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Can TMS Treat OCD?

What is OCD?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder that involves compulsive and repetitive actions in a very serious manner. It is an incapacitating psychiatric disorder which revolves in a cycle of:

  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Anxiety
  • Compulsion
  • Temporary relief

Through the day, people with OCD will repeatedly think about a certain task not having any relief until it’s completed. However, these are just a brief moments of relief before starting the cycle over again. In severe cases, patients will hardly leave home because of their need to carry out their compulsions like wiping, counting, arranging things in their home, etc. This obsessive behavior controls most of their daily routine.

What it’s like to have OCD

At some point in our lives, we have all experienced repeated behaviors or focused our thoughts on certain things. But these thoughts don’t end up hindering us from going about our day. For people suffering from OCD, these thoughts are so persistent and intense that they cause difficulty in concentrating until the task is done to perfection. People with OCD will most likely show the following signs:

  • Fear of contamination, infection, or dirt
  • Excessive need for order or symmetry
  • Doing too much cleaning or hand washing
  • Repeatedly checking locked doors, windows, and gas stoves
  • Fear of losing self-control
  • Considerably large amount of fear for causing an accident
  • Hoarding or arranging certain items
  • Repeated thoughts of counting

What causes OCD?

Many theories have tried to explain the exact cause of OCD but nothing so far can accurately determine its cause. But there are certain factors that can trigger an individual in developing OCD. These include:

  • Genetics
  • Stress
  • Biological factors (chemical imbalance in the brain)
  • Psychological factors (certain behaviors can develop into an obsessive and compulsive behavior)

Conventional OCD Treatment

There are available treatments to avoid OCD from setting in before it takes a total control of the individual’s life. Medications and psychotherapy can provide relief to some people. Sadly, up to 40% of OCD patients fail to have positive improvement using these treatments. Another 10% of them seem to be beyond help.

How TMS can help people with OCD

The US Food and Drug Administration approved the use of TMS for treating depression. It is a non-invasive procedure which does not require any sedation or anesthesia.

TMS therapy involves an electromagnetic coil placed on a scale that emits current to stimulate brain cells. The electromagnetic pulses excite nerve cells in the brain associated with mood control. The magnetic pulses in repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) helps in modulating brain activity. This principle acts as the basis for treating OCD. In early studies, rTMS therapy stimulation of the frontal lobe showed a positive effect on mood disorder treatment. TMS therapy can increase the activity of this region of the brain and may help relieve symptoms of the disorder.

Today, many types of research explore the effectiveness of TMS therapy. Many of them have revealed TMS therapy shows positive results in patients suffering from OCD. This is true even for patients who respond unfavorably to traditional medications and psychotherapy.

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