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Abilify for OCD: Benefits, Side Effects & Usage Guide

Living with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and searching for effective treatment options, such as Abilify for OCD, can leave you grasping at straws. 

Once you have exhausted all of the “gold standard” OCD treatments, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy, both with and without medications, Abilify for OCD can prove to be a go-to solution. 

In the HealingUS Podcast, EDM DJ Zaxx talks about his mental health journey. He started young in EDM and faced challenges. Despite success, he dealt with panic attacks and sought support and tried many medicines. Zaxx points to coping strategies. His story shows resilience and promotes mental health awareness, including managing OCD with proper treatment & medicines.

In these cases, Abilify for OCD, an antipsychotic, may be added to the treatment regimen to help manage OCD. Read the medication guide to learn about the benefits, side effects, warnings, and how to use Abilify for OCD.

What is Abilify?

Abilify, or aripiprazole, is an atypical antipsychotic medication that affects neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine and serotonin. Unlike typical antipsychotics, it targets both dopamine and serotonin receptors to restore their balance. This helps improve mood, thinking, and behavior in conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, autism-related irritability, and Tourette syndrome. 

Approved by the FDA, Abilify for OCD is prescribed in oral tablet form under various brand names for treating these specific mental health conditions in adults and children over 6 years old. Aripiprazole is the active ingredient in Abilify. It belongs to the antipsychotic group of medications used broadly for managing different types of mental health disorders.

Understanding Abilify for OCD

Abilify for OCD is often used alongside selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or other medications to treat OCD. SSRIs are usually the first-line treatment for OCD, but research from 2014 shows that about 40%-60% of individuals with OCD do not achieve sufficient improvement with SSRIs alone. In such cases, Abilify can be beneficial.

A 2019 study indicated that aripiprazole, along with risperidone, is among the most effective antipsychotic medications when used alongside other treatments for OCD. Another research from the year 2019 found that adding aripiprazole to an SSRI can be effective when there has been only partial improvement with other therapies. 

OCD involves obsessions—unwanted thoughts, images, or urges causing distress—and compulsions—repetitive behaviors or mental rituals aimed at reducing this distress or preventing harm. While these compulsions provide short-term relief, they perpetuate the OCD cycle of obsessions, anxiety, compulsions, and temporary relief.

Uses of Abilify for OCD 

Abilify is FDA-approved for treating: 

  • Schizophrenia

It is approved for adults and children aged 13 years and older.

  • Bipolar I Disorder (Manic and Mixed Episodes)

Approved for adults and children aged 10 years and older.

  • Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

Approved for adults.

  • Autism-Related Irritability

It is approved for children aged 6 years and older.

  • Tourette Syndrome

It is approved for children aged 6 years and older.

Side Effects of Abilify for OCD 

Potential side effects from Abilify for OCD can vary in severity. Commonly reported mild side effects may include:

When taking Abilify, you may experience:

  • Headache
  • Drowsiness
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
  • Anxiety
  • Fluctuations in weight (gain or loss)
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue (lack of energy)
  • Dizziness

Serious Side Effects 

Serious side effects of Abilify for OCD  may include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Uncontrollable or involuntary movements (such as tremors)
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking clearly
  • Metabolism changes (such as high blood sugar or high cholesterol)

Extrapyramidal Symptoms

Medications like Abilify can influence dopamine levels, potentially causing extrapyramidal symptoms, which vary from person to person but generally fall into three categories:

  • Dystonia: Muscle contractions, tremors, or abnormal posture
  • Akathisia: Restlessness and difficulty staying still
  • Parkinsonism: Tremors, rigid or slow movements in the arms and legs

Warnings of Abilify for OCD 

  • Do not take Abilify if you are allergic to aripiprazole.
  • Abilify may increase the risk of death in older adults with dementia-related psychosis and is not approved for this use.
  • Consult your healthcare provider if you have heart problems or a history of stroke, High or low blood pressure, diabetes, either in yourself or in your family, a history of seizures, or low white blood cell counts.
  • The benefits should outweigh the risks for pregnant women. Women who are breastfeeding should not take Abilify.

Special Warnings

  • Suicidal Thoughts

People with depression or mental illness may have thoughts of suicide. Monitor changes in mood or symptoms, especially when starting treatment or adjusting doses. Family or caregivers should also observe sudden changes in behavior.

  • Diabetes

The Abilify oral solution contains sugar. Before taking it, inform your doctor if you have diabetes. Aripiprazole can increase blood sugar levels; if you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar levels carefully.

  • Phenylketonuria (PKU)

The orally disintegrating tablet (Abilify Discmelt) may contain over 3 milligrams of phenylalanine per tablet. Inform your doctor if you have Phenylketonuria  (PKU) before taking Abilify Discmelt.

FDA issued a safety warning in 2016 regarding Abilify, cautioning users about potential compulsive or uncontrollable urges, including:

  • Gambling
  • Binge eating
  • Shopping
  • Increased sexual desire

These urges may diminish upon discontinuation of the medication. Consulting with a healthcare or mental health professional is advised to manage and minimize unwanted effects.

FAQs: Abilify for OCD 

 

Que: Is Abilify helpful for OCD?

Ans: Abilify is proven to be helpful for OCD when other treatments haven’t improved symptoms.

Que: What should I avoid while taking Abilify? 

Ans: While taking Abilify, avoid alcohol and operating machinery until you understand how the medication affects you. Be cautious with activities requiring alertness. 

Que: Does Abilify make you gain weight?

Ans: Abilify (aripiprazole) can cause weight gain, although it usually causes less weight gain than other similar medications. However, in some people, mainly when used for depression along with other antidepressants, it may still lead to significant weight gain.

Que: Why should you take aripiprazole in the morning?

Ans: It’s best taken in the morning to minimize sleep disturbances. Research also indicates that taking it at night may affect dopamine receptors and disrupt insulin release rhythms, potentially worsening metabolic issues.

Que: Does Abilify calm your thoughts? 

Ans: Abilify can help calm your thoughts by balancing dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain, which helps regulate mood and behaviors.

Conclusion

In treating OCD, therapy like exposure and response prevention (ERP) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are typically the first options. These may be combined with antidepressants. If these treatments prove insufficient, Abilify may be considered as an additional medication. Abilify for OCD symptoms is a good choice, but only with a doctor’s supervision.

Your healthcare provider will monitor you closely for any side effects. Honest communication with your doctor about your experiences is crucial for effective treatment planning.

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