Best Medication for OCD and Anxiety: Exploring Their Connection and Treatment Options

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and anxiety disorders are significant mental health disorders that often coexist, sharing similarities in symptoms and treatment approaches [1,4].OCD is characterized by intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors (compulsions), while anxiety disorders involve excessive worry and fear [1,4].

What Is Anxiety and What Are Its Symptoms?

Most everyone will experience moments of anxiety due to stressful situations. Still, if it becomes more severe, persistent, or worsens over time, that may signal that it is an anxiety disorder [11].

Roughly 19% (40 million) of adults aged 18 or older [2] are affected by anxiety disorders, which include various phobia-related disorders, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder.

These disorders can significantly disrupt daily life, making it difficult to work, study, or maintain relationships [11]. Anxiety can cause different symptoms, such as changes in thoughts, physical sensations, behaviors, and emotions.

Some of the common symptoms include [4]:

  • The feeling of losing control
  • Worry about others’ perceptions.
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Physical symptoms like fast heartbeat, shortness of breath, or shaking.
  • Avoidance of certain situations
  • Restlessness
  • Nervousness or frustration

What Is OCD and What Are Its Symptoms?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition characterized by a pattern of unwanted thoughts and fears known as obsessions, which lead to repetitive behaviors, also called compulsions.

OCD affects approximately 2-3% of people in the United States, with slightly more women than men affected. OCD often manifests in childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood [1].

Obsessions [1]:

  • Intrusive and persistent thoughts cause distressing emotions such as anxiety, fear, or disgust.
  • Common obsessions include fears of contamination, disturbing sexual thoughts, religious fears, concerns about harming oneself or others, and a need for order or symmetry.
  • Individuals often recognize these thoughts as excessive or unreasonable but find it challenging to disengage from them.

Compulsions [1]:

  • Repetitive behaviors or mental acts performed in response to obsessions.
  • Aimed at reducing distress temporarily.
  • Range from excessive hand washing or cleaning to repetitive checking of locks or appliances.
  • In severe cases, rituals may consume a significant portion of the individual’s day, making it challenging to maintain a routine.

The Relationship Between Anxiety and OCD

While Anxiety and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) each have their own features, they often share similar underlying causes and characteristics; for example, individuals with different anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), specific phobias, social phobia, agoraphobia, and panic disorder, frequently experience common feelings of anxiety and sadness, despite the specific symptoms varying across these conditions [9].

Recent studies have revealed a neural connection between OCD and anxiety disorders, focusing on the amygdala, a brain region linked to processing emotions [13]. In both OCD and anxiety, the amygdala, responsible for emotional processing, plays a crucial role. This almond-shaped structure is integral to the brain’s response to fear and anxiety-inducing stimuli. In individuals with OCD, the amygdala shows heightened activity when exposed to triggers exacerbating their symptoms, such as specific images [13].

OCD involves distressing thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors (compulsions), often fueled by anxiety or fear [9]. People with OCD often feel extra anxious, especially in situations related to their obsessions, which can lead to compulsive actions aimed at easing discomfort or preventing negative outcomes [9].

Additionally, OCD commonly occurs alongside anxiety disorders, suggesting shared root causes [9]. OCD patients may also experience other forms of anxiety, like social anxiety or specific phobias. Similarly, those with anxiety disorders might exhibit OCD-like symptoms such as repetitive checking or intrusive thoughts [9]. This suggests common triggers, like heightened sensitivity to perceived threats or inability to control thoughts [9].

Interestingly, this amygdala hyperactivity isn’t directly linked to OCD symptoms like obsessions or compulsions but rather to the overall experience of anxiety [13]. Distraction from these triggers tends to decrease amygdala activity, suggesting that distraction techniques may effectively reduce anxiety in individuals with OCD [13]. These findings highlight the intricate relationship between OCD and anxiety and emphasize the importance of understanding the neural mechanisms connecting them for developing targeted treatment approaches.

How is Anxiety and OCD Diagnosed?

Diagnosing anxiety and OCD requires thorough assessments by healthcare providers, typically including physical exams, to rule out conditions with similar symptoms [12].

Diagnoses for mental health conditions often involve psychological evaluations, which is an essential component in identifying obsessions or compulsions. These evaluations include discussions about thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Additionally, clinicians may seek input from family or friends to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the patient’s condition [12].

While OCD often involves repetitive rituals or compulsions, anxiety disorders may be marked by persistent worrying or avoidance of specific situations [3]. To diagnose OCD, clinicians look for obsessions or compulsions that significantly disrupt daily life, consuming more than one hour a day and causing substantial distress [1].

Differentiating between OCD and anxiety disorders is crucial for tailoring treatment approaches. While they share similarities, such as intrusive thoughts, OCD is characterized by repetitive rituals, whereas anxiety disorders may manifest as persistent worrying or avoidance behaviors. Treatment methods, such as exposure and response prevention therapy for OCD and cognitive-behavioral therapy for anxiety disorders, vary accordingly [3].

Accurate diagnosis ensures the implementation of appropriate medication strategies and significantly improves outcomes. For instance, diagnosing anxiety may involve a range of laboratory tests and imaging studies to rule out other underlying medical conditions [4].

Can You Have Both OCD and Anxiety?

It’s common for people with OCD also to have anxiety disorders like GAD, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and agoraphobia [9]. Even though each condition has its own symptoms, they often share a feeling of anxiety or distress. They’re usually treated with similar medications or therapies [9].

The overlap between OCD and anxiety disorders is because people with these conditions tend to share feelings of distress and negativity. Studies on twins [9] might also support a genetic link. Additionally, there’s likely a shared biology behind both OCD and anxiety disorders, which scientists are investigating using brain imaging techniques [9].

How Do You Deal With Severe Anxiety and OCD?

Managing severe anxiety and OCD typically involves a combination of treatments, such as medication therapy and self-care strategies. It’s important for individuals with severe OCD or anxiety to work with their healthcare provider to determine the most effective treatment plan for their specific symptoms and needs.

Medications like SSRIs can treat OCD and anxiety, helping to alleviate symptoms of both disorders by acting on specific chemicals in the brain. Additionally, therapy like CBT can help address negative thoughts and behaviors associated with these conditions. Combining medication with therapy provides a comprehensive approach to treatment, which can be customized to meet the individual needs of each patient [9].

Treatments for OCD and Anxiety Disorders

Best Medications for OCD and Anxiety

Many of the same psychiatric medications are used to treat both OCD and anxiety disorders, with the cornerstone of treatment often involving medication therapy, such as antidepressants. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) are commonly prescribed to regulate neurotransmitters associated with mood and anxiety [8].

Examples of SSRIs include fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), and escitalopram (Lexapro), while SNRIs like venlafaxine (Effexor) are also frequently utilized [8]. Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) such as clomipramine may be considered if SSRIs prove ineffective, although they carry certain risks, especially during pregnancy [7].

Benzodiazepines are another class of medications commonly prescribed for anxiety disorders due to their ability to enhance the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter, resulting in various effects such as reducing anxiety, inducing sleep, and impairing memory [6].


Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

Therapy, especially cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), is a crucial part of OCD treatment. In CBT, patients work with a therapist to identify and challenge their obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors [10]. CBT is highly effective in treating anxiety disorders, enabling individuals to identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to their anxiety [7].

Combining medication with therapy often yields the best results for managing anxiety disorders. This approach, particularly in CBT, addresses both the biological and psychological aspects of anxiety, providing comprehensive treatment [7]. It’s essential for individuals to work closely with healthcare providers to find the most effective combination of treatments tailored to their needs [7].

Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP)

Effective treatments for OCD include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), specifically exposure and response prevention (ERP), alongside medication, particularly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) [1].

Exposure and response prevention (ERP) is a specific type of CBT commonly used for OCD. It involves gradually exposing the person to their fears while preventing them from engaging in compulsive rituals. This helps them learn that they can tolerate anxiety without performing their rituals [10]. ERP involves exposing individuals to feared situations or thoughts while preventing the usual compulsive responses,

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) for Anxiety Disorders and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

While medication and therapy may help some, it may not work for others. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) offers hope for those struggling with anxiety disorders and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and is another treatment option that most people can consider. Several studies have explored the application of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) for treating both anxiety disorders and OCD.

TMS has exhibited promising outcomes in addressing anxiety symptoms, with notable improvements reported in various studies. Additionally, deep TMS emerges as a hopeful avenue for treating OCD [14]. Unlike episodic conditions such as depression, OCD presents as a chronic condition that necessitates sustained management [14].

What is TMS Therapy?

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive procedure that employs magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain, often utilized in the treatment of various mental health conditions, including anxiety disorders such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) [5].

This technique works by delivering magnetic pulses to specific areas of the brain, thereby modulating neural activity and potentially alleviating anxiety symptoms. Typically, TMS treatment consists of multiple sessions, each lasting between 30 to 60 minutes [5].

How Effective is TMS for OCD and Anxiety?

Several studies have explored the application of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) for treating both anxiety disorders and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), revealing promising outcomes in addressing symptoms associated with these conditions.

TMS has shown effectiveness in reducing anxiety symptoms, particularly when targeted at specific brain regions like the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (rDLPFC) [5]. Similarly, studies have indicated TMS therapy’s potential in alleviating symptoms of OCD [14].

Like with any treatment, side effects may occur, though usually mild. Common side effects include scalp pain, headache, dizziness, and discomfort during or after treatment sessions [5,14].

How do I Know if TMS Therapy is Right for Me?

Healthcare providers should conduct a thorough evaluation of individuals before recommending TMS treatment. They should also closely monitor them during the treatment to minimize adverse effects [5]. Although TMS has shown promise in treating anxiety disorders, further research is necessary to fully comprehend its mechanisms and optimize its efficacy [5].

TMS may not be suitable for everyone, particularly individuals with certain medical conditions or implanted devices like pacemakers [5]. Although TMS is generally safe, some people may experience mild side effects such as scalp pain, headache, dizziness, or discomfort during or after treatment [5].

Further research is needed to optimize TMS efficacy and understand its mechanisms of action in treating anxiety disorders and OCD [5,14]. Nonetheless, TMS stands as a promising non-invasive therapeutic avenue for individuals grappling with these debilitating mental health conditions.

Lifestyle Changes

Living with OCD and anxiety can be challenging, but several lifestyle changes can help individuals manage their symptoms more effectively. It’s important to note that while these strategies can be helpful, they may not work for everyone, and it’s essential to work with a mental health professional to develop a personalized treatment plan. Here are some lifestyle changes that may benefit individuals with OCD and anxiety [10]:

  • Stress Management Techniques: Practicing stress-reduction techniques such as mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or yoga can help individuals manage anxiety and reduce the frequency and intensity of OCD symptoms.
  • Regular Exercise: Engaging in regular physical activity can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and OCD by promoting the release of endorphins, which are natural mood lifters. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week.
  • Healthy Diet: Eating a balanced diet can support overall mental and physical well-being. Limiting caffeine and sugar intake may also help reduce anxiety symptoms.
  • Adequate Sleep: Prioritize getting enough sleep each night, as lack of sleep can worsen symptoms of anxiety and OCD. Establishing a consistent sleep schedule and relaxing routine can help.
  • Limiting Alcohol and Substance Use: Alcohol and certain substances can worsen anxiety symptoms and interfere with treatment for OCD. Limiting or avoiding alcohol and recreational drugs may help improve overall mental health.

Final Thoughts

Dealing with anxiety or OCD can be challenging, but there are effective treatment options available to manage symptoms and improve quality of life. By working closely with healthcare professionals, individuals can find strategies to manage their symptoms and improve their overall well-being. Ongoing research and advancements offer hope for better outcomes and a higher quality of life for those living with these conditions.

If you’re struggling with OCD, anxiety, or another mental health disorder, take the first step towards wellness by reaching out to Neuro Wellness Spa today. With our extensive experience in medication management, in-person and online psychiatry, and alternative treatments like TMS therapy, you can trust our expertise. Our compassionate team provides cutting-edge therapies and personalized care to help you reclaim control and find relief. Contact us now to explore your options and start your journey towards a brighter tomorrow.


  1. American Psychiatric Association. (n.d.). What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder? Retrieved from
  2. Anxiety & Depression Association of America. (n.d.). Anxiety Disorders – Facts & Statistics. Retrieved from
  3. Artin, H., & Sloan, M. (2022, January 24). Treatment-Resistant OCD: Strategies and Novel Treatment Options. Psychiatric Times.
  4. Chand, S. P., & Marwaha, R. (2023). Anxiety. In StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. Retrieved from
  5. Cirillo, P., Gold, A. K., Nardi, A. E., Ornelas, A. C., Nierenberg, A. A., Camprodon, J., & Kinrys, G. (2019). Transcranial magnetic stimulation in anxiety and trauma-related disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Brain and Behavior, 9(6), e01284.
  6. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Benzodiazepines (Benzos). Retrieved from
  7. Del Casale, A., Sorice, S., Padovano, A., Simmaco, M., Ferracuti, S., Lamis, D. A., Rapinesi, C., Sani, G., Girardi, P., Kotzalidis, G. D., & Pompili, M. (2019). Psychopharmacological Treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Current Neuropharmacology, 17(8), 710–736.
  8. Garakani, A., Murrough, J. W., Freire, R. C., Thom, R. P., Larkin, K., Buono, F. D., & Iosifescu, D. V. (2020). Pharmacotherapy of Anxiety Disorders: Current and Emerging Treatment Options. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 11, 595584.
  9. Goodwin, G. M. (2015). The overlap between anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 17(3), 249–260.
  10. International OCD Foundation. (n.d.). How is OCD Treated? Retrieved from
  11. National Institute of Mental Health. (2023, April). Anxiety Disorders. Retrieved from
  12. Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Retrieved from
  13. Simon, D., Adler, N., Kaufmann, C., & Kathmann, N. (2014). Amygdala hyperactivation during symptom provocation in obsessive-compulsive disorder and its modulation by distraction. NeuroImage. Clinical, 4, 549–557.
  14. Tendler, A. (2023, April 11). Achieving OCD Relief: Consideration of TMS Earlier in the Treatment Continuum. Psychiatric Times. Retrieved from
• • Get in touch • •

Contact Us

    Could TMS Therapy Be Right For You?

    I struggle with depression, OCD or anxiety.

    I am experiencing sadness, low energy, difficulty sleeping, poor concentration, appetite changes, irritability or weight gain/loss.

    I have tried, or am currently on, 1 or more antidepressant medications.

    I have tried talk therapy

    Has your doctor/therapist suggested you try TMS?

    Mental Health, Reimagined.
    Call Us Today

    Call Us Today