Medications to Treat OCD

A Look at the Specific Antidepressants and Antipsychotics Used in OCD

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Obsessive-compulsive disorder is commonly treated with both medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Medications that target serotonin pathways in the brain, like antidepressants, are particularly effective in treating people with OCD — and if this doesn't work, adding on an antipsychotic medication may be useful.

Let's take a look at the various medications used to treat OCD, including antidepressants and antipsychotics that have found to be effective in scientific studies.


What are the FDA Approved OCD Medications?

There are a number of medications that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of OCD. Most of these drugs belong to a class of antidepressants called the selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors. However, one of these drugs, Anafranil, belongs to a class of drugs called the tricyclic antidepressants.

OCD medications approved by the FDA specifically for the treatment of OCD include:

  • Anafranil (clomipramine)
  • Prozac (fluoxetine)
  • Luvox (fluvoxamine)
  • Paxil (paroxetine hydrochloride)
  • Zoloft (sertraline)

Off-Label Medications

Although not formally approved by the FDA for treatment of OCD, other types of SSRIs, as well as serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), are being prescribed by physicians "off-label" as OCD medications. Some examples of off-label OCD medications include:

  • Celexa (citalopram)
  • Lexapro (escitalopram)
  • Effexor (venlafaxine)

Antipsychotic Medications

Antipsychotic medications are not used to treat OCD alone. Rather, they are often used to augment or improve the effectiveness of SSRIs and clomipramine in reducing OCD symptoms.

Usually, augmentation therapy is implemented when clomipramine or SSRIs fail to improve OCD symptoms after at least 3 months.

Commonly-employed augmentation OCD medications include:

  • Risperdal (risperidone)
  • Haldoperidol (haldol)

Antipsychotics that have shown mixed results when used to augment SSRI therapy for OCD include:

  • Zyprexa (olanzapine)
  • Seroquel (quetiapine)

Aripiprazole (abilify) has also shown promise as a therapy for OCD. 

Medications on the Horizon

Medications that target glutamate pathways in the brain are among the novel drugs that may help reduce symptoms of OCD, especially when added to an antidepressant. These include:

  • Memantine (Namenda)
  • Topiramate (Topamax)
  • Riluzole (Rilutek)

Final Thoughts

As with any medical treatment, the decision to start a new medication or add a medication to your treatment strategy is a choice that should be made in strong collaboration with your family doctor or psychiatrist.


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Pizarro et al. An updated review of antidepressants with marked serotonergic effects in obsessive-compulsive disorder. Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2014 Jul;15(10):1391-401.

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