Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder | How Supplements Can Help

According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, 1% of the US population¹ has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). This equates to approximately 2.2 million adults. 

Although the condition is considered somewhat prevalent, it remains largely misunderstood. Often, OCD is used to refer to meticulous people who want total order and cleanliness. However, OCD entails much more than the desire to be in control or clean.

OCD is a disorder characterized by uncontrollable and recurring thoughts (obsessions) that cause anxiety. To ease feelings of fear and anxiety, people repeat certain behaviors (compulsions) over and over again.

Depending on the severity, OCD can significantly impact an individual's personal and professional life. The good news is that OCD is treatable.

Using herbal remedies and supplements for OCD has become popular. Read on to learn more about using supplements to treat OCD and whether they are effective. 

Have you considered clinical trials for Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

What causes OCD?

As you explore supplements for OCD treatment, it’s important to have some background on the condition.

To this day, OCD remains a mysterious mental health disorder with no known cause. However, medical professionals suggest that it's likely due to a combination of cognitive, behavioral, and environmental factors. 

Moreover, researchers² link OCD to changes in the gut microbiota. 

Aside from these factors, research also notes that a significant proportion of people with OCD experience a traumatic life event before the onset of the illness. As such, stressful and traumatic life events are also key factors. 

Why consider natural remedies for OCD treatment?

Many conventional methods are used to treat OCD, and with positive effects. These include drug therapy, psychotherapy, a combination of both, and other treatments.

If that's the case, why are many with OCD turning to supplements to help with this condition?

Approximately 7 out of 10 people with OCD³ benefit from either exposure and response prevention therapy and/or medication; however, people who benefit from these interventions typically see their symptoms decrease by about one-half.

For those who may benefit, it does not happen immediately. Before you feel the impact of drug treatment, it may take anywhere from 6-12 weeks.

Sometimes, a person may not respond to initial treatment, but another medication may be effective. If there's no notable improvement after 6-12 weeks, it may be best to talk to your doctor about switching medications.

However, this also may not work. While doctors may recommend other forms of treatment, they are often other invasive methods such as:

  • Brain surgery

  • Deep brain stimulation (DBS)

  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)

  • Gamma knife radiosurgery

Moreover, these treatments have side effects and a high risk of relapse. 

So, for the people with OCD  who wish to avoid the side effects of prescription drugs and treatments, those who can’t access other treatment methods, or those for which medication has not been effective, there's an urgency to find reliable alternatives.  

This is why supplements and herbal remedies are becoming increasingly popular.

The link between nutrition and OCD

OCD is a mental health disorder that can severely impact well-being and quality of life. As you know, the brain needs a consistent supply of oxygen and nutrients to function optimally. 

So, it's no surprise that researchers have observed a deficiency of some nutrients and vitamins among people with OCD. Among them is vitamin D. While it is best known for its role in bone health, it also influences the development of OCD and depression.

In 2017, researchers studied teens and children with OCD. They observed that the levels of vitamins D and B12 were significantly low among these groups. Furthermore, they had higher than normal levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that indicates a vitamin deficiency. 

More importantly, the researchers noted that the deficiency level also influenced symptom severity. This highlights the key role of nutrition, specifically vitamin D and B 12, in treating or managing obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Other studies also affirm the deficiency of vitamin D among people with OCD and its influence on symptoms and recurrence of the condition. For instance, one study found that children with a vitamin D deficiency and OCD had a higher rate of co-occurring ADHD than those without the deficiency.

How can nutrition help?

Scientific research indicates a link between OCD and specific nutrients and vitamins. As such, the idea of using supplements and herbal remedies to treat the condition is not far-fetched.

However, there's still the question of whether supplements and nutrients can provide desired remedial effects.

Here are some of the ways nutrition can aid your treatment regimen:

1. Boost serotonin

Popularly known as the feel-good hormone, increasing serotonin to healthy levels can help alleviate OCD symptoms. Increasing serotonin naturally helps people without the risk of side effects from medications.

This is the primary reason conventional treatments involve selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressants. These are drugs that work to increase serotonin levels.

However, there are other methods you can use to increase your serotonin by using supplements.

2. B vitamins

Along with vitamin D, B vitamins also help alleviate the symptoms of OCD. In addition, they play a key role in stress response, as chronic stress can quickly deplete them. Taking supplements containing B vitamins and folate will be beneficial.

3. Increase omega-3s

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for brain function. They help in the process of sending and receiving signals that balance thinking, emotions, and mood. Some of the ones that play a key role include: Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA)

People with OCD have shown progress by supplementing with 1 to 2g of omega-3s daily.

4. Magnesium

Magnesium plays a key role in balancing mood and relaxation, and its deficiencies are linked with depression. Thanks to its calming effect, magnesium is nicknamed nature's tranquilizer. This is also the reason magnesium supplements can help those with OCD manage the condition.

Frequently asked questions

Understandably, you may still have many questions about OCD and how supplements can help treat it. Here are some commonly asked questions:

1. Is OCD essentially just a consequence of a vitamin deficiency?

While there's a link between vitamin deficiency and OCD, it's not the cause. Instead, experts suggest that it's a combination of neurological, environmental, and behavioral factors.

2. What is the best vitamin for OCD?

Several vitamins can help manage and treat OCD symptoms. They include B vitamins such as B 12 and vitamin D.

3. Is OCD due to a lack of serotonin?

Low serotonin levels are associated with OCD symptoms, but low serotonin is not the direct cause of OCD.

The lowdown

As you look for an effective and reliable treatment method for OCD, supplements and herbal remedies are options worth considering. However, it's important to note that while they may be beneficial, no conclusive data indicates their level of effectiveness.

You should always consult your healthcare provider before adding supplements or other remedies.

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  1. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) | Anxiety & Depression Association of America

  2. Obsessive-compulsive disorder and gut microbiota dysregulation (2014)

  3. Medications for OCD | International OCD Foundation

Other sources:

Have you considered clinical trials for Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

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