Benzodiazepines and OCD (Xanax, Klonopin, Valium etc.)

This applies only for severe OCD cases.

I would like to reiterate I am not a fan of medication of any kind for OCD because I see OCD as a strong negative-thinking mental loop, a disorder of beliefs, rather than a chemical one, so I do not condone using medication as treatment.

Can OCD sufferers benefit from benzodiazepines? Most OCD-related literature talks about SSRIs as a potential treatment for OCD, but how about the anxiety-lowering drugs – wouldn’t they make more sense?

In my opinion and experience benzos do a lot more for an OCD sufferer than SSRIs.

SSRIs treatment is based on the hypothesis – emphasis on hypothesis– that OCD is some sort of chemical imbalance and messing with serotonin might help it…somehow…

There might be OCD sufferers who say SSRI meds helped them but they are a small minority and what I mostly see is a very minor improvement. I do not believe in SSRIs as a solid treatment for OCD.

Let’s tackle benzos and how they fit into the equation. Benzos are a fast-acting medication, unlike SSRIs. Their effect is immediate and they tackle the major problem in OCD – anxiety and fear. They don’t necessarily eliminate compulsions but they alleviate the torment of permanent anxiety that accompanies the condition of OCD. They may diminish the sense of distorted reality caused by fear. They give the sufferer a short-lived sense of relief. The downside: they can stir an addiction to them and the withdrawals are often severe.

I do believe benzos can help though, but in very specific cases and in a very specific way. We know by know that ERP (exposure and response prevention) is the way to go to get rid of OCD, but in a severe case of OCD the anxiety might be so strong and may already manifest in a physical way (panic attacks, psychosis, pain in the neck area, dry mouth) that starting ERP in this condition can be impossible for the sufferer.

If unbeknown to them, the person suffering from OCD, took their condition to a point where it is so debilitating that they lost contact with reality and are in constant panic, then I believe taking benzodiazepine medication can level their condition to a place where they can start tackling it. Artificially lowering the anxiety level in the beginning will give the sufferer a chance to “breathe” and calm down from the storm before starting on the journey of healing from OCD.

Calming down a nervous system that is in overdrive , sending strong signals to the body and the mind that everything is doomed is a necessity when we’re talking about very severe OCD. A person with very severe OCD may not be able to start doing ERP without benzodiazepine medication in the beginning.

It’s very important to be careful when taking benzos, and I believe only people with very severe OCD case should consider them, but they have their place in the equation. Where we want to be is doing ERP constantly and benzos like Xanax or Klonopin may help jumpstart the process, that’s where I see their role in OCD recovery.

The sufferer must be very determined to NOT rely on them to recover, must be determined to only use this as a stepping stone to being healthy and not let the meds do the work because they will be back to square one in no time.  You can do it!


Christiana Mane