Study links OCD to brain inflammation

Study links OCD to brain inflammation

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental problem characterized by recurring and unwanted thoughts and feelings compelling individuals to carry out activities in a repetitive pattern. Such obsessions and compulsions include hand washing, cleaning of the house, checking the door lock and biting fingernails among others. Such actions can get in the way of the normal daily routine resulting in delayed or uncompleted tasks and stress. Symptoms can come and go and individuals may develop avoidance behavior to stay away from the triggers or resort to self-medicating means to control their behavior.

There are no specific lab tests to ascertain the presence of OCD and actual diagnosis is entirely dependent on diagnostic interviews and screening instruments, such as the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS) and the Florida Obsessive Compulsive Inventory (FOCI). There are some treatments that can provide relief, the most effective being cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). OCD is also treated with medications and the most helpful in reducing the symptoms are serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). However, sticking to the treatment program becomes a challenge as the improvement can be slow and patients may lose patience, the symptoms may worsen or other complications may be developed.

Study findings

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 1 percent of American adults are affected with OCD of which 50.6 percent are classified as severe. A study conducted by the Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and published in JAMA Psychiatry in August 2017 has highlighted the occurrence of elevated brain inflammation being common among individuals suffering from OCD. The study was conducted on a small sample size of 20 participants and a control group of 20 individuals. A brain imaging tool called positron emission tomography (PET) was used with a chemical dye to measure the activity of immune cells called microglia, which are active in inflammation, in six brain areas that play a role in OCD.

The results indicated 32 percent higher inflammation in participants with the disorder. The findings also revealed that people who experienced high amount of stress and anxiety while acting against their compulsions also had greater inflammation. According to Dr. Jeffrey Meyer, senior author, “Work needs to be done to uncover the specific factors that contribute to brain inflammation, but finding a way to reduce inflammation’s harmful effects and increase its helpful effects could enable us to develop a new treatment much more quickly.”

These new findings can help in boosting efforts to find better options for treating OCD and further research will help find low-cost blood markers and symptoms measures, allowing replication of the model in a larger scale.

Mental disorders should not be ignored

It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of mental disorders and seek help at the right time. Good mental health ensures good physical health as well, whereas an unhealthy mental state can lead to various health complications. One should consult a psychiatrist when in doubt and get the right treatment to avoid aggravating the problem and suffering forever.

The Florida Mental Health Helpline is a good resource to find information about state-of-the-art centers that specialize in delivering evidence-based treatment for mental disorders in Florida. Call us on our 24/7 helpline (866) 846-5588 or chat with an expert to get details about the best mental health rehab centers in Florida.

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