OCD and TMS: How it can help

There’s a lot of misconception about OCD. As it’s OCD awareness week, we’ve decided to look at what OCD really is and how TMS may be able to help.

What is OCD?

There are a lot of misconceptions about OCD. OCD is a chronic psychiatric disorder characterized by uncontrollable, unwanted, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and or repetitive behaviours (compulsions). It is estimated that it affects 12 in every 1,000 people (1.2% of the UK population). That’s roughly 750,000 people! The World Health Organization ranks obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) as one of the 10 most handicapping conditions by lost income and decreased quality of life, demonstrating just how challenging this disorder can be.

What OCD isn’t:

There are many common misconceptions around OCD and what it entails. The media often associates OCD with cleaning or tidiness. While these may be a part of some individaul’s OCD, these misconceptions ignore a lot about the disorder, and often mean people have no idea that they’re actually experiencing OCD. People may also mistake OCD for Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder – a personality disorder that’s characterized by extreme perfectionism, order, and neatness. These misconceptions often contribute to stigma around OCD – can even lead to misdiagnosis.

OCD is a Cycle:

The best way to understand OCD is to see it as a cycle. An individual with OCD will experience obsessions (unwanted thoughts). These obsessions will cause feelings of anxiety, fear, disgust and doubt. It’s only natural to want to get rid of these feelings. Compulsive behaviours help relieve this anxiety – but only in the short term. It reinforces (teaches our brain) that we actually have something to fear, which keeps OCD sufferers stuck in the cycle.

Obsessions and Compulsions: Types of OCD

It’s important to know that obsessions can be about ANYTHING! OCD is a varied and complex disorder, and no sufferer will experience the same thoughts. However, people with OCD often like to group their thoughts into ‘themes or categories. Although there’s no clinical difference, some themes consist of:

  • Harm OCD,
  • SO-OCD,
  • POCD,
  • Relationship OCD,
  • Just-Right OCD,
  • Contamination OCD,
  • Pure-OCD

HOWEVER – It’s still OCD. Within OCD treatment, it’s important to focus on the compulsions, NOT the obsessions; it’s the compulsions that keep the cycle going.

Treatments for OCD:

As awareness increases about OCD and what it is, more treatments become available. Here are some of the most current treatments that can help with symptoms of OCD:

  • CBT
  • Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy (ERP)
  • Mindfulness based CBT and ERP
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
  • Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT)
  • rTMS

TMS and OCD:

Research into TMS and OCD goes back to the late 90’s. One of the first ever studies found that rTMS has similar effects to antidepressants, and treatment resistant OCD. More recently, there’s been countless studies showing that a course of rTMS treatment is helpful at reducing both the obsessions and compulsions associated with OCD. Many studies from this year all highlight the growing body of evidence that rTMS is a great treatment for OCD.
Here at Smart TMS, our practitioners have conducted their own research into TMS and OCD symptoms, finding that a course of rTMS treatment significantly reduces both obsessions and compulsions.


OCD is a chronic, debilitating condition that can seriously impact the lives of sufferers and their families.
Although awareness is increasing, there’s still a lot of misconception around what OCD is, and this stigma can make treatment even more difficult.
The good news is that there’s now more treatments available! CBT, CFT, ACT and others are all great ways to help manage the challenges OCD presents. Here at Smart TMS, we offer an effective, research backed treatment to help you deal with the difficulties of OCD.


Author, Ben,
Smart TMS Manchester Practitioner