Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a chronic condition characterized by repetitive thoughts and compulsions. It is considered an anxiety disorder, though the symptoms tend to manifest differently than with different identified anxiety disorders. The presentation of symptoms varies widely from person to person. Different individuals will have different obsessions and compulsions, though the two are often linked. For example, if someone is obsessively afraid of being contaminated by germs, they might feel a compulsion to wash their hands repeatedly to lessen their stress. Patients might also have compulsive counting rituals or need to check on things repeatedly to stop obsessing about them. Common examples are needing to check if the door is locked or the stove is off, even if the individual is aware they are.
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A variety of different medications are used for OCD treatment. If one medication doesn’t work, patients might still benefit from one of the others or from switching their dosage. Patients and their doctor need to monitor their thoughts and behaviors to see whether the medication is having a positive effect. Antidepressants tend to be the first OCD medication prescribed. The exact type of antidepressant will vary depending on the patient’s symptoms, health, and age. Some of the most common medications to try first are fluvoxamine, fluoxetine, clomipramine, paroxetine, or sertraline. It’s important to take the medication on a regular schedule. If the medication is causing side effects the patient doesn’t like, they should talk to their doctor about how to safely lower the dose or switch medications. Quitting medication cold turkey might lead patients to have a relapse. If individuals are experiencing suicidal thoughts, they should talk to their doctor, call a helpline, or phone 911, right away.
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