Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, OCD, is a debilitating disorder that can negatively affect a person’s life in many ways. Ketamine, an anesthetic drug used daily in operating rooms and emergency departments across the globe, is proving to be an effective, low-risk treatment for many mood disorders, including OCD.
Life With OCD
Obsessive compulsive disorder can take over a person’s life. The overwhelming need to avoid germs can impede a mother’s ability to change her newborn’s diapers. An obsession with cleanliness can make a person’s hands go raw from scrubbing too hard. Reliance on ritual can keep someone from getting out the door to arrive at work on time. OCD is a truly debilitating disease, and traditional treatments like taking SSRIs and engaging in cognitive behavior therapy only help in about 50% of the cases. There is a great need for new treatment in this area, and ketamine is showing great potential.
The field of mental health treatment has expanded greatly in the last ten years. Innovative new mental health treatments are popping up all the time, and treating your own personal mental health disorder is becoming further and further desensitized. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD is one of the top 20 causes of illness-related disability, and in the United States, about 1 in 40 adults and 1 in 100 children have OCD. The first step to finding treatment for your OCD is to understand and learn more about your own mental health condition.
5 Symptom Subtypes of OCD
Although OCD symptoms generally fall into one of these five subtypes, it is possible to experience a change in the nature and focus of your symptoms over time.
- Contamination Obsessions with Washing/Cleaning: Those suffering from this symptom subtype will usually focus on feelings of discomfort associated with germs/contamination, and will wash and clean excessively.
- Harm Obsessions with Checking Compulsions: Those experiencing this symptom subtype will often have intense thoughts regarding possible harm, either to themselves or others, and will use checking rituals to relieve their distress.
- Obsessions Without Visible Compulsions: Those experiencing this symptom subtype will often have unwanted obsessions regarding sexual, religious, or aggressive themes. Triggers related to these obsessions are usually avoided at all costs.
- Symmetry Obsessions with Ordering, Arranging, and Counting Compulsions: Those suffering from this symptom subtype may feel a strong need to rearrange objects constantly. It can also involve thinking or saying sentences or words over and over again until one feels it has been accomplished perfectly.
- Hoarding: This symptom subtype involves the collection of items of little or no value until one’s living space is consumed with so much clutter it becomes difficult to live in. This is often accompanied by obsessive fears of losing items that one feels may be needed one day.
Obsessions are persistent and unwanted thoughts, feelings, or images that cause distress or anxiety. Those with OCD may try to ignore them by performing a compulsive behavior. Obsessions typically intrude when you’re going about your daily life, often getting in the way of your personal goals.
Examples of obsessions include:
- Fear of contamination
- Needing things orderly and symmetrical
- Aggressive or horrific thoughts about harming yourself or others
- Unwanted thoughts, including sexual or religious subjects
Signs and symptoms of obsession can include:
- Fear of contamination when touching objects others have touched
- Intense stress when objects aren’t orderly
- Images or intrusive thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else
- Thoughts of shouting obscenities or acting inappropriately
- Avoidance of situations that can trigger obsessions
- Distress about unpleasant sexual images repeating in your mind
Ketamine For OCD
Ketamine vs. SSRIs
SSRIs, serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are a class of drugs typically used for treating depression, mood disorders, and other chemical imbalances. They work on upping the serotonin levels in the brain. Ketamine, on the other hand, affects the neurotransmitter called glutamate. Abnormalities in this area have been linked to OCD, though scientists have not yet discovered the exact connections. Regardless, SSRIs, focusing on serotonin levels, have had mixed results with treating OCD, yet ketamine, which affects glutamate, is showing positive results.
How Ketamine Affects OCD Symptoms
Ketamine is not currently approved by the FDA for treatment of OCD, but it is being used off-label by many clinics and physicians across the U.S. with positive results. Outcomes vary, but anecdotal reports include patients being able to use public toilets, shake hands with strangers, and minimize intrusive thoughts after receiving ketamine treatments.
Depression and OCD
Multiple studies regarding the efficacy of ketamine in the treatment of depression. The psychiatric community is excited by the potential in the use of ketamine to alleviate symptoms of OCD. Because depression often goes hand in hand with OCD, it stands to reason that medical professionals are seeking an understanding of what ketamine can do for this disorder that desperately needs a breakthrough treatment.
Ketamine may very well be the drug needed to help break the hold of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
How Does Ketamine Treatment for OCD Work?
Exactly how Ketamine treats OCD and other mental health disorders are still being researched. The current understanding is that Ketamine binds to receptors in the brain that increases the amount of a neurotransmitter, glutamate, is released. This will then set off a chain of reactions within the brain that affects thinking and emotional regulation.
To put this in simpler terms, the brain reacts to Ketamine in a way that triggers hormones that help create more positive emotions. This can occur within minutes after a person receives their infusion, but some people may need several treatments before they experience the highest level of benefits.
There is no surefire way to prevent OCD. Getting treatment as soon as possible can help prevent OCD from worsening and negatively affecting your life. Some people with previously treatment-resistant OCD have experienced great success with the advent of Ketamine Infusions, an innovative new treatment option.