Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Patient Information Fact Sheet

What causes OCD?
The exact reason OCD occurs is not known, although it often begins during episodes of increased stress. It is also thought that some people may be genetically predisposed to the condition. although this has not been proved. Some experts believe that OCD is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain; it has been proposed that serotonin, a chemical messenger in the brain, may be involved. Serotonin is also known as 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT).

How is OCD treated?
There are medicines available that may help some people with OCD. These medicines belong to a group known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or 5HT-reuptake inhibitors. They are thought to act in OCD by blocking the reuptake of serotonin (5-HT) in the brain, thereby increasing the amount available in certain areas. The drugs available include: escitalopram (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac), fluvoxamine (Luvox CR), clomipramine, paroxetine (Paxil) or sertraline (Zoloft). Other treatment may involve cognitive therapy (a form of psychotherapy) or behavioral therapy.

Further information
International OCD Foundation: www.ocfoundation.org
National Institute of Mental Health: www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml

Last Reviewed: June 2013