Beginning to take care of your mental health, or that of a loved one, is an important and crucial step toward significant improvement in one’s well-being. For many individuals contending specifically with obsessive-compulsive disorder (or OCD for short), finding the right support system can provide them with the additional understanding, guidance and perseverance they need to progress in their journey toward significant symptom relief. Deciding between all the available OCD treatment centers can be its own challenge that requires careful consideration of several key features.
Read on to find out what to look out for when considering where to begin treatment.
OCD is a particularly pervasive, anxiety-based mental health disorder, and as such, can evade some of the more established treatment options within the world of mental health. Treatments such as psychodynamic therapy, for instance, may offer patients battling OCD a deeper understanding of the formative relationships and experiences that contributed to the eventual appearance of their condition, but might take a longer period to rid them of its most disturbing symptoms. And so, while psychodynamic therapy has been empirically shown to alleviate symptoms of depression, when it comes to OCD, research has found other forms of therapy—and combinations of different treatments—to be more effective.
Three types of therapy have been recognized by the FDA to be both safe and efficacious when it comes to treating OCD: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medication, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). All three have also been shown to generally work well in combination with one another, often increasing the overall effectiveness of the patient’s treatment course. When choosing a treatment center, it thereby is important to verify it offers different, empirically-based therapy options such as the following therapy options, which have specifically been shown to offer symptom relief from OCD symptoms.
FDA-approved to offer significant relief from OCD symptoms, SSRI medication works by blocking the reabsorption of the neurotransmitter serotonin through the original neuron’s synaptic cleft, thereby extending its period of activation.
The mood-elevating benefits of serotonin have been proven to go beyond OCD, with SSRIs also FDA-approved to treat depression. That said, SSRIs have also been shown to affect the neural activity of OCD-specific brain structures, tying it to this condition as well.
Despite its benefits and FDA approval, SSRI medication can cause adverse side effects that may prevent patients from continuing with this treatment. Common SSRI side effects include weight gain, sexual dysfunction, and nausea. As a result, patients may choose to switch to another form of treatment, or to serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), another family of medications that has yet to be recognized by the FDA as a treatment for OCD.
Another FDA-approved treatment for OCD, CBT, is a goal-oriented form of psychotherapy that focuses on reducing the anxiety tied to the targeted issue or condition. When treating OCD, CBT examines the thoughts, feelings, behavior patterns, and bodily sensations the patient has learned to associate with their disorder. As they begin to understand the factors in their life that preserve their OCD and keep them from overcoming it, the patient begins to consider and implement more beneficial responses to OCD-triggering stimuli. Over time and with the help of a licensed CBT expert, they will hopefully be able to better tolerate stressors linked to their OCD, reducing the anxiety that had previously manifested through their symptoms and sustained their condition.
An offshoot of CBT, called exposure-response therapy (ERP), has in recent years shown to be particularly effective in treating OCD. This form of therapy gradually exposes the patient to OCD-inducing stimuli. The patient is then supported in their effort to avoid compulsively reacting to the stimuli, despite rising levels of anxiety, as they learn to manage their OCD-related behavior.
A relative newcomer that has already received an FDA-clearance status for treating OCD, TMS utilizes electromagnetic pulses to regulate the neural activity of brain structures found to be associated with this condition. As a non-invasive treatment, TMS does not necessitate the use of anesthesia, does not incur a lengthy recovery or adjustment period, and does not normally cause any long-term or significant side effects beyond a local passing headache.
There are currently two forms of TMS available on the market:
Deep TMS: FDA-cleared to treat OCD since 2018, Deep TMS remains the only non-invasive medical device to be FDA-cleared backed with clinical data to treat OCD. The treatment relies on patented, H-Coil technology that is held inside a cushioned helmet fitted onto the patient’s head. During treatment sessions, the Deep TMS device safely sends out its electromagnetic pulses. Due to its positioning within the device’s helmet, the device’s H-Coil design manages to reach relatively wide areas of the brain simultaneously, thereby avoiding targeting issues. Deep TMS is also able to reach deeper brain regions directly, potentially increasing its effectiveness. Its benefits as an OCD treatment have been well-documented, with researchers presenting empirical evidence of its safety and efficacy.
Traditional TMS: FDA-cleared since 2020 to treat OCD, traditional TMS uses a handheld figure-8 device to send out its electromagnetic pulses. This occasionally causes targeting issues to arise, as the handheld device’s more focused projection may miss some of the relevant brain structures.
All three of the above-mentioned treatment options can generally be combined for greater results. A 2019 article published in The American Journal of Psychiatry highlighted this, finding that patients with OCD who were already taking part in CBT or receiving serotonin reuptake medication showed significant symptom reduction after the addition of Deep TMS to their overall treatment regimen.
Finding the right treatment environment can have a substantive effect on the patient’s commitment and motivation, particularly during more challenging periods. As such, it is important to consider how intense, encompassing, or flexible you would prefer your treatment structure to be.
Inpatient Treatment Programs: Medical facilities offering inpatient treatments can be a viable option in cases where the patient is experiencing overwhelming, handicapping symptoms, or when self-harm is a concern. Certain patients with particularly severe cases of OCD may find this environment, often structured within a hospital or medical center, to offer them the necessary around-the-clock support they need. Inpatient programs can also closely monitor patients’ response to treatment, offer quicker adjustments of medications or psychotherapy session rates, and examine the response rates to medical device treatments such as TMS. Over time, patients may begin to feel better and choose to transfer out of an inpatient setting and onto a more independent situation.
Residential Treatment Programs: Patients who prefer a more familiar environment might prefer a residential treatment program, which offers a similarly extensive support system as inpatient facilities but within a more comfortable home-like setting. Residential programs are staffed with mental health and medical professionals, as well as offer different activities beyond each patient’s treatment regimen. Such amenities help induce a more relaxed atmosphere, allowing its residents to feel more at ease as they focus on getting better.
Outpatient Treatment Programs: Outpatient programs are aimed at patients who find their main reason for seeking treatment to be manageable within their current setting, allowing them to receive their chosen form of therapy while still living at home. Such programs are less disruptive to the patient’s daily routines, incorporating treatments into their schedules without halting them completely. All above-mentioned options, recognized by the FDA as safe and effective ways to treat OCD, can be incorporated within an outpatient treatment setting.
Being able to quickly and easily receive your selected mental health treatment is often a deciding factor in sticking to it. As effective or lauded as certain treatments can be, a faraway or inconveniently located treatment center can make return visits a hassle, taking a toll on the patient’s already taxed mental health resources.
The center’s location and convenience can become even more relevant for patients also dealing with a physical disability who require nearby parking or wheelchair accessibility. As such, it is recommended to calculate the approximate arrival time, inquire about the existence of wheelchair-friendly ramps, hallways, and restrooms, and even do a dry run before committing to a certain facility.
You can find out the nearest clinic to offer Deep TMS treatment here.
Treatment costs are understandably a significant consideration when reviewing your options, as is insurance coverage. Different insurance plans offer different coverage plans, and as such, it is strongly recommended you review your own plan prior to deciding on a treatment course.
Deep TMS is currently covered as a treatment for depression by Medicare and most private US insurers. Certain insurance providers are open to discussing single-case agreements with individuals covered by their plans, creating the potential for OCD coverage. Deep TMS is also covered throughout Europe and additional regions as more and more providers offer coverage and copayment plans to meet their clients’ needs.