written by: Dr. Kristie Leong
• edited by: Paul Arnold
• updated: 9/2/2010
Is Prozac for OCD really effective? Find out if Prozac really helps to relieve the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder and what the drawbacks of taking it are.
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Does using Prozac for OCD have benefits? OCD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, is a mental disorder where a person has persistent and repeated anxiety-provoking thoughts. Many, but not all people with this disorder carry out repetitive, ritualized behaviors, which the person seems powerless to stop. Examples are excessive hand washing or not stepping on cracks on the sidewalk. These ritualized behaviors are known as compulsions – and they’re often done in a futile effort to relieve the anxiety and worry people with OCD experience.
Needless to say a person with OCD has a difficult time functioning in society due to their obsessive worry and the need to carry out repetitive behaviors to relieve them. Although behavioral therapy is modestly successful for treating people with obsessive-compulsive disorder, medications are usually also needed. Prozac for OCD is one medication that some doctors use to help people suffering with this disorder better deal with their symptoms.
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Prozac for OCD: How Does It Work?
Prozac is a member of a group of drugs called selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s). These medications work by increasing levels of a neurotransmitter called serotonin in the brain. This boost in serotonin helps to treat a variety of disorders including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, and, of course, obsessive-compulsive disorder. Prozac is just one example of an SSRI used to treat OCD.
Does Prozac for OCD really work? A study published on Medscape, showed that SSRI medications, including Prozac, help to relieve the symptoms of OCD. In fact, people with OCD who took an SSRI such as Prozac were twice as likely as those taking a placebo to report improvement in their OCD symptoms. Of the five SSRI’s tested, they were all equally effective for relieving the symptoms of this disabling condition.
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The Side Effects of Using Prozac in People with OCD
Of course, using Prozac for OCD as well as any other SSRI comes with side effects – including difficulty sleeping, headache, lightheadedness, nausea, dizziness, anxiety, dry mouth, drowsiness, impotence and indigestion – but not everyone has all of these adverse reactions. In many cases, the patient finds the side effects something they can live with if it relieves the obsessive worry and reduces the rituals they carry out daily when not receiving treatment.
Using Prozac for OCD has modest benefits, but most doctors combine it with form of psychological therapy. Behavioral therapy is particularly effective for treating OCD when used with medications such as Prozac. Using Prozac for OCD without changing the underlying worry and compulsions will only lead to a recurrence of symptoms if the medication is stopped. Most people don’t want to spend the rest of their life dependent on medications, which is why a combination approach is so important.
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Prozac for OCD: The Bottom Line
Prozac, like other SSRI’s, can help treat the symptoms of people suffering with OCD, but it’s most effective when combined with behavioral therapy. It offers a ray hope for thousands of people who deal with this perplexing and disabling disorder on a day-to-day basis.
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Medscape.com website. “Review Finds SSRIs Modestly Effective in Short-Term Treatment of OCD"