Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition noted for its intrusive thoughts and repetitive rituals, which are annoying at best and completely debilitating at worst.
The Harvard Medical School’s National Comorbidity Survey noted that the lifetime prevalence of OCD among American adults was 2.3%. Of those, 14.6% had mild impairment, 34.8% had moderate impairment, and 50.6% experienced serious impairment.
At ReYou, a ketamine infusion clinic in Howell, New Jersey, our specialists understand how debilitating OCD can be and how challenging it is to find a treatment option, or combination of options, that really works. That’s why we offer ketamine therapy as an alternative to help you get your life back on track.
Here’s what you need to know.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is made up of two parts: obsessions (unwanted ideas, thoughts, or sensations) and compulsions (repetitive behaviors) performed to help banish the obsessions.
Many people have distressing thoughts or repetitive behaviors, but generally they don’t disrupt daily life. For people living with OCD, though, the obsessions are persistent, and the compulsions are rigid.
Not performing the ritualized behaviors, or not performing them in the exact way “necessary,” leads to anxiety, panic, and a feeling that something is terribly wrong with the world around them.
Many people with OCD intuitively understand their obsessions aren’t realistic, but they nevertheless feel compelled to perform the rituals to make the world “right.”
To receive an OCD diagnosis, you need to display obsessions and/or compulsions that are time-consuming (more than one hour a day), cause significant emotional distress, and interfere with work or social functioning.
General categories of obsessions include:
- Fear of germs
- Fear of contamination by people or the environment
- Disturbing repetitive sexual thoughts or images
- Fear of blurting out insults or obscenities (Tourette’s syndrome)
- Extreme concern with symmetry, order, or precision
- Intrusive thoughts of recurring sounds, images, words, or numbers
- Fear of losing or discarding something important
General categories of compulsions include:
- Excessive and usually ritualized hand-washing, showering, brushing teeth, or toileting (even to the extent of rubbing skin raw)
- Repeated cleaning of objects (tables, chairs, door handles)
- Ordering or arranging things in specific ways
- Repeatedly checking locks, switches, or appliances or turning on/off
- Constantly seeking approval or reassurance
- Repeatedly counting to a certain number
It’s certainly possible to have multiple types of obsessions and compulsions, such as counting objects while arranging them in a specific order, then cleaning them off and starting again.
Many people with OCD feel shame or are embarrassed by their condition, so they get very good at hiding their rituals from other people — and even from themselves. That allows the disorder to reach an advanced state before anyone realizes they need help.
OCD isn’t curable, but it can usually be controlled with medication and/or some form of psychotherapy. Medications used are often repurposed from other medical conditions and may include:
- Benzodiazepines, such as lorazepam (Ativan), diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), and clonazepam (Klonopin)
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as citalopram (Celexa), fluoxetine (Prozac), escitalopram (Lexapro), paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva), and sertraline (Zoloft)
- Tricyclic antidepressants, such as desipramine (Norpramin), amitriptyline, doxepin, and nortriptyline
Therapy often includes cognitive behavioral therapy, which teaches you how to approach problems in a healthy way, and/or exposure and response prevention therapy, which exposes you to the triggering thought and then prevents you from responding to it with a ritual.
Unfortunately, about 30-40% of people don’t respond to the medications, or they have too many of the side effects, leaving them with few, if any, options.
Ketamine therapy can help
Ketamine is a repurposed anesthetic that works on brain pathways differently than many first-line OCD medications. When administered in sub-anesthetic doses, it can alleviate OCD symptoms, as well as the depression and anxiety that often accompany the disorder.
And while many conventional medications can take 6-12 weeks to reach a therapeutic level, ketamine can show improvements within 24 hours.
Ketamine acts directly on NMDA receptors in your brain, increasing the neurotransmitter glutamate. Glutamate abnormalities are known to contribute to OCD, so your symptoms improve as ketamine balances your transmitter levels.
If you know or suspect that you or a loved one has OCD and you’re not getting relief with conventional treatments, ReYou can help. Contact us today by phone or online to schedule a free consultation at our Howell, New Jersey, clinic.