Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a heterogeneous disorder of unknown aetiology, characterised by the presence of upsetting and persistent worries and images or impulses that are experienced as intrusive and senseless (obsessions) and/or excessive repetitive behaviours (compulsions) performed in response to these obsessions or according to rigid rules. Alterations in brain zinc homeostasis has been associated with behavioural disturbances, such as impaired learning and cognitive function.
There is substantial evidence that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI's) are effective in the treatment of OCD. For example, patients administered the SSRI, fluoxetine, have experienced significant improvements in OCD behaviours. Interestingly, when zinc supplementation has been utilised as an adjuvant agent for OCD, zinc produces improved OCD outcomes by decreasing both obsession and compulsion. The therapy of 440 mg of zinc sulfate is considered well tolerated, with no clinically important side effects observed.
In a recent 8 week trial, twelve patients were administered 20 mg/day of fluoxetine plus zinc sulfate (440 mg/day), whereas 11 patients were given fluoxetine plus placebo for 8 weeks. In this study both groups, showed a decrease in obsession and compulsion, however, patients treated with fluoxetine and zinc experienced significantly lower obsession and compulsion scores than those treated with fluoxetine plus placebo. The results, as previously indicated, show that zinc, as an adjuvant agent for obsessive-compulsive disorder, produces improved outcomes.
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