Anxiety is nothing new to Susie Meserve, but the pandemic has turned up the volume and unveiled new outlets for worry.
I’ve always had anxiety. As a child, I washed my hands until they bled. I was obsessed with safety, double checking the door lock, convincing myself I’d contracted some horrible disease. When COVID appeared, many people experienced what I have my entire life, and it was oddly comforting: handwashing was no longer a sign of obsessive compulsive disorder but a way to save a life. The idea of contracting a horrible disease wasn’t so crazy.
At first, COVID didn’t make me more anxious than before. Like many anxious people, I thrive on control: if I washed my hands, socially distanced, followed the rules — I could keep everyone safe. But the rules are murky, and as the months wear on, the daily decision‐making has become agonizing. Every attempt to socialize or school our children or grocery shop requires a fraught mental calculus: is this allowed? Is this safe?
I’ve even found myself intolerant of other people’s worry. I’m angry at those who don’t take the pandemic seriously, but I’m almost as annoyed with those who cluck and judge on social media, as though to prove they’re the most cautious. You’re just having anxiety, I want to tell them — this mantra has long been a trusted coping mechanism. But who am I kidding? We’re in a global pandemic. Our nation barely survived an attempted coup. Our kids haven’t been in school for a year and the new variants are here. Reality is more terrifying than anything a worried mind could conjure.
No: we can’t tell ourselves not to worry, but we can remember that we’re ALL trying to stay afloat in a deeply uncertain world. There is, I think, a small comfort there.
Amid the mental health crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, people with OCD are experiencing unique difficulties.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a debilitating mental health condition. Obsessions are the unwelcome thoughts that repeatedly appear in the mind, while compulsions are the repetitive activities done to reduce the anxiety caused by the obsession.
When 19-year-old Iowa college student, Shira Folberg, was 16, her OCD led to her medically withdrawing from high school.
She has had issues related to disordered eating, health-related anxiety, and moral scrupulosity, a form of OCD that causes an obsessive concern with whether one is being good or bad.
Folberg told Insider: “When Covid really hit, it was hard for me because I used to have a lot of compulsions where I would obsessively check to see if I had symptoms of different illnesses.
“So when people first started coming out and saying these are the symptoms you should be watching out for, I would fixate on those things, and it would make me really anxious,” she continued.
“I would spend a lot of time checking to see if I had symptoms even though I would just stay at home all day and didn’t talk to anyone.”
Alison Dotson, President of OCD Twin Cities in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was diagnosed with the condition 15 years ago and has struggled with harm OCD amid COVID-19.
“For me, the fear of harming someone else is something I always worry about but it’s been heightened during the pandemic.”
‘Isolate and avoid people, places and things.’
The pandemic has led to 4 in 10 adults in the US reporting symptoms of anxiety or depression, an increase from the one in ten adults, according to research published by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Dr. Elizabeth McIngvale, Director of the McLean OCD Institute at Houston, said treating OCD people in the time of COVID was a challenge: “When you’re in the middle of treatment it’s don’t isolate, don’t avoid people, places or things. Well, what’s the world telling you right now? Isolate and avoid people, places, and things.”
Dr. Ken Duckworth, Chief Medical Officer at the National Institute of Mental Illness (NAMI), told Insider: “We have certainly seen an increase of anxiety disorders at NAMI. There’s also been a big leap in people with germ phobias being provoked by COVID-19.”
Hand-washing to prevent the coronavirus’s spread is particularly tough for suffers from contamination OCD – a sub-type of the condition. After years of being told to stop washing their hands to control their condition, the new message to wash their hands to prevent COVID-19 can be mind-boggling.
‘It’s a very illogical and irrational disorder’
As vaccination rollouts begin, restrictions are lifted, and the post-pandemic future beckons, experts worry that people with OCD will struggle to re-assimilate back into society.
Dr. McIngvale said that while life will return to normal for many, OCD sufferers will face many hurdles: “They may still be stuck on worrying about the virus, worrying about another virus and worrying about if it’s actually gone or is if it’s still here.”
Folberg agreed: “It’s a very illogical and irrational disorder, so even if it is safe for people, I know a lot are really going to struggle to transition back to normalcy.”
Dr. Athanasios Hassoulas, Director of MSc Psychiatry at Cardiff University, Wales, has OCD and has written a paper on how people with OCD are coping during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We need to have more support available and tailored approaches to the degree of the severity. We need to concentrate on the psychological impact of the pandemic and not leave it till the last minute,” he said.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)—a psychiatric disorder characterized by obsessive, distressful thoughts and compulsive ritualistic behaviors—can be diagnosed by either a primary care provider or mental health professional.
Like most mental health conditions, there is no blood test or imaging study to confirm a diagnosis. However, decades of research have gone into many mental health conditions, and mental health professionals have acquired a lot of information so they can diagnose your condition as accurately as possible.
In general, it’s not possible—or reasonable—to self-diagnose yourself. However, some online quizzes might offer you insight into the possibility of having OCD.
The current gold standard for diagnosing OCD is a questionnaire used by mental health professionals called the Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS).
The Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS)
The Y-BOCS asks about:
The interference and distress obsessive thoughts and compulsions cause in your life.
Your level of control over obsessions and compulsions.
You can find a version of this questionnaire from the International Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Foundation.
If you have an appointment scheduled, it may be beneficial to print this out, answer the questions, and show it to your health care provider.
While the Y-BOCS questionnaire is the gold standard, it is also quite in-depth and can seem overwhelming.
If you’re looking for a more straightforward online quiz, you might consider the one found on PsychCentral. The PsychCentral questions focus more on symptoms and less on severity. While this quiz may indicate you have OCD, it does not cover your OCD symptoms’ severity.
Please remember both these tools are simply that—tools. Only a trained medical professional can give you an official diagnosis and offer you treatment options.
There are many ways you can go about seeking help and relief from obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. Most people will start with their primary care provider, others may start by seeing a psychologist or other mental health professional. Neither way is wrong.
It’s important to note that while psychologists and non-MD therapists are an excellent resource for those with OCD, they cannot prescribe any medications.
When you see your primary care provider or mental health professional, they will often ask why you think you may have OCD. They’ll be interested in learning what behaviors are causing you concern at this time.
Some questions you can expect to have your doctor ask—or fill out on a questionnaire—include:
How long have these behaviors been going on?
Do you do have these thoughts or do these behaviors all the time or only on occasion?
Is there anything you avoid because you are self-conscious of your behavior or because the thoughts are distressing?
On an average day, how much time do you spend thinking about or acting on your specific symptom?
Is there anything that makes your symptoms worse?
While there is no blood test doctors use to check for OCD specifically, your health care provider might request lab work to ensure there isn’t an underlying medical issue that might be contributing to your symptoms or interfere with treatment.
OCD can be difficult to diagnose and your provider will go through all the possible options that can also present similarly to OCD. Other diagnosies that might overlap include:
Other anxiety disorders
TIC disorder or Tourette’s syndrome
Each of these disorders has its own criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 5)—the book all mental health professionals use as a guide for diagnosing conditions.
The good thing to remember is any of these diagnoses are treatable. They can be challenging to live with, but specialists have learned a lot about OCD and the other mental health conditions mentioned above over the last few decades.
We now have multiple ways to treat each condition. If one method isn’t working for you, let your provider know until you find the right treatment option for you.
A Word From VeryWell
While living with OCD can be stressful, it feels more stressful to seek help for many. Many times people are afraid of being judged, ignored, under, or over-treated.
Your provider is focused on helping people through arduous, scary, and overwhelming moments in life. They don’t go into their chosen profession to judge or shame people, which is just one reason why you shouldn’t be afraid to hide alarming thoughts from them. They have the tools and resources to help you.
J Nerv Ment Dis. 2021 Feb 23. doi: 10.1097/NMD.0000000000001318. Online ahead of print.
There is an understandable concern that obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) may worsen during the COVID-19 pandemic, but there are little empirical data. We report the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the short-term course of OCD. A cohort of patients with a primary diagnosis of OCD (n = 240) who were on regular follow-up at a tertiary care specialty OCD clinic in India were assessed telephonically, about 2 months after the declaration of the pandemic (“pandemic” cohort). Data from the medical records of an independent set of patients with OCD (n = 207) who were followed up during the same period, 1 year prior, was used for comparison (historical controls). The pandemic group and historical controls did not differ in the trajectories of the Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale scores (chi-square likelihood ratio test of the group × time interaction = 2.73, p = 0.255) and relapse rate (21% vs. 20%; adjusted odds ratio, 0.81; 95% confidence interval, 0.41-1.59; p = 0.535). Preexisting contamination symptoms and COVID-19-related health anxiety measured by the COVID-Threat Scale did not predict relapse. Only a small proportion of patients (6%) reported COVID-19-themed obsessive-compulsive symptoms. The COVID-19 pandemic, at least in the short run, did not influence the course of illness.
SIKESTON A class at Bootheel Counseling Services aims to help those suffering from anxiety.
The four free 30-minute anxiety classes are held from 11-11:30 a.m. on Thursdays over Zoom.
The goal is to provide information to people to help them understand anxiety, said Anastasia Kinsey, a clinical therapist at BCS who leads the classes. The first class was completed on (Feb. 4) and it was about background information about anxiety. We talked about the definition of anxiety, difference between anxiety and an anxiety disorder, different types of anxiety disorders and how anxiety can impact your life.
The second class was held Feb. 18 with a discussion on the cycle of anxiety and goals and treatment for anxiety.
The next class is set for Thursday at 11 a.m.
It is going to be about the importance of a self-care plan and boundaries to help lessen anxiety symptoms, Kinsey said. It will also help inform people about how to help develop their own self-care plan.
The final class will be March 4 and will discuss specific treatments for anxiety like breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, imagery and mindfulness.
Kinsey said a lot of people suffer from anxiety, but that doesnt mean that they have an anxiety disorder.
According to the DSM-5 (book that we use to diagnosis different disorders), a persons anxiety has to impact the way that they function. To be classified as an anxiety disorder, the person has to be dealing with excessive anxiety for at least six months and it has to disrupt their functioning at school, work, home, relationships, etc.
Kinsey said there are different types of anxiety disorders: panic disorder, agoraphobia, specific phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety and social anxiety.
I have seen an increase specifically of agoraphobia and generalized anxiety disorders since COVID-19, Kinsey said. A lot of people report that they have excessive worry about what is going to happen if they leave their house. Specifically, they have fears that if they leave home they will get the virus or give it to someone else. A lot of people arent getting any face-to-face social interactions.
Exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy addresses the underlying fears of both obsessions and compulsions. Early in your therapy sessions, your therapist will educate you about OCD and equip you with skills you can use to reduce anxiety.
Your therapist will also help you identify the situations and events that trigger obsessive thoughts and anxiety. They’ll help you figure out whether these events are related to people, things, places, feelings, or sensory stimuli, such as smells or sounds.
Your therapist will usually give you an opportunity to describe the actions you feel compelled to perform and how these compulsions are related to the fears you feel. Once you’ve identified your triggers, your therapist will help you rank them according to how upsetting they are.
Over time, you and your therapist will gradually confront each of your fears, starting with the least upsetting. This will allow you to practice calming yourself with the skills you’ve learned.
The goal is for you to be able to reduce your anxiety on your own which, in turn, may help lessen the need for rituals and compulsions to ease your fear.
Not everyone who starts a course of ERP sticks to it. But for those who do, research shows that ERP can be a very effective method of breaking the connection between obsessive thoughts and compulsions.
When news of the coronavirus outbreak first broke, I did what everyone else at the time was doing: spreading awareness on social media out of a sense of responsibility as a global citizen.
I reposted official statements on the exponentially rising numbers of those infected and affected, and economic and social forecasts. I didn’t realise for a very long time the toll the statistics were taking on me, on my mental health, and more specifically, on my OCD.
Before you roll your eyes at the mention of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD, since you may not think it’s really a disease, read on for a testimony from someone who has OCD.
OCD can be identified as an anxiety disorder, characterised primarily by anxiety-producing obsessions and anxiety-reducing compulsions. Think of it as a junkie chasing a high, only as a circle without a beginning. The compulsions of an OCD-ridden person can feel akin to a junkie’s abnormally high tolerance levels for drugs, with the obsessions bearing a similarity to their desperate craving for a high. OCD works as both the insatiable beast and the nearest available prey. A snake incessantly chasing its own tail, an ouroboros from Hell, which knows no rest.
Most people diagnosed with OCD tend to wash their hands a lot. While it’s a common symptom, reasons for doing so can differ. I wash my hands in an effort to peel off imperfections. It calms me, despite not being a healthy coping mechanism. During the coronavirus outbreak, I convinced myself that I should wash my hands even more so as to wash away the virus molecules along with the imperfections. Two birds with one stone. The frequency at which I scrubbed my hands rose exponentially with the rising numbers of infections. It wasn’t until my skin began to dry out to the point of me developing a nasty rash that I came to my senses.
Sometime back, a teacher said my excellent organisational skills and strong determination levels should be credited to my OCD. It took every ounce of the resolution I possessed to not yell at him for being so unabashedly ignorant about a mental health disorder. My OCD doesn’t help me get my life in order, it helps to wreck it instead.
Leaving aside the frequent hand-washing factor, OCD symptoms can vary from person to person. Mine involve nightmarish thoughts of mindless overconsumption and an inexplicable demand for physical equality throughout my body. I associate the idea of overconsumption with gluttony and remind myself that I must not contribute to it, so I refrain from eating and purge whenever I eat. When I’m nervous, both my hands need to feel sweaty and clammy the same way. If I injure a body part, say one of my elbows, I require my other elbow to feel just as painful. So no, no flawless organization happening there.
Please understand, there is a major difference between being a perfectionist and actually having OCD. One is a state of mind, the other is a disease. It’d be nice if everyone’s attitude towards people suffering from OCD and other mental health disorders, was more empathetic rather than sceptical.
Rasha Jameel is an overzealous Ravenclaw who often draws inspiration from mundane things such as memes. Send her your memespirational thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org
HOCD is a form of OCD. OCD is a mental health condition that can cause a person to have intrusive and reoccurring thoughts and images, as well as feel compelled to repeat specific behaviors.
A person who has OCD may feel extreme distress or upset due to these repeated thoughts or compulsions. However, they may be unable to prevent them from occurring.
A person experiencing SO-OCD may find that they are unable to prevent certain thoughts or behaviors that focus on their sexuality.
With this condition, a person who is heterosexual may have fears that they are attracted the members of the same sex.
However, it is important to note that this form of OCD is not limited to those who are heterosexual. A person who experiences same-sex attraction can have intrusive thoughts that cause them to fear that they are in denial about being heterosexual.
These thoughts can be distressing, as a person’s sexual orientation can be an important part of their identity.
Those who experience this form of OCD are typically concerned about losing their identity and living an inauthentic life. It does not mean that they have negative views toward those who have sexual orientations that differ from their own.
A study from 2015 found that 11.9% of people who seek treatment for OCD experience HOCD.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) impacts about 3 percent of the world’s population. Those diagnosed with the condition experience repetitive behavior and intrusive thoughts, often driven by a host of unreasonable fears.
OCD also can manifest in certain actions, such as leaving the house, entering a room, or touching objects in a specific order and always in the same way. It may also lead people to arrange objects in specific patterns.
It’s a challenging condition to live with, especially in the most severe cases. But a recent study may have found help for those with OCD: cannabis and CBD, the chemical component in cannabis already linked to many different health benefits.
A new study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that OCD patients who used CBD saw significant drops in many common OCD symptoms. Those numbers included:
A 60 percent reduction in compulsions
A 49 percent reduction in intrusive thoughts
A 52 percent reduction in anxiety from before to after inhaling cannabis
The researchers analyzed self-reported data from 87 people with OCD. Each patient tracked the severity of their intrusions, compulsions, and anxiety immediately before and after 1,810 cannabis use sessions over 31 months.
The researchers concluded that “inhaled cannabis appears to have short-term beneficial effects on symptoms of OCD. However, tolerance to the effects on intrusions may develop over time.” They noted smaller reductions in the number of intrusions over time after study participants had been using cannabis for many months.
Other case studies have focused on the impact of CBD on OCD. An overview of these studies published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research proposed that the use of CBD is worth pursuing because of the role the endocannabinoid system plays in regulating anxiety, fear, and repetitive behaviors.
Because users report that cannabis and CBD help relieve anxiety and fear, the researchers wrote that this suggests “that the endocannabinoid system could be a potential target for novel medications for OCD.”
They concluded that while preliminary, “The available clinical data indicate that cannabinoids influence OCD-relevant processes, impacting anxiety symptoms, enhancing fear extinction, and reducing certain repetitive behaviors. To date, only case reports detail how cannabinoids affect OCD symptoms specifically, although the effects reported are promising.”
According to Healthline, there are no official recommendations on dosage or the exact combination of CBD and THC that might have the most impact on OCD. Some studies suggest a combination of CBD and terpenes could have the most significant impact. Early research has also shown that the amount of CBD patients take seems more important than the form in which they take it.
While further research is needed, finding a way to treat OCD with cannabis and CBD would create an important new treatment option for those diagnosed with the disorder and a new niche in the growing cannabis market.
Follow dispensaries.com on Instagram to stay up to date on the latest cannabis news.
Mental health treatment via telehealth is here to stay, and may even increase in use post-Covid-19.
People are needing therapy more than ever before. There has been a significant increase in anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts in the months since the pandemic, according to a Centers for Disease Control study. The greatest increase was found in those aged 18-24.
In addition to anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts, there has been an increase in substance abuse and domestic violence.
For those who cannot leave their homes or choose not to risk virus exposure by venturing out, counseling via telehealth has provided a much-needed service.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a talk therapy that is designed to be short-term. “Cognitive distortions,” or destructive self-talk, is discussed, along with challenging those beliefs. “Homework” is frequently assigned in CBT, in order to make the sessions more effective and to extend the therapeutic alliance past the hour-long session.
Several literature reviews have found efficacy and satisfaction with online CBT. A review of 17 studies found that online CBT for depression may be more effective than face-to-face counseling. Participants were equally satisfied with either type of CBT. Online CBT was also found to be more cost-effective for clients than face-to-face therapy.
Another literature review of studies regarding online CBT found that it leads to significant decreases in symptoms of anxiety and depression. Online CBT was also found to be just as effective as face-to-face therapy in treating panic disorder. Online CBT was also significantly effective in treating post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and specific phobia.
An additional literature review of 14 studies found that online CBT led to a 50% improvement in symptoms of panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and compulsive gambling disorder. Online CBT was also found to significantly decrease the impact of stress and chronic fatigue. The length of the online CBT sessions was between 8 and 15 weeks, considered a short period of time in therapy.
Yet another review of 19 studies found that online CBT was superior to placebo and being wait-listed, and equal in effectiveness to face-to-face therapy for the treatment of anxiety.
Online therapy is not only beneficial to the client, but also to the therapist. Therapists are no longer having to commute to the office, and in some cases, they are no longer having to rent office space. A more relaxed therapist, as with any worker, means more productivity and an increase in staying in the present moment.
The availability of therapy-specific HIPAA-compliant portals for sessions has increased since the Covid-19 pandemic. Therapists have a variety of services that provide secure video sessions. This means that even those that are wary of the privacy of online sessions can have comfort knowing that the sessions will be private. While therapists should always use a HIPAA-compliant video service, it is up to the client to verify with the therapist that he or she is using such a video service.
Drawbacks to online therapy include ambient noise (especially since many therapists and clients are currently attending sessions from home), technology issues, and missing non-verbal communication. There is also the possible healing factor of seeing a therapist in person, but most clients would agree that not being potentially exposed to Covid-19 is a good tradeoff.
As the Pandemic drags on and pre-COVID life continues to evade us, mental health is more important than ever to consider.
COVID has hit everyone in one way or another. People are not only worried about contracting the virus themselves, but also how it will change everyday life along with its effects on people’s livelihoods with ongoing lockdowns. Along with these worries, there is also the concern about the effects this pandemic has had on people’s mental health.
The number of people experiencing anxiety or anxiety disorders has been on the rise since COVID started hitting the U.S., causing most of the country to go into lockdowns which lasted through the year. Due to this, people are staying home more and in-person connections with others have come to a sudden stop for most.
CDC Report Reveals “‘Considerably Elevated’ Mental Health Toll from COVID-19 Stresses” by Joan Stephenson, PhD said “ … the CDC had found a substantial increase in anxiety disorder and depressive disorder symptoms in the United States during April through June compared with the same time frame in 2019.” Research conducted by the CDC also reported that “Nearly 31% reported symptoms of an anxiety or depressive disorder.”
It is important to note that anxiety disorders manifest in many different ways depending on the individual and specific disorder. It is also important to note that there are subgroups of phobias that are also related to anxiety disorders.
With the number of anxiety disorders having spiked, and are continuing to do so with COVID, it is important to recognize what they are and their connection to the pandemic.
Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder, the Mayo Clinic describes it as “ … cause[ing] someone to fear and avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed. The fear can be so overwhelming that you may feel unable to leave your home.” COVID has caused people to minimize their time outside of the house, only leaving for essential trips. But with the ongoing pandemic and the seemingly never ending cases, now even these small trips to the store can feel like a risk.
A grocery store, no matter how large, can start to feel crowded. In more severe cases people may fear leaving the house in general because we have gotten so used to being at home that leaving at all can be anxiety inducing.
Germaphobia is the fear of germs that oftentimes has a connection with obsessive-compulsive disorder, which is when someone has a “ … common, chronic and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and/or behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over,” as stated in Ruben Castaneda’s article, “Coping With Germaphobia During the Coronavirus Crisis.”
It is important to recognize that germaphobia and OCD are two different disorders. Despite the fact that the two can be related, this does not mean that every person with OCD has fixations on germs and cleanliness. In his article “Coping With Germaphobia During the Coronavirus Crisis,” David Turner talks about his personal experiences as a self-described germaphobe who also has obsessive-compulsive disorder, within the article experts talk about how these two diagnoses are being shown hand in hand.
Mark Mayfield states that “ … people in the U.S. who, like Turner, live with OCD, the coronavirus outbreak is amplifying their pre-existing fears of germs.”
Mayfield continues by saying, “The coronavirus crisis definitely exacerbates the fear germaphobes have about getting sick, and it escalates their isolation, anxiety and depression.” This shows how someone with OCD who already had a fear of germs can have these fears amplified due to something like COVID.
When connecting this to COVID, people who have OCD that is predominantly focused on germs have a hard time doing anything outside of their houses because they don’t have any control over who has touched what, if things around them have been cleaned properly and if individuals in the area are healthy or not. In David’s case, when he would leave the house he would sit on a plastic bag in public spaces and when he got home he would change out of his clothes and turn them inside out before taking an hour long shower.
It is important to realize that because of COVID and the restrictions that have been in place for almost a year now, people with anxiety disorders have been getting worse, especially if their anxiety is caused by germs or sickness.
With some counties in Washington slowly opening up, the question that comes to mind is how are people who suffer from anxiety disorders going to cope with this sudden change of trying to go back to how life was before? For people who have anxiety that has gotten worse due to COVID, how are they going to cope with everything? Are they going to have the support and understanding that they are going to need?
As a society, we need to strive to become more understanding and support people who have now developed these diagnoses. Having the support from people in their lives but also being able to have the resources available to help them find techniques to aid them in overcoming these fears are also very important in their journey towards recovering from these worsened symptoms.
Customized electrical stimuli that are sent to the brain without surgery can alleviate obsessive-compulsive disorder for up to three months. This is what US researchers from Boston University write in the journal “Nature Medicine”.
People with obsessive-compulsive disorder experience recurring anxiety-inducing thoughts and compulsions. For example, they have to count, clean, or check items over and over again, even though they realize how excessive that is. If they try to suppress the compulsive actions, anxiety states occur. The y try to distract themselves from this with the repetitions, which are perceived as a reward.
Breaking the rhythms of the brain
In their study, the Boston researchers concentrated on brain circuits in the forebrain above the eye sockets, which are important for learning according to the reward principle, but apparently no longer work correctly in OCD and show deviations in the beta-gamma wave range.
The researchers hoped that manipulating these brain rhythms could break the compulsive reward cycle.
The PhD student Shrey Grover from Robert Reinhart’s laboratory first had 60 test subjects complete a learning task and recorded their individual beta-gamma brain waves in the target area. He then divided the participants into three groups and stimulated the brain area using transcranial alternating current stimulation, i.e. non-invasively through the skull, in different ways: once closely adapted to their learning brain waves, once significantly lower-frequency than a kind of active placebo and the last group received as real placebo no simulation.
Other obsessive-compulsive disorders treatable?
The rapy lasted 30 minutes a day for five days. In fact, the personalized stimulation seems to lead to the test subjects not limiting themselves to just one possible course of action, but also being willing to try out others. In the second part of the study, the researchers then used a similar experiment to stimulate the brains of 64 new test subjects who, although they did not have a formal diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder, showed clear symptoms. Again, the custom brainwave manipulation proved most helpful. Subjects with a particularly large number of symptoms seemed to benefit most.
The researchers hope that their results can also be applied to other obsessive-compulsive disorders, such as eating disorders, gambling addiction and other addictive diseases. Scientists like Carolyn Rodriguez at Stanford University, who are also researching treatment options for obsessive-compulsive disorder, argue that the method must also work well on formally diagnosed patients. In addition, it must also show that it can keep up with other non-invasive methods such as transcranial magnetic stimulation.
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