Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a mental health disorder characterized by recurring and intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors (compulsions). People with OCD often experience distressing and unwanted thoughts, images, or urges, which lead to significant anxiety. To cope with this anxiety, they engage in repetitive rituals or behaviors.

Here's a breakdown of the two main components of OCD:

  1. Obsessions: These are unwanted, intrusive, and distressing thoughts, urges, or mental images that individuals with OCD experience. Obsessions may revolve around themes. Theses can include contamination, fear of harm to self or others, unwanted sexual thoughts, religious or moral concerns, and a need for symmetry or exactness. These obsessions can be persistent and cause significant distress and disruption in daily life.
  2. Compulsions: These are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that individuals with OCD perform. They are in response to their obsessions. Compulsions are aimed at reducing the anxiety caused by the obsessive thoughts. Although, they are often excessive and not connected to any realistic danger. Common compulsions include hand washing, checking, counting, repeating actions, mental reviewing, or praying.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Irrational Behavior

People with OCD know that their obsessions and compulsions are irrational. However, these individuals find it challenging to resist performing these behaviors. The cycle of obsessions leading to anxiety and compulsions temporarily relieving that anxiety can become a distressing loop. It has significant impacts on their personal and professional life.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can vary in severity, and its onset can be in childhood, adolescence, or adulthood. Treatments for OCD may include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure and response prevention (ERP), and in some cases, medication. Early intervention and proper management can significantly improve the quality of life for individuals living with OCD.

How Does Ketamine Work to Treat OCD?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a debilitating mental health condition that affects millions of people worldwide and can severely impact one's quality of life. Traditional treatments like therapy and SSRIs have proven effective for many. However, some individuals experience limited relief. In recent years, researchers have explored alternative approaches, and one such promising treatment is ketamine. Often associated with recreational use or anesthetic properties, ketamine has emerged as a potential breakthrough in treating OCD.

Ketamine is primarily known as a dissociative anesthetic used in medical settings. However, its effects on mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and PTSD have garnered considerable attention from researchers. In the context of OCD, ketamine appears to influence the brain's glutamate system.

Glutamate is a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating various brain functions, including learning, memory, and mood. Studies have shown that individuals with OCD may have abnormal glutamate levels, leading to imbalances in brain circuits responsible for cognitive control and emotional processing. Ketamine acts on the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors in the brain, modulating glutamate signaling.


Research on Ketamine Infusion Therapy Usage

Research suggests that ketamine can impact two critical brain circuits involved in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. They are: the cortico-striato-thalamo-cortical (CSTC) circuit and the default mode network (DMN).

  1. CSTC Circuit: The CSTC circuit plays a crucial role in OCD and involves connections between the cortex, striatum, and thalamus. In individuals with OCD, this circuit may become overactive. This leads to repetitive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. Ketamine helps regulate the CSTC circuit by blocking NMDA receptors. This reduces glutamate activity, and ultimately restoring balance.
  2. DMN: The DMN is a network that activates when the mind is at rest and engaged in introspective thinking. In individuals with OCD, the DMN is hyperactive, contributing to the persistence of obsessive thoughts. Ketamine's impact on the DMN is thought to reduce excessive rumination and self-focused attention. This relieves the burden of obsessive thoughts.

While the understanding of ketamine's effects on OCD is still evolving, several clinical studies have demonstrated promising results.

Specific Study on Ketamine Usage to Treat OCD

In a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, researchers administered intravenous ketamine to individuals with OCD. The results showed significant reductions in OCD symptoms after 24 hours. These improvements lasted for up to a week. Additionally, ketamine showed rapid-acting effects, unlike traditional SSRIs that may take weeks or months to reach full efficacy.

Another study published in Biological Psychiatry explored the use of ketamine in treatment-resistant OCD patients. Participants received multiple doses of ketamine over several weeks. The results indicated substantial and sustained reductions in OCD symptoms. Notably, the treatment was well-tolerated with minimal side effects.

Ketamine Treatment Plan for OCD

For over two decades the most common protocol used to treat mood disorders in the setting of a ketamine clinic involves a primary series of six infusions. Research has shown that one infusion can provide rapid relief. However, the benefits generally wear off quickly and for some the effects are very subtle.

Using a series of infusions allows the ketamine to have a greater and longer lasting effect in the brain resulting in sustained relief. It is important to bear in mind that the theory of how ketamine works in the brain described above is a process that takes time. And, one infusion will not erase years or decades of OCD. It is also important to know that ketamine provides life-changing benefits for many patients. But, it is not considered a cure and will almost certainly require ongoing maintenance infusions. The frequency can be variable from several weeks to several months in between treatments.

Recommendations for Ketamine Treatment

Patents should complete at least three infusions prior to deciding if the treatment is working for you. Most patients will be able to identify a clear benefit by then. If after three infusions, you do not feel that the treatment is providing any benefit at all then unfortunately you may be in a minority that do not respond well to ketamine therapy. This is very unfortunate, but it is essential to understand that it is possible you will try the treatment and not find the relief you are looking for. Ultimately, there is no way to know if ketamine will work for you without actually trying it.

We use the data from published research to guide treatment. This often leads to using a treatment plan based on the “average patient”. There is merit in this approach but in reality, each patient is an individual and the response to treatment can likewise be very individual. Ketamine infusions are not a one-size-fits-all treatment. Some clients report amazing relief with just one infusion. Others find little benefit after three infusions. But, elect to proceed and ultimately find good benefit after the fourth or fifth infusion. The point being that we always proceed one step at a time. NW Ketamine Infusion does not offer packages of infusions because there should be no pressure to proceed if the treatment isn’t right for you.

Caution and Considerations

While ketamine shows significant potential for treating OCD, it is essential to undergo a thorough screening prior to initiating treatment. Most patients can safely receive ketamine therapy. There are a few medical conditions that might require treatment prior to beginning therapy or stop you from receiving this treatment. These include uncontrolled hypertension, active substance abuse, pregnancy or unstable cardiac disease. Ketamine is not a first-line or stand-alone treatment for mood disorders and is intended to be one component of a multimodal treatment regimen.

The potential for ketamine addiction is extremely low, however, it can be abused or misused. Close monitoring by qualified medical professionals is crucial during ketamine administration to ensure safety and appropriate dosing.


Ketamine's potential as a treatment for OCD offers a glimmer of hope for individuals who have been grappling with the debilitating impact of the disorder. It has a unique mechanism of action on the brain's glutamate system. This, coupled with its rapid-acting effects, sets it apart from traditional treatments. There are numerous treatments available, but no single treatment is right for everyone. If you have tried other methods and haven’t found relief, ketamine may be an excellent option. Please contact us to schedule a free initial consultation to see if this treatment is right for you.