What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorders. OCD is characterized by obsessions (compulsive thoughts) as well as physical compulsions or urges to do certain things. Particular obsessions are often accompanied by fear or anxiety. The World Health Organization lists OCD in the top ten most disabling illnesses, in terms of productivity loss and impact on quality of life. It is found to be a disorder more common in women than men, however, it can an equal impact in both women and men.

OCD may present itself in different ways but the most common feature is an obsession to perform certain actions or rituals. The OCD patient carries out these acts (compulsions) in response to obsessive thoughts. For others, these acts seem unnecessary, but for the affected person these actions are vital and must be performed in a certain order to avoid alleged adverse effects. This may be a compulsion to check whether a door is locked, for example.

Most OCD patients are well aware that their behavior is not rational, however compulsions will often continue in an affected individual to prevent certain anxieties or tensions (although, it should be noted this is not common in children.) Performing the compulsion is done with the aim to ignore, neutralize or stop the obsessive thought. This can have a serious negative impact, causing marked stress on relationships and the sufferer's ability to manage daily activities, work or study.

Key indicators of OCD

  • Recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses, or images that are experienced as forced or irrational and cause anxiety or stress
  • The thoughts, impulses, or images are more than an exaggerated concern
  • The person tries to ignore the thoughts, impulses, or images, or to suppress or neutralize with some other thought or action.
  • The person is aware that the obsessive thoughts and impulses are a product of his or her own mind (not imposed by thought insertion).

Criteria for compulsions

  • Repeated behaviors (e.g. hand washing, ordering, checking) or mental acts (e.g. praying, counting, repeating words) performed by the person in response to an obsession or performed according to certain rules.

  • The behavior or mental acts are aimed at preventing or reducing stress, or out of fear a negative event will occur if they do not follow through with the compulsion. These behaviors or mental acts, however, are not related to real life circumstances which should be reduced or prevented, or are clearly excessive.

Treating OCD with rTMS

In 2006, neuroCare (formerly Brainclinics) was the first to apply rTMS as a treatment for depression in a clinical setting in Europe. The research on rTMS application in psychiatry has shown a steady growth since that time. Based on recent developments an exploratory study into the effects of rTMS in treatment-resistant obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) has been conducted with encouraging results for the treatment of OCD.

Several options for the treatment of OCD currently exist, including medication or psychological interventions. However, a significant proportion of patients do not effectively respond to these conventional treatments. Scientific studies have demonstrated that repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) or magnetic brain stimulation in the treatment of OCD may have beneficial effects. rTMS is now being applied in patients with (treatment-resistant) OCD.

The following video provides an overview of the rTMS treatment procedure offered by neuroCare.