January 1, 2022

Which Medications Work Best for Treating OCD?

by Ilisa Kaufman, Psy.D.

Many people who are initially diagnosed with OCD are not sure what the treatment will entail. Does it just involve cognitive behavioral therapy? Or, do medications help a sufferer get into recovery?

I would like to start by saying that if a person is diagnosed with OCD, and no other psychological conditions, then, I do not feel medication alone will help that person get into OCD recovery. I feel that it does not matter if a sufferer is on medication or not, if they are going to continue doing the unproductive / compulsive behaviors and routines.

Treatment for OCD requires an active commitment, and relentless pursuit to not rely on the compulsions; allowing the sufferer the opportunity to take chances, and the risk that their greatest fear may or may not come true. I believe this is the only way to truly recover from OCD.

Nevertheless, the medications most often used for OCD are the Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s). These are the most commonly prescribed, and may ease symptoms with few side effects.  Many people with OCD and other conditions commonly take Fluoxetine, Luvox, Paxil, Lexapro, and Zoloft. These are the medications commonly used to treat depression, General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), and other mood disorders.

When an OCD sufferer is prescribed medication, I always check to make sure that they do not use their medications as part of their OCD routines. The very act of taking a medication can be triggering for some of my clients.

For example, I have a contamination OCD client that was cleaning off her medication and only taking it when the clock hit 11:15 a.m. exactly. It is my opinion that this client would’ve benefited more from the behavior of taking a chance of not cleaning the pill and taking the pill at any time other than 11:15 a.m., more than what the actual medication is physically contributing.

I also had another client that took his medication, but was compulsively googling what side effects and withdrawal symptoms could happen from taking the medication. These are examples demonstrating the need for compulsion resistance in order for re-learning to occur.

Compulsions trick the brain into thinking that certain situations, events, thoughts, or objects are way more dangerous than they are in reality. No medication will ever be able to make these stimuli seem safe or less risky. Only facing them head on without compulsions will do that.

I always instruct my OCD clients to follow the recommendations of their psychiatrist. For some, medications can help them feel stronger and more energetic to reduce the behaviors. Also, many clients need to feel more energetic in order to engage in the behavioral therapy. Every case is different and every client is different.


Ilisa Kaufman, Psy.D.

Ilisa Kaufman, Psy.D, is a licensed clinical Psychologist, who practices in Miami, Florida. She specializes in the treatment of OCD, addictions, and OC related disorders. After having struggled with severe OCD herself, Dr. Kaufman created a modified version of Exposure and Response therapy; which she calls RIP-R therapy. She used this therapy to get herself into recovery from OCD, and is now on a mission to help other sufferers. Dr. Kaufman has been treating OCD for 10 years now and has appeared on a multitude of media platforms discussing her treatment.

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