoms. SRI medications may take several weeks to work.

SSRI Medications

For people with OCD who don’t respond to SRI medications, there are SSRIs, which have a very similar chemical structure. SSRIs can ease symptoms of OCD by increasing serotonin in the brain. SSRIs are thought to be just as effective as SRI medications, but they are often used as a first treatment because they are less likely to cause side effects. Examples of SSRI medications include fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), fluvoxamine (Luvox), and citalopram (Celexa). SSRIs can take several weeks to start working.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

SSRIs are a type of antidepressant that helps boost serotonin levels in the brain. People with OCD may have low levels of serotonin, which can cause obsessive thoughts and compulsions. SSRIs can help treat OCD by increasing serotonin to ease these symptoms. Examples of SSRIs used to treat OCD include fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), fluvoxamine (Luvox), and citalopram (Celexa). SSRIs may take several weeks to start working.

Atypical Antipsychotics

Antipsychotic medications are often used to treat OCD. Some of these are atypical antipsychotics, which are a newer type of antipsychotic. Atypical antipsychotics work in a similar way to SSRIs by increasing serotonin in the brain. Examples of atypical antipsychotic medications used to treat OCD include risperidone (Risperdal), olanzapine (Zyprexa), and quetiapine (Seroquel). It can take several weeks for atypical antipsychotic medications to work.

Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are often used as a short-term treatment for OCD. These medications can help ease anxiety symptoms in the short term, but they aren’t meant to be taken long-term. Benzodiazepines work by increasing GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in the brain. This makes the brain less excitable and helps ease anxiety. Examples of benzodiazepines used to treat OCD include alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan), and clonazepam (Klonopin). Benzodiazepines can start working quickly but can have side effects.

The Importance of Finding the Right Medication for OCD

Selecting the right medication for OCD is important. It’s vital to select a drug that is safe and effective, and that also works with the individual’s unique physiology. This means finding a drug with the correct dosage and chemical structure. In addition to selecting the right medication, it’s also important to take the medication as directed and to work closely with a doctor. A doctor can help a person with OCD track their symptoms, in addition to adjusting medication dosages as needed. A person with OCD should speak with their doctor to determine the best OCD treatment plan for them. While medication is helpful for many people who suffer from OCD, it isn’t a cure. Medication alone won’t eliminate OCD symptoms, so it’s important to practice healthy habits, such as managing stress, eating healthfully, and getting enough sleep.

Conclusion

There are many types of medication that can help decrease the symptoms of OCD. First-line medications include SRI antidepressants and SSRIs, followed by atypical antipsychotics and benzodiazepines. It’s important to select a drug that is safe and effective, and that works with the individual’s unique physiology. Medication alone won’t eliminate OCD symptoms, so it’s important to practice healthy habits, such as managing stress, eating healthfully, and getting enough sleep.

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