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Mental Health Center

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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) - Medications

After you are diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), your doctor will likely prescribe antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as fluoxetine (for example, Prozac). Antidepressants are thought to help balance neurotransmitters (such as serotonin) in your brain.

In some cases it takes time to adjust the dosage or find the right medicine that will work for you. You may start to feel better within 1 to 3 weeks after you start taking an SSRI. 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 doctor may increase the dosage of your medicine, change to another SSRI, or use another medicine known as clomipramine if the medicine first prescribed doesn't help. Clomipramine, a tricyclic antidepressant, has been used for years to treat OCD, but it may have more side effects than SSRIs.

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Your doctor may prescribe other medicines if you have other conditions along with OCD.

Medication choices

Antidepressants (SSRIs) such as fluoxetine (for example, Prozac), fluvoxamine (Luvox), and sertraline (Zoloft) are commonly prescribed to treat OCD. These medicines are taken as tablets or capsules. The medicine venlafaxine can also help symptoms of OCD. The tricyclic antidepressant clomipramine (Anafranil) is sometimes used as well.

Antidepressants are used to relieve the obsessive thoughts and subsequent compulsive behaviors in those who have OCD. By increasing the level of serotonin in the brain, antidepressants help to regulate the communication between different parts of the brain.

Other medicines (such as antipsychotics) are sometimes used to treat OCD.

What to think about

A person with OCD may also have other anxiety disorders that complicate treatment and require using other medicines.

For children and adolescents with OCD, treatment combining cognitive-behavioral therapy with antidepressants (SSRIs), such as sertraline, works better than only taking medicine. Cognitive-behavioral therapy alone also works well, but it works better if it is combined with medicine.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: November 14, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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