The public interest in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is obvious. TV’s Dr. Phil, for example, had as guests a husband and wife discussing the wife’s OCD, which is so disruptive to the marriage that the husband is considering divorce. The woman binds her hands and feet at night, wears a mask and sleeps on the floor, so she won’t hurt or contaminate anyone in her sleep. That March 9, 2015 episode is available on YouTube.
It’s no wonder the topic is of such interest. OCD affects about 3.3 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 54, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. In addition, about 1 million children and adolescents have the disorder.
An ABC News 20/20 TV report documents a teenage girl with OCD who has irrational fears about going to school, about going into a department store and about hugging her mother because she thought the mom might be contaminated.
The promising news about OCD is that medical professionals are discovering new ways to diagnose and treat the various subtypes of the disorder.
Dr. David Rosenberg, chair of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences for the Wayne State University School of Medicine and director of child and adolescent neuropsychiatric research at the Detroit Medical Center’s Children’s Hospital of Michigan was featured on the 20/20 show that aired in May 2014. Rosenberg discussed groundbreaking developments in brain imaging genetic research in pediatric obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety.
Rosenberg's clinic and others across the country are using glutamate-targeted medicines as part of the treatment for treatment-resistant OCD. Glutamate is a brain chemical that controls a sort of light switch in the brain.
"The key is that the light switch of the brain isn’t working properly and that just causes the whole system to go haywire, misfire,” Rosenberg said. “Instead of getting the signal that ‘Okay, I’m safe now,’ children with OCD get the signal that things are getting much more dangerous and unsafe.”
Rosenberg and his colleagues have found significantly different brain patterns in children with OCD who repetitively wash their hands than in children with OCD who repetitively check to make sure the door is locked.
“We see different things in the brain and they respond differently to treatment,” said Rosenberg told ABC News. "This type of work is giving hope to a class of patients for which there was no hope.”
McGraw, Phil, “In Sickness and in Health: Should I Get a Divorce from My OCD Wife?” March 9, 2015.
Strauss, Eric M. and Valiente, Alexa, “New Distinction of OCD Subtypes May Benefit Future Diagnosis, Treatment,” ABC News, May 23, 2014.
Yale OCD Research Clinic, “A study of bitopertin (RO4917838) in combination with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder,” Dec. 22, 2014.