Top Supplements for Managing OCD

Marie Parks

You’ve probably heard people joke about being “OCD” when they’re organizing, cleaning, or paying close attention to detail.

Of course, these attributes can be helpful for keeping us healthy, happy, and efficient, but there’s a distinct line between being this way and actually having obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

People with OCD take certain behaviors and thoughts to the extreme, to a point where it’s no longer useful or healthy and interferes with daily life. They develop particular obsessions like a fear of germs or the need to have objects arranged in a certain manner.1

What Causes OCD?

There’s not one known cause of OCD, but some possibilities are abnormal activity of the brain neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine2 and dysregulation of glutamate3 (an excitatory neurotransmitter). It’s also possible that stress and genetics may play a role.

How Is OCD Treated?

Currently, there’s no cure or treatment, but OCD is normally managed with cognitive-behavioral therapy and antidepressants, but medication only benefits about 40–60% of patients.4

Research has been conducted on various supplements that show promise for helping to manage OCD, some of which are discussed below.

Inositol Improves OCD Symptoms

Inositol is found naturally in foods such as liver and green leafy vegetables, and is also present in high amounts in the human brain where it may regulate the activity of serotonin.5

Inositol supplementation has shown improvements in the severity and type of symptoms that those with OCD suffer from as shown by better scores on the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale.6,7

Glycine Helps Decrease Compulsiveness

Glycine is an amino acid that plays a role in controlling the activity of neurotransmitters in the brain.8 It has also shown the ability to increase the activity of brain receptors that have an anti-compulsive effect.4,9

Since it can serve to modulate the release of glutamate, glycine shows promise in helping to control symptoms of OCD.10,11

Ashwagandha Helps Control OCD Behavior

Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that’s been used for many years to manage physical and mental stress.12 Since OCD can be brought on by high levels of stress, ashwagandha may also be of help.

Additionally, the antidepressant activity of ashwagandha has been shown to reduce OCD-like behavior in a manner similar to that of certain medications.13-16

N-acetylcysteine (NAC) Provides Powerful Support for OCD

This amino acid derivative is important for various aspects of health due to its ability to boost levels of the crucial antioxidant glutathione. It has also been shown to block glutamate release from brain cells and therefore have a beneficial effect on individuals with OCD.17

NAC has demonstrated that it can reduce the severity of OCD symptoms while being well-tolerated.18,19 In fact, NAC may help improve the efficacy of prescription antidepressants used in treatment.20

The Bottom Line

It’s important to keep in mind that these supplements aren’t going to treat or cure OCD, but they may be helpful in mitigating symptoms. Every person is different, so the type of therapy that works best will vary from person to person.

If you have OCD, we highly encourage you to discuss with your doctor before adding any of these to your regimen.

References:

  1. Available at: https://www.gstatic.com/healthricherkp/pdf/obsessive_compulsive_disorder.pdf. Accessed February 24, 2016.
  2. Expert Rev Neurother. 2010 Feb;10(2):275-90.
  3. Pharmacol Ther. 2011 Dec;132(3):314-32.
  4. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2011 Jun 1;35(4):887-95.
  5. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2002 Jan;26(1):21-32.
  6. Metab Brain Dis. 2004 Jun;19(1-2):125-34.
  7. Am J Psychiatry. 1996 Sep;153(9):1219-21.
  8. J Physiol. 2012 Nov 15;590(22):5749-64.
  9. Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2011 Mar;65(2):142-9.
  10. Expert Opin Drug Discov.2013 Dec;8(12):1515-27.
  11. Psychiatr Ann.2015 Jun;45(6):308-315.
  12. Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2011;8(5 Suppl):208-13.
  13. Phytomedicine. 2000 Dec;7(6):463-9.
  14. J Altern Complement Med. 2014 Dec;20(12):901-8.
  15. CNS Drugs.2013 Apr;27(4):301-19.
  16. Asian Pac J Trop Med. 2012 May;5(5):380-4.
  17. Toxicol Lett. 2011 Feb 25;201(1):1-7.
  18. Clin Psychopharmacol Neurosci. 2015 Apr 30;13(1):12-24.
  19. CNS Drugs. 2015 Sep;29(9):801-9.
  20. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2013 Jul 1;44:125-30.

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