Skip to Content

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions) that are:

  • Irrational
  • Distressing
  • Extremely difficult to overcome

Some patients with severe OCD may benefit from a state-of-the-art neurosurgical treatment at UPMC called deep brain stimulation (DBS). DBS is a surgical procedure in which a thin wire implanted in a specific area of the brain transmits mild electrical pulses to help control abnormal brain activity.

Diagnosis of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

If a patient has a diagnosis of chronic, severe, treatment-resistant obsessive-compulsive disorder that has become disabling, and has at least a five-year history of OCD, that patient may be referred by a psychiatrist to a specially trained neurosurgeon for deep brain stimulation.

Treatment for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Deep brain situmulation

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a surgical procedure in which a thin wire (electrode) is implanted in the area of the brain responsible for the patient’s symptoms.

The electrode, connected to a pulse generator implanted under the skin below the collarbone, carries mild electrical pulses to the brain to help control abnormal behaviors. The DBS procedure, performed by a specially trained neurosurgeon, is both adjustable and reversible.

DBS, which is most often used to treat movement disorders, is approved for OCD treatment under a Humanitarian Device Exemption.

DBS may be considered for patients who:

  • Have a diagnosis of OCD with a documented duration of at least five years
  • Have OCD rated as a severe or extreme illness
  • Have depression and anxiety
  • Have failed to improve following treatment with at least three selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Do not have hoarding as a primary subclassification
  • Have completed or tried to complete cognitive behavior therapy
  • Have no serious psychiatric disorder (for example, personality disorder) in addition to OCD, nor substance abuse issues
  • Are 18 years old or older and are not pregnant
  • Have not had a previous surgery to destroy the region of the brain that will be the target of stimulation
  • Have no other neurological disorders, including dementia
  • Do not require routine MRIs

» Learn more about deep brain stimulation at UPMC