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Medications for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea about each of the medications listed below. Only the most general side effects are included, so ask your doctor if you need to take any special precautions. Use each of these medications as recommended by your doctor, or according to the instructions provided. If you have further questions about usage or side effects, contact your doctor.

Your doctor may give you medicine to help alleviate your unwanted thoughts and repeated actions. These are often referred to as anti-obsessional medications. They can also help you feel less anxious and afraid. It may take a few weeks before you start to see an improvement

Most of the drugs used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are antidepressants. These medications affect brain hormones that are out of balance. If you develop depression in association with OCD or because of the disability produced by OCD, antidepressants can help with this as well.

Prescription Medications

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

  • Citalopram
  • Fluvoxamine
  • Paroxetine
  • Fluoxetine
  • Sertraline
  • Escitalopram

Tricyclic Antidepressants

  • Clomipramine

Atypical Antidepressants

  • Trazodone
  • Venlafaxine
  • Nefazodone

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

Common names include:

  • Citalopram
  • Fluvoxamine
  • Paroxetine
  • Fluoxetine
  • Sertraline
  • Escitalopram

SSRIs affect the concentration of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which plays a role in anxiety, depression, and OCD. It appears that for most people, high doses of these drugs are required to produce anti-obsessional effects. Improvement is usually seen in 4-6 weeks after beginning treatment. SSRIs are not addictive. Do not take an SSRI if you have taken a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) in the last 2-5 weeks.

Possible side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss
  • Weight gain
  • Lightheadedness
  • Sexual dysfunction (ranging from decreased arousal, to erectile dysfunction, and/or delayed time to orgasm)
  • Nervousness
  • Risk of severe mood and behavior changes, including suicidal thoughts in some patients (young adults may be at a higher risk for this side effect.)

Tricyclic Antidepressants    TOP

Common name: Clomipramine

Tricyclic antidepressants regulate the neurotransmitters serotonin and/or noradrenalin in the brain. They have been used effectively for the treatment of OCD. Improvement is usually seen in 2-6 weeks after beginning treatment. Tricyclic antidepressants are not addictive.

Possible side effects include:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Sleepiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Weight gain
  • Low blood pressure
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Risk of severe mood and behavior changes, including suicidal thoughts in some patients (young adults may be at a higher risk for this side effect.)

Atypical Antidepressants

Common names include:

  • Trazodone
  • Venlafaxine
  • Nefazodone

Atypical antidepressants affect the concentration of the neurotransmitter serotonin and can be effective in treating OCD. Improvement is usually seen in 4-6 weeks after beginning treatment.

Possible side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Nervousness
  • Diminished sex drive
  • Risk of severe mood and behavior changes, including suicidal thoughts in some patients (young adults may be at a higher risk for this side effect.)

Special Considerations

Consultation with a specially trained mental health professional is recommended if you do not respond to treatment with medications. A mental health professional can help clarify the diagnosis and determine if another psychiatric disorder is present. They can also make recommendations about psychotherapy and changes in medications.

If you are taking medications, follow these general guidelines:

  • Take the medication as directed. Do not change the amount or the schedule.
  • Ask what side effects could occur. Report them to your doctor.
  • Talk to your doctor before you stop taking any prescription medication.
  • Plan ahead for refills if you need them.
  • Do not share your prescription medication with anyone.
  • Medications can be dangerous when mixed. Talk to your doctor if you are taking more than one medication, including over-the-counter products and supplements.

References:

About OCD. International OCD Foundation website. Available at: https://iocdf.org/about-ocd. Accessed January 13, 2017.
Antidepressant use in children, adolescents, and adults. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated April 13, 2016. Accessed January 13, 2017.
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated June 13, 2016. Accessed January 13, 2017.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml. Updated January 2016. Accessed January 13, 2017.
2/18/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed...: Serretti A, Mandelli L. Antidepressants and body weight: a comprehensive review and meta-analysis. J Clin Psychiatry. 2010;71(10):1259-1272.
Last reviewed December 2016 by Adrian Preda, MD
Last Updated: 5/20/2015

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