The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea about each of the medications listed below. Only the most general side effects are included, so ask your doctor if you need to take any special precautions. Use each of these medications as recommended by your doctor, or according to the instructions provided. If you have further questions about usage or side effects, contact your doctor.

Your doctor may give you medicine to help alleviate your unwanted thoughts and repeated actions. These are often referred to as anti-obsessional medications. They can also help you feel less anxious and afraid. It may take a few weeks before you start to see an improvement

Most of the drugs used to treat OCD are antidepressants. These medications affect brain hormones that are out of balance. If you develop depression in association with OCD or as a result of the disability produced by OCD, antidepressants can help with this as well.

Prescription Medications

Tricyclic Antidepressants

  • Clomipramine (Anafranil)

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Fluvoxamine (Luvox)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)

Please note: In March, 2004, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a Public Health Advisory that cautions physicians, patients, families, and caregivers of patients with depression to closely monitor both adults and children receiving certain antidepressant medications. The FDA is concerned about the possibility of worsening depression and/or the emergence of suicidal thoughts, especially among children and adolescents at the beginning of treatment, or when there’s an increase or decrease in the dose. The medications of concern—mostly SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors)—are: Prozac (fluoxetine), Zoloft (sertraline), Paxil (paroxetine), Luvox (fluvoxamine), Celexa (citalopram), Lexapro (escitalopram), Wellbutrin (bupropion), Effexor (venlafaxine), Serzone (nefazodone), and Remeron (mirtazapine). Of these, only Prozac (fluoxetine) is approved for use in children and adolescents for the treatment of major depressive disorder. Prozac (fluoxetine), Zoloft (sertraline), and Luvox (fluvoxamine) are approved for use in children and adolescents for the treatment of obsessive compulsive disorder. For more information, please visit http://www.fda.gov/cder/drug/antidepressants .

Atypical Antidepressants

  • Trazodone (Desyrel)
  • Venlafaxine (Effexor)
  • Nefazodone (Serzone)

Tricyclic Antidepressants

Common name: Clomipramine (Anafranil)

Tricyclic antidepressants regulate the neurotransmitters serotonin and/or noradrenalin in the brain. They have been used effectively for the treatment of OCD. Improvement is usually seen in 2-6 weeks after beginning treatment. Tricyclic antidepressants are not addictive.

Possible side effects include:

  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Weight gain
  • Low blood pressure
  • Sexual dysfunction

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

*** see note above

Common names include:

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) affect the concentration of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which plays a role in anxiety , depression , and OCD. It appears that for most people, high doses of these drugs are required to produce anti-obsessional effects. Improvement is usually seen in 4-6 weeks after beginning treatment. SSRIs are not addictive. Do not take an SSRI if you have taken a monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI) in the last 2-5 weeks.

Possible side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss
  • Dizziness
  • Sexual dysfunction (ranging from decreased arousal, to erectile dysfunction , and/or delayed time to orgasm)
  • Nervousness

Atypical Antidepressants

Common names include:

Atypical antidepressants affect the concentration of the neurotransmitter serotonin and can be effective in treating OCD. Improvement is usually seen in 4-6 weeks after beginning treatment.

Possible side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Nervousness
  • Diminished sex drive

Special Considerations

Consultation with a specially trained mental health professional is recommended if you do not respond to treatment with medications. A mental health professional can help clarify the diagnosis and determine if another psychiatric disorder is present. He can also make recommendations about psychotherapy and changes in medications.

Whenever you are taking a prescription medication, take the following precautions:

  • Take them as directed—not more, not less, not at a different time.
  • Do not stop taking them without consulting your doctor.
  • Don’t share them with anyone else.
  • Know what effects and side effects to expect, and report them to your doctor.
  • If you are taking more than one drug, even if it is over-the-counter, be sure to check with a physician or pharmacist about drug interactions.
  • Plan ahead for refills so you don’t run out.