One of the most common mental illnesses in the United States is anxiety disorder, affecting nearly 4 million adults. One of those anxiety disorders is obsessive-compulsive disorder, commonly known as OCD. One percent of the population in the United States is affected by this disorder, which equals over 2 million adults.
Medical experts agree that finding an effective treatment for OCD can be a challenge. Several treatments are typically used, including prescription medication, exposure-based therapy, and several others. Some of these can provide relief for people suffering from OCD but not always.
For that reason, many turn to biohacking to get relief from their OCD symptoms. If you or someone you love is suffering from OCD, read on. We’ve got the top 7 facts about the benefits of biohacking OCD coming right up.
1- What is OCD?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a chronic health problem that sees a person obsessing over a specific thought or behavior and repeating that thought or behavior repeatedly. The name comes from the fact that people suffering from OCD can’t seem to stop themselves (the definition of compulsive) from thinking or doing the same thing (the definition of obsession). In other words, a person suffering from OCD thinks or does the same thing so many times that it disrupts their life, relationships, work, and so forth.
OCD can become so severe that, for some individuals, it causes extreme anxiety and interferes with their daily life, work, etc. Researchers believe the problem is a lack of communication between the brain’s frontal lobe and its deeper structures. However, they aren’t sure of the exact mechanisms that are involved.
Surprisingly, approximately 1/3 of all adults suffering from OCD experienced the first OCD symptoms during childhood. About 25% of OCD cases begin around the age of 14. The average age for people to start seeing signs of OCD, however, is 19.
2- What are Obsessions?
When you have an idea or thought that is highly persistent, to the point where it becomes intrusive in your life and causes stress, anxiety, or worse, that’s an obsession. Some of the most common obsessions include:
- Doubts about yourself, your abilities, your worth, etc.
- Impulses that are aggressive or even shocking.
- The urge to have something (or everything) in a particular order or is some type of exact way.
- Sexual imagery that includes violence.
3- What are Compulsions?
The way people with OCD deal with their obsessions is through compulsive behavior. In that way, they hope to either neutralize the thoughts and ideas in their head or suppress them enough that they don’t cause anxiety or stress. Unfortunately, most compulsions don’t work and thus don’t neutralize the problem. Some of the most common compulsive actions include:
- Repeating words (usually in the person’s head, quietly.)
- Washing your hands frequently through\out the day.
- Counting things repeatedly, like the steps on a staircase when you walk up or down a flight of them.
- Praying so often, a member of the clergy tells you to stop.
4- The Cause of OCD is Still Unknown
As far as research and science have come, the cause of OCD is still largely unknown. Yes, scientists and researchers have a few clues, but nothing truly concrete. They know, for example, that OCD affects children as much as adults. They also know that the age of onset (when the condition starts) is typically earlier in boys than in girls. Researchers have pinpointed four risk factors for OCD, which include:
- A person’s environment when growing up.
- The way that a person’s brain functions
- A person’s genetics. (OCD might be hereditary.)
- The structure of the brain itself.
5- Typically, Treatment for OCD includes Medication and Psychotherapy
As with most diseases and conditions that doctors don’t fully understand, medication is usually the first form of treatment for OCD. Psychotherapy is also often used, and sometimes both are used in combination. The problem? Medications always have side effects, and psychotherapy is financially out of reach for many.
6- Nutraceuticals Are a Possible Biohack for OCD
Over-the-counter (OTC) nutritional supplements, often referred to as nutraceuticals, have shown some promise in fighting OCD. As with many OTC supplements, the one drawback is that there hasn’t been a lot of research to prove their efficacy. Nonetheless, some of the nutraceuticals being used to biohack OCD include the following:
Glycine and Sarcosine
An amino acid found in protein, glycine is essential for every cell in the human body. Glycine affects glutamate in the brain, which may help reduce the effects of OCD. This study concluded that using sarcosine, a byproduct of glycine synthesis, showed a fast-acting therapeutic effect in some patients with OCD.
Another naturally occurring amino acid, tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin. It’s believed that by increasing a person’s dietary intake of tryptophan, their serotonin levels will increase also. One drawback to biohacking OCD with tryptophan, however, is that it does have significant side effects. They include nausea and headaches as well as traditional drowsiness. (Tryptophan is the ingredient in Thanksgiving turkey that makes us all want to take a nap.)
Used largely in Europe as a remedy for respiratory, gastrointestinal, and cardiac problems, borage has also been used to reduce anxiety. This study showed that, after 4 to 6 weeks of treatment with borage oil, OCD patients had a significant reduction in symptoms. Unfortunately, the side effects from using borage include headaches, liver toxicity, and diarrhea. It’s also contraindicated for pregnancy.
7- Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SRIs) Reduce OCD Symptoms, But Not By Much
We mentioned earlier that OCD is traditionally treated with medication and psychotherapy. One of those medications is serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SRIs. Indeed, SRI usage is widespread among physicians treating OCD. The problem, however, is that they only reduce symptoms by about 20% to 30%, which may not be enough to help many people suffering from the condition.
Bonus Biohacking Bits
Several other biohacks for OCD are being used, and we wanted to mention those before closing today’s article. They include
Biohacking OCD is relatively new, and therefore there’s not a lot of research or results to go by when choosing what to use and how. The good news is that the biohacking compounds above are well tolerated and, in many cases, more acceptable to patients than prescription medications. Also, they are a lot more affordable. Recommendation; try them, with caution and a doctor’s advice, until you find one that works.