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Acupuncture and the Treatment of OCD – obsessive compulsive disorder or OCD, a mental disorder that was once thought to be rare, has now been found to be much more common. Statistics indicate that approximately 2.3% of the total world population between ages 18-54 suffers from the condition, which outranks other mental disorders such as bipolar disorder, panic disorder or schizophrenia.

In the U.S. alone, approximately 3.3 million people have been diagnosed with OCD of which 0.3 to 1% constitutes children population and 2% of adult population. This translates to about 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 100 children affected by the condition.

Statistics also indicate that the average age of onset is 19 with about 25% of the cases occurring by age 14, and that about a third of the affected adults first experienced the symptoms in their childhood.

OCD does not discriminate- it affects both men and women and is found in all ethnic groups, although in children it has been found to be more prevalent in boys. Based on these figures, it’s plain to see that OCD is much more prevalent than it’s commonly assumed.

What is obsessive-compulsive disorder?

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common chronic anxiety disorder in which some people have uncontrollable, recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas or sensations (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that he/she feels the urge to repeat over and over again.

A person with OCD may repeatedly clean and/or wash hands due to fear of germs or contamination, repeatedly check on things such as checking if the door is locked or have unwanted forbidden thoughts involving sex or harm.

These repetitive behaviors or compulsive thoughts can interfere with a person’s daily activities as well as social interactions. For others, they do not interrupt their daily activities and may even make tasks much easier.

What Causes Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

Although it has already been established that OCD has a neurobiological basis, research has not yet been able to identify any definitive cause or causes of the disorder. However, it is widely believed that the mental disorder is triggered by various risk factors including genetic, neurobiological, cognitive, behavioral, and environmental.

•  Genetics – A study that was funded by the National Institutes of Health found that OCD and certain related psychiatric disorders may be associated with an uncommon mutation of the Human Serotonin Transporter Gene (hSERT). According to the study, individuals who exhibit OCD symptoms may have a second variation in the same gene. Another study has indicated that if one twin has the disorder, the other is more likely to have it as well when they are identical rather than fraternal.

•  Brain Structure and Functioning – Various imaging studies have found differences in the frontal cortex and subcortical structures of the brain in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder. According to these studies, there appears to be a connection between symptoms of OCD and abnormalities in certain areas of the brain, although this connection is not very clear. Comprehensive research is still underway.

•  Environmental Factors – Environmental factors have also been found to largely contribute to the onset of OCD. For example, people with traumatic brain injuries are at a greater risk of having OCD, which further confirms the connection between brain structure/function impairment and OCD. Also, people who have experienced physical, emotional, or sexual abuse in their childhood are at a higher risk of developing OCD. Some children who have had a streptococcal infection, which is also known as Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infection (PANDAS), are also at an increased risk of developing OCD.

Symptoms of OCD

Most people with OCD have both obsessions and compulsions, but others experience both.

Those with obsessive thoughts experience symptoms such as;

•  Fear of contamination
•  Repeated unwanted ideas
•  Aggressive impulse
•  Thoughts of causing harm to others
•  Persistent sexual thoughts
•  Thoughts of being harmed

Compulsive symptoms include;

•  Repeatedly washing hands
•  Repeatedly checking whether the door or oven is closed
•  Repeatedly cleaning one or more items
•  Excessive double- checking
•  Constant counting
•  Arranging items to face a certain direction
•  Praying excessively or engaging in rituals triggered by religious fear
•  Hoarding

Western Medical Treatments for OCD

There is no cure for OCD, although there are various Western medical treatments that provide relief from the symptoms. One study found it’s possible to treat 40 to 60 percent of all OCD patients using approved medications as well as treatment therapies.

Medical assisted OCD therapy involves the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) which are antidepressant drugs and are considered to be the most effective medications for OCD. They include Sertraline, Fluvoxamine, Paroxetine, Citalopram, and Fluoxetine.

Other medications include antianxiety drugs including Valium and Diazepam which work by enhancing the action of the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), a neurotransmitter whose main function is slowing down brain neurons.

Therapies for OCD include cognitive behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, and complementary therapies such as hypnotherapy, aromatherapy, yoga, massage, exercise, and mindfulness are also used for OCD treatment.

Acupuncture and the Treatment of OCD

Evidence for the use of acupuncture in the treatment of OCD and other anxiety disorders is becoming stronger. Its use as an alternative treatment to help OCD patients with the effects of drugs has also been documented.

According to Chinese Medicine, when Qi, an energy force that regulates the body’s overall health is disrupted through either injury, poor nutrition or change in environmental, health issues follow. Inserting needles at specific points in the body restores Qi and the body’s overall health. This is why acupuncture is considered an effective treatment for OCD.

Numerous clinical studies have shown that acupuncture has a positive effect in treating OCD and other mental disorders, including depression, especially when used in combination with herbal treatments and psychotherapy. In these studies, acupuncture has been found to lower stress and anxiety levels and calms the mind, all which significantly reduce the likelihood of developing OCD.

According to Dr. Hsu, leading researcher and Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, depending on where the needles go, acupuncture causes the nervous system to stimulate the part of the brain that controls emotions, and this makes it effective for treating patients with OCD.

More Evidence on effectiveness of Acupuncture and OCD

More evidence is found in a study published in the Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies where students who underwent a 20-minute acupuncture session had less anxiety and better memory compared to those who did not. Researchers at Georgetown University led by Ladan Eshkevari, a certified acupuncturist and physiologist, found evidence that acupuncture actually slows down the production of stress hormones in a study published in the Journal of Endocrinology.

Unlike with counseling, OCD patients who undertake acupuncture often see results after just a few sessions with the results improving with continued treatment. Acupuncture has been found to be particularly helpful in OCD patients who want to limit or altogether stop drug use due to severe side-effects.


OCD is a troubling mental disorder that if not treated promptly can affect a person’s ability to perform daily tasks and interact with others. Adding acupuncture to the OCD treatment regime can greatly reduce or eliminate the symptoms while improving overall body health.

At Boca Raton Acupuncture we have had much success treating this condition and we are confident that we can help you too. Our style of medicine is different than what most have experienced; we get to the root cause of any disease or condition and put together a treatment plan that brings about results. We want to help! Call us today to schedule a free consultation.

Learn more about acupuncture and its use in the treatment of psychological conditions.



• http://www.acupuncturesgp.com/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/

• http://www.alignedmodernhealth.com/acupuncture-treatment-for-anxiety-and-depression/

• https://www.anokamassage.com/acupuncture-for-obsessive-complusive-disorder-ocd/

• https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml

• http://beyondocd.org/information-for-individuals/what-causes-ocd

• http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/tc/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd-topic-overview