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Deep brain stimulation is the new OCD treatment

Deep brain stimulation is the new OCD treatment
OCD is a psychological disorder in which people go through crippling anxiety if certain things are not the way they want them to be. © Shutterstock

Deep brain stimulation can be the answer for severe OCD patients. Read on to know all about this surgical procedure and much more.

Written by Juhi Kumari |Published : March 8, 2019 10:17 PM IST

A psychological disorder like obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) can be debilitating, if not addressed on time. While the current treatment regimen for the condition includes oral drugs, and psychotherapies like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and exposure and response prevention (ERP) among others, recent research says that deep brain stimulation (DBS) can be the answer for people suffering from severe OCD. According to the study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, deep brain stimulation can effectively help those who have not responded positively to the other available treatment options. This new procedure works by targeting certain neurotransmitters in the brain that causes neurological dysfunction. During this procedure, doctors use highly-developed brain mapping technology to spot the precise location of nerve signals in the brain that are leading to the condition.


It is a neurosurgical procedure in which doctors implant electrodes (insulated wire) in certain areas of your brain (through small opening in the skull) that are responsible for abnormal impulses. These electrodes emit electrical impulses that regulate the abnormal ones along with certain chemicals and cells. Also, there is a pacemaker-like device called internal pulse generator put under your upper chest skin whose wire connects to the electrodes implanted in the brain. This device controls the amount of stimulation during the deep brain stimulation process and can be manually controlled with a magnet attached to it, says Dr. Jayant Mishra, Neurologist, Vidyasagar Institute of Mental Health, Neuro & Allied Sciences, Delhi. This entire procedure is technologically demanding and needs highly-trained professionals. It is expected to modulate dysfunctional circuits in the brain in order to improve your cognitive functions. Till now, deep brain stimulation was being used to treat uncontrollable pain and diseases related to your nerves and muscles: Parkinson s disease, dystonia and multiple sclerosis. However, scientists believe that it can also be a potential treatment option for other diseases including cluster headache, stroke and traumatic brain injury among others.

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It has been proven safe and effective to use deep brain stimulation procedure compared to other surgical methods where tissues are removed. The entire procedure is painless. Also, its effects are reversible and therefore people have their option open to go for future alternative surgical approaches. It has fewer long-term complications as brain cells or parts are not destroyed or removed during deep brain stimulation. In this procedure, patients also have option of adjusting the stimulation frequency manually according to their needs.


Though deep brain stimulation is good for OCD patients, there are certain complications associated with it. As most of the patients remain awake during the procedure it can be a little scary for them. Deep brain stimulation might lead to bleeding, infection, stroke and accumulation of fluid in the brain. You may have swelling at the implantation site or develop reaction to the implant. Moreover, you may feel shocking sensations, loss of balance, dizziness, blurry vision, tingling in the face or reduced concentration, says Dr. Mishra. However, chances of these risks factors are not that high. Apart from these physical symptoms, some technical issues may trouble you too. There are possibilities that the wire connecting the electrodes and internal pulse generator may get disconnected leading to a shift in electrodes. Additionally, the battery needed for the stimulator and electrodes to work may need to be monitored frequently. Also, deep brain stimulation is a highly expensive procedure.


OCD pushes a person to indulge in compulsive behaviours owing to a set of compulsive thoughts.Affecting people of different ages, this mental health condition may take a toll on your daily functionalities. However, experts in the field haven t been able to pinpoint the exact causes behind OCD. But they have speculated some possible reasons like imbalance in brain chemicals, hyperactivity in the anterior cingulate or orbitofrontal and caudate regions of the brain, and certain changes in the Hoxb8 gene. Based on these conjectures, scientists have developed few treatment options for OCD. While the available treatment options will help you deal with the condition, there are small steps that you can take to ensure to live better with OCD.

Motivate yourself: First and foremost, you need to be willing to tackle your condition. You need to be determined to ensure that you will not let your negative thoughts get the better of you. If you are not willing, your brain won t listen to your instructions and the result will be nil.

Spot the triggers of your obsession: This is the second most important step that you need to take.OCD patients go through a wide-ranging variety of obsessions. While some obsess about perfection, others are stuck on numbers. Fear of germs and cleanliness fixation are some of the other common obsessions that OCD patients complain of.

Don't judge your thoughts: This is easier said than done. You need to understand that your thoughts are nothing more a chain of images or words. They are not the reflection of your value system. So, don't evaluate yourself on the basis of your obsessive thoughts. In fact, it has been found in many cases that OCD patients find their own thoughts and behaviour pattern very offensive. So do not take them seriously just because your brain is sending some unexpected signals.

Don't push yourself too much: Unsettling thoughts and uncontrolled behaviour are the most salient features of OCD. While it is important for you to recognise your thoughts, do not force them to stop. Let them blow over you without feeling guilty or afraid.

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