OCD is Not Just One Thing

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Commonly referred to as OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder is a distressing mental health condition that can significantly interfere with day-to-day functioning. It is characterized by obsessions, which are intrusive, frightening, or repulsive thoughts, urges, or images along with repetitious behaviors, called compulsions. OCD can become all-consuming, and if left untreated, it can lead to significant impairments in personal, interpersonal, social, academic, and occupational functioning.

Although there is a similar pattern of symptoms, did you know there are multiple types of OCD, and that each type requires a different treatment plan? It’s true! Before describing details about these differences, let’s take a look at some general information about OCD.

Common Symptoms in OCD

While all of us have unwanted or unpleasant thoughts at times, they typically pass quickly and don’t get stuck in a loop inside our heads. However, with OCD, the thoughts become uncontrollable obsessions and tend to revolve around themes related to:

  • Germs and contamination
  • Symmetry
  • Religion
  • Sexual ideations
  • Aggressive impulses
  • Fear of harming or killing others

Depending on what the obsessive thoughts are, people with OCD will usually engage in compulsions to help diminish the anxiety or fear associated with the thoughts by doing things such as:

  • Excessive handwashing or cleaning
  • Counting, checking or touching
  • Arranging things in a specific order
  • Certain rituals
  • Restrictive or limiting behaviors

Though many who suffer from OCD intellectually recognize the irrationality of their thoughts and behavior, they cannot seem to stop themselves, and without treatment, it is likely their symptoms will persist.

Underlying Causes of OCD

It is estimated that during their lifetime, between 2-3% of people will develop OCD. Research has found there is a genetic component in some, but not all, cases. Published studies on twins have found a heritability range of 45% – 65% in children with obsessive-compulsive symptoms and a range of 27% – 47% for adult-onset OCD.

The exact mechanisms of OCD are still not fully known, but there are indications that certain circuits in the brain are—or can become—disrupted and lead to the development of symptoms. This may be caused by events or circumstances in a person’s environment that trigger the symptoms, or it could stem from insults to the brain such as seizure disorders, infections, exposure to toxins, head trauma, or other conditions that adversely impact normal brain function.

Brain SPECT Imaging Patterns in OCD

Since OCD can arise from different underlying causes, one of the challenges with treating it is that without understanding exactly what is going on in a person’s brain, it can be hard to know which strategies will work best to control symptoms.

With more than 170,000 brain SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) scans on patients from all over the world, the doctors at Amen Clinics have found that OCD—like other mental health conditions—is not a single or simple disorder. Rather, there are various sources of dysfunction in the brain that can drive symptoms, and these can be revealed in the SPECT scans.

With more than 170,000 brain SPECT scans on patients from all over the world, the doctors at Amen Clinics have found that OCD—like other mental health conditions—is not a single or simple disorder. Click To Tweet

Here are 3 examples:

  1. The most common OCD pattern involves increased blood flow in two areas of the brain—the anterior cingulate gyrus and the basal ganglia.
  • The anterior cingulate gyrus is involved with attention, and when this part of the brain works normally, it allows us to shift from one thought to the next. However, when it is overactive, people tend to get “stuck” on thoughts or behaviors.
  • The basal ganglia help to set the body’s idle or anxiety level. Among other functions, they are involved in forming habits, but overactivity in this area of the brain is associated with increased anxiety.
  1. Exposure to toxins, such as mold or acquiring infections like Lyme disease can lead to the development of OCD symptoms. A 2018 study in the journal, General Hospital Psychiatry, found that 84% of those who had been diagnosed with Lyme disease developed symptoms of OCD.

On SPECT scans, toxic or infectious injuries show multiple areas of low blood flow in the brain, which can interfere with how neurons (brain cells) are able to communicate.

  1. In seizure disorders like epilepsy, OCD symptoms are much more common than in the general population. A research study published in Epilepsy and Behavior found that up to 25% of patients with temporal lobe epilepsy also had OCD.

On SPECT images, this pattern can present as decreased activity in one or both temporal lobes, along with overactivity in the anterior cingulate gyrus.

By actually looking at the brain with SPECT imaging, a doctor is able to see the biological issues that underlie a patient’s OCD. With this information, a personalized and targeted treatment plan can be created to help balance brain function and get symptoms under control.

OCD and other mental health issues can’t wait. During these uncertain times, your mental well-being is more important than ever and waiting until life gets back to “normal” is likely to make your symptoms worsen over time.

At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

30 Comments »

  1. Hi,

    Should OCD sufferers take Ginkgo? My understanding is that OCD can be heightened by increased blood flow to certain areas of the brain. A benefit of Gingko is increased blood flow therefore could this have an adverse effect on OCD sufferers?

    Comment by Daniel — April 9, 2021 @ 3:44 AM

  2. I have OCD…what supplements should I be taking?

    Comment by Laura — April 9, 2021 @ 4:25 AM

  3. Good morning,
    Curious how much it costs to get a brain scanned.

    Thank you

    Comment by Lindsay — April 9, 2021 @ 4:38 AM

  4. Would appreciate if you address pure o as it different from Ocd

    Comment by Riddhi — April 9, 2021 @ 4:41 AM

  5. I would so very much like to be tested. I’m an engineer and this seems to work well for me in that arena. However, socially, spiritually, relationally, I struggle to trust, relate and interact with others in a normal way.

    While i want to logically think that I am a very extroverted personality, I tend to live mostly an introverted life while listening to everything around me and if I don’t get near immediately positive or at least acceptable response to my interactions, I tend to digress to myself…

    I’m on Cetilpram and Xanax but I don’t know that it makes a great deal of difference. Help?

    Comment by Jeff Hill — April 9, 2021 @ 5:05 AM

  6. I have a son who may be OCD

    Comment by Madelyn Kunysz — April 9, 2021 @ 5:42 AM

  7. Are there any clinics in monmouth county no that do the spect

    Comment by Diane Demola — April 9, 2021 @ 6:57 AM

  8. Please email me information on the SPECT scans…
    Location, price, conditions treated.
    I have inquired before however in the middle of pandemic amongst other things so wasn’t a good time to pursue this.
    Thank you!

    Comment by Michelle Lunnon — April 9, 2021 @ 8:02 AM

  9. What about hoarding? Where does that fit in OCD list?

    Comment by Sue — April 9, 2021 @ 8:18 AM

  10. Hello Diane. Amen Clinics currently has 9 locations: https://www.amenclinics.com/locations/. For more information about scheduling, please contact our Care Coordinators: https://www.amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — April 9, 2021 @ 9:02 AM

  11. Hello Michelle, thanks for reaching out. We’d be more than happy to reach out to you with more information regarding location, price, and treatments. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — April 9, 2021 @ 9:04 AM

  12. Hello Lindsay, thanks for reaching out. Amen Clinics offers consultations and different types of evaluations based on the needs of the patient. For information regarding pricing, insurance, and financing options, please contact our Care Coordinators: https://www.amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — April 9, 2021 @ 9:11 AM

  13. Hello Jeff, thanks for reaching out. We’d be happy to reach out directly with more information regarding scheduling an appointment at one of our clinics. We look forward to speaking with you soon

    Comment by Amen Clinics — April 9, 2021 @ 9:19 AM

  14. Hello Madelyn, thanks for reaching out. If you think your son may be OCD, you can take him to get evaluated at one of our 9 locations (https://www.amenclinics.com/locations/). For more information about scheduling, please contact our Care Coordinators: https://www.amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — April 9, 2021 @ 9:24 AM

  15. Do you accept health insurance.

    Comment by Donna Decavallas — April 9, 2021 @ 10:26 AM

  16. I am inquiring for my son. His past has been full of negative events. His bio mom was very absent used to self medicate had brain injury his girlfriend committed suicide and a very ugly divorce leaving his kids out of his life. He is a basket case. Often crying and very depressed for weeks. He needs help and he agrees please advise. Thank you

    Comment by Mary Tevlin — April 9, 2021 @ 1:15 PM

  17. Hello Mary, thank you for reaching out. We’d be happy to contact you directly to discuss your son and possible next steps with our clinic. We look forward to speaking with you.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — April 9, 2021 @ 1:31 PM

  18. Hello Sue, thank you for reaching out. Here is more information on hoarding that may be of interest to you: https://www.amenclinics.com/blog/how-to-tell-if-youre-a-hoarder/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — April 9, 2021 @ 1:32 PM

  19. Why does nobody EVER respond to people’s comments after your articles? SPend time helping people and stop worrying about whether they come to your offices to get a SPEC scan. Your tribe needs to know, like and trust you. Spending some time answering these questions can go a long way towards that.

    Comment by Franco Zampetti — April 9, 2021 @ 6:23 PM

  20. I have a son with autism and I think he is OCD. Please call me. Thanks

    Comment by Giovana Achury — April 10, 2021 @ 5:16 AM

  21. Hi. My son has OCD. Is there a good clinic you can recommend in the UK? Many thanks

    Comment by Andreea — April 10, 2021 @ 7:11 AM

  22. Do you have financial scholarships for brain scans?

    Comment by Rachel Zabaneh — April 10, 2021 @ 12:03 PM

  23. HOW does someone find a place where they take these images? Is this thru a MRI? Many of us are clustraphobic and cannot do these tests.

    Comment by Ruthann B Shanley — April 10, 2021 @ 2:18 PM

  24. I am wondering if you can please help me. I can send you any of my medical information. I have OCD agoraphobia mdd bpd binge eating . I suffered one now 2 times ( many in between) when I was a most legally dead heart rate was 54/ 40 due to stress and anxiety and now my anxiety and stress is causing my blood pressure to shut up and I can’t remember things.. “It is my anxiety “ saying my doctors psychiatrist and my therapist is understanding. My daughter always says that something changed in me when I got back home from the hospital and I agree because I had a few days I could not remember anything..

    Comment by Jacquelyn — April 11, 2021 @ 12:20 PM

  25. How do I go about getting a scan done?

    Comment by MJoyce King — April 11, 2021 @ 8:50 PM

  26. Hello Joyce, thanks for reaching out. We’d be happy to contact you directly with more information regarding scheduling an appointment at one of our clinics. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — April 12, 2021 @ 12:01 PM

  27. Hello Giovana, thanks for reaching out. We’d be happy to contact you directly with more information regarding scheduling an appointment at one of our clinics. We look forward to speaking with you soon

    Comment by Amen Clinics — April 12, 2021 @ 1:14 PM

  28. Hello Andreea, thanks for reaching out. We currently only have 9 clinics all in the US. If you’re unable to travel to one of our locations, our Care Coordinators may be able to assist you with resources or referrals closer to you. For more information, please contact our Care Coordinators: https://www.amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — April 12, 2021 @ 1:18 PM

  29. Hello Ruthann, thank you for reaching out. At Amen Clinics, we use SPECT scan imaging, which is different from a MRI. Amen Clinics currently has 9 locations: https://www.amenclinics.com/locations/. For more information about scheduling, please contact our Care Coordinators: https://www.amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — April 12, 2021 @ 1:20 PM

  30. Hello Rachel, thank you for reaching out. Amen Clinics offers consultations and different types of evaluations based on the needs of the patient. For information regarding pricing, insurance, and financing options, please contact our Care Coordinators: https://www.amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — April 12, 2021 @ 1:37 PM

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