What causes OCD, and how can we treat it?
Even though an estimated 70% of people with OCD find them helpful according to the IOCDF, both medication and behavioral therapy fail for many people. If you (or a loved one) haven’t experienced recovery yet, it’s possible that existing treatment methods haven’t been optimized for you. It’s also possible that the treatment you need… hasn’t been invented yet.
Luckily, there are tons of researchers out there working hard every day to find new treatment options for OCD. Some of these potential new treatments begin with attempts to understand the cause of OCD. Others ask: why aren’t the treatment methods available today working for lots of people? Let’s fly through a few new treatment developments and what they might offer for the future of OCD.
First, a new study from Duke University found that overactivity of one single type of chemical receptor in the brain is responsible for symptoms closely resembling OCD in mice. When researchers gave the mice something to block those receptors, their OCD symptoms let up in under one minute. Now, unless you’re a very smart mouse reading this, these findings don’t necessarily translate to an easy fix. But this provides hope that further research on the mGluR5 receptor could translate to better options for humans too.
Another recent study looked critically at two different options for augmenting, or adding to, first-line serotonin reuptake inhibitor therapy: the antipsychotic medication risperidone, and Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy. Researchers found that ERP was a more effective augmentation strategy, especially for younger people and those with more severe OCD symptoms.
Coming up next is a very recent study published by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. A few ambitious researchers found what seems to be a strong correlation between OCD symptoms (measured on the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale) and inflammation in the parts of the brain believed to be responsible for those symptoms. Though the amount of inflammation varies, this finding provides a basis for many possible treatment developments.
Ketamine, an anesthetic sometimes used recreationally, has been getting a lot of buzz as an emerging treatment for depression and other conditions. It’s now also in early trials for OCD, led by people like Dr. Carolyn Rodriguez at Stanford, and they’re getting promising results. As in the depression trials, researchers are still working to figure out how to reduce the side effects and extend the positive effects of ketamine.
Lastly, researchers around the world have been looking more closely at the role of glutamate, a neurotransmitter like serotonin, that they believe plays a role in the compulsivity part of OCD. One review looked at a number of drugs that act on glutamate and concluded that OCD is the best candidate of all disorders for successful treatment by glutamate modulators. As always, the study concluded that further studies will be needed to determine anything else.
We’ll be sure to keep an eye out for the latest on OCD research. And if you see or hear anything, please be sure to let us know in the comments.
Until next time,
The nOCD Team
If you’re interested in learning more about the nOCD app, a platform for treating your OCD and finding a community of other people dealing with anxiety disorders, check out https://www.treatmyocd.com/for-patients