Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a potentially disabling anxiety disorder. A person who has OCD has intrusive and unwanted thoughts and repeatedly performs tasks to get rid of the thoughts.
For example, if you have OCD, you may fear that everything you touch has germs. And in order to ease that fear, you repeatedly wash your hands.
The effects of OCD range from mild to very serious. Treatment can help. And although some symptoms may continue after treatment, you can go on to have an active social life, raise a family, and work.
Medicines called antidepressants can help balance the chemicals in your brain and reduce your symptoms. Antidepressant medicines called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as fluoxetine (for example, Prozac), are most commonly used.
Your doctor may increase the amount you take or may switch you to another SSRI if the first one doesn't help or if it causes side effects you can't live with.
You may start to feel better within 1 to 3 weeks after you start to take antidepressant medicine. But it can take as many as 12 weeks to see more improvement. If you have questions or concerns about your medicines, or if you do not notice any improvement by 3 weeks, talk to your doctor.
Your medicine may cause side effects, but they will probably go away after your body gets used to the drug. Common side effects include:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an advisory on antidepressant medicines and the risk of suicide. Talk to your doctor about these possible side effects and the warning signs of suicide.
Women who take an SSRI during pregnancy may have a slightly higher chance of having a baby with birth defects. If you are pregnant, you and your doctor must weigh the risks of taking an SSRI against the risks of not treating OCD.
If you have mild symptoms, you may be able to control OCD with a type of counseling called exposure and response prevention. This is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Your doctor might recommend medicine if:
|Take medicine for OCD||Use counseling only|
|What is usually involved?|
|What are the benefits?|
|What are the risks and side effects?|
Are you interested in what others decided to do? Many people have faced this decision. These personal stories may help you decide.
These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions.
"I constantly wash my hands. Sometimes even after I have just washed my hands, I feel my hands may not be clean, and so I wash them again. If I touch a public doorknob, shake hands with someone, or touch something another person may have touched, I worry about germs or dirt and feel the need to wash my hands. This behavior is interfering with my life. I think medicines may help control the urge to wash my hands while I continue with professional counseling to learn how to stop this behavior."
— Jesse, age 41
"I like to have things in my home and office in place and neat. I worry a few times throughout the day whether I left an appliance on or the doors unlocked in my home. I check the locks a few times before I go to work, but I'm not usually late for work due to checking the locks. I don't think the behaviors are interfering in my daily living too much yet. I think I will try to control these worries through professional counseling only."
— Kyle, age 28
"I worry all the time about my grades at school and how other people see me. I tend to rewrite my papers for school numerous times before I feel like they are good enough to turn in, especially if any of my writing looks messy. I take several showers a day because I worry about how I look. I have also stopped eating in hopes of losing some weight because I worry I weigh too much. In the mornings when I wake up, I can't get out of bed until I have prayed for every family member and friend because I am afraid something bad might happen to them if I forget to pray. If I forget someone, I have to start my prayers all over again, and this often makes me late for school. I have been seeing a professional counselor, but I think I might get more out of counseling if I take medicines that can help me control these urges."
— Jasmine, age 17
"I spend most of my day reorganizing cupboards and closets in my house. I just can't seem to get them clean enough. I am still able to tend to my children during the day, but when they are napping, I usually spend that time cleaning my house again. I also sometimes think that my buttons are not done up on my clothes and check those throughout the day. But I can usually stop thinking about my buttons and whether the house is clean when I am involved with my children or have other commitments during the day. I think I will talk with someone about how to resist these urges before they get out of hand, but I don't think I need medicines yet."
— Carla, age 38
Your personal feelings are just as important as the medical facts. Think about what matters most to you in this decision, and show how you feel about the following statements.
Reasons to take medicine for OCD
Reasons not to take medicine for OCD
I want to do whatever I can to get rid of my obsessions and compulsions.
I can deal with my obsessions and compulsions on my own.
I'm willing to try medicine, because I think it will help ease my symptoms and anxiety from OCD.
I think the side effects of the medicine would bother me more than my symptoms and anxiety do.
I don't feel that counseling is helping my symptoms enough.
I'm happy with the way counseling is helping my symptoms.
My other important reasons:
My other important reasons:
Now that you've thought about the facts and your feelings, you may have a general idea of where you stand on this decision. Show which way you are leaning right now.
Taking medicine for OCD
NOT taking medicine for OCD
1. I may not need to take medicine for OCD if my symptoms are mild.
2. My decision may depend on whether my symptoms bother me more than the side effects from the medicine would.
1. Do you understand the options available to you?
2. Are you clear about which benefits and side effects matter most to you?
3. Do you have enough support and advice from others to make a choice?
1. How sure do you feel right now about your decision?
2. Check what you need to do before you make this decision.
3. Use the following space to list questions, concerns, and next steps.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Patrice Burgess, MD - Family Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Lisa S. Weinstock, MD - Psychiatry|