Accurate Information About OCD
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Medications for Treatment of OCD

Medication may be recommended in conjunction with Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) as treatment for OCD. Most people who are prescribed medication enjoy some relief from OCD symptoms.  While medication can help lower the level of anxiety associated with obsessions and reduce the urge to perform repetitive compulsions, medication alone is not as effective as CBT in treating OCD. Studies have shown that lower relapse rates occur when CBT is discontinued than when medication is stopped.

Medications known as Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SRIs) are used to treat OCD.  The most well-known group of these medications is Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). 

SSRIs directly affect the neurotransmitter serotonin and are generally very effective in helping to reduce the anxiety felt by an OCD sufferer.  Therapists typically recommend trying an SSRI medication rather than the more general SRI medication, because the non-selective SRIs affect multiple neurotransmitters.  Most experts recommend trying the SSRI first because there tend to be fewer side effects.

These SSRIs are currently available in the United States:

  • Fluoxetine (brand name Prozac)
  • Fluvoxamine (brand name Luvox)
  • Paroxetine (brand name Paxil)
  • Sertraline (brand name Zoloft)
  • Citalopram (brand name Celexa)
  • Escitalopram (brand name Lexaro)

This Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SRI) is also available:

  • Clomipramine (brand name Anafranil)

These Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) are available:

  • Venlafaxine (brand name Effexor)
  • Duloxetine (brand name Cymbalta)

Medications for OCD do not work immediately.  A person may begin to notice some improvement in three to four weeks, but it may take up to 12 weeks or longer to realize the full benefits of a medication.  It’s also possible that a combination of medications will be prescribed.

Medication alone is typically not as effective as CBT in treating OCD.  And, sadly, when an OCD sufferer stops taking the medication, the benefits usually also stop. 

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