The current, first line/gold standard treatments for OCD continue to be Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors and a very specific type of behavioral therapy known as Exposure-Response Prevention or ERP. For most patients, these two types of treatment will generally work.
However, TMS therapy can be a great option to consider for people who have OCD but have not had success with traditional medications and Exposure-Response Prevention therapy. It can also be a treatment option for patients who are concerned about experiencing the side effects of medications.
In fact, in some of the research, and what our providers see in clinical practice, is that TMS appears to enhance the effectiveness of medications and exposure therapy. This means that TMS can be an addition to traditional treatment methods as opposed to thinking of it as a complete alternative.
It’s not that OCD magically disappears completely. Often, patients will still report intrusive thoughts or obsessions after treatment, but they tell us that their brain is better at dealing with them. They are better at ignoring intrusive thoughts; some say the obsessions seem quieter; others report they can stay present with things they care about more easily, and many describe a much greater ability to resist the urge to engage in compulsive behaviors that we know perpetuate OCD.
In our practice, just over 1/3 of patients meet the full response criteria of 30% or greater improvement in the YBOCS, which is the standard measurement of OCD symptoms. On average, our patients see about a 6-7 point decrease in their YBOCS score. This point decrease is clinically significant and on par with the kinds of successes we see with traditional medications when they work for people, but these results usually occur in less time. About 50-60% of our patients report at least a 20% reduction in symptoms.