WACO, Texas – OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, only affects about two percent of the population but symptoms are usually severe.
Now, clinical trials are targeting new receptors in the brain.
Some of those trial are being conducted by the very people who can be helped.
"I've lived with OCD since childhood," said Elizabeth McIngvale, assistant professor of Baylor College of Medicine's Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.
"I was diagnosed when I was 12 and have been in treatment ever since."
She used to ask her mom if it was okay that she touched something in school.
"Then it transferred into a lot of contamination rituals, spending a lot of time in the shower," said McIngvale. "Fearing I hadn't done something enough, I wasn't clean enough. I was going to contaminate other people."
OCD is rooted in fear which feeds the anxiety and brings about the unwanted behavior.
Psychologists used cognitive behavioral therapy in some cases, as well as traditional anti-depressants aimed at serotonin and dopamine brain messengers.
But researchers are now seeking something new, glutamate in the brain, a neurotransmitter that sends signals to other cells.
"Some recent information suggests that there might be a third messenger that naturally occurs called glutamate. thereby have improved response to anti-depressants," explained Eric Storch, a professor on that team of researchers.
NEW TECHNOLOGY: Researchers have been looking into glutamate. Glutamate is the most abundant excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain. It helps with communication with cells in all the circuits in the nervous system. Too much can cause neuron damage which can lead to conditions like stroke or ALS. The levels of glutamate could be high as a consequence of OCD. There are many medications out there now that can help lower the levels. Rilutek, an FDA approved medication for ALS, helped in some patients. The medication can not only help adults but they also help children. Namenda, a memantine, affects how the neurons respond to glutamate. It is FDA approved, and it can benefit both kids and adults going through normal therapy. Researchers want to do a more controlled study in order to better understand the drug`s impact.
And, for Elizabeth McIngvale who might only get several minutes a day without intrusive thoughts, it's clearly critical to find a better way.
"I can understand someone's pain and I can truly believe with all my belief system, that they can get better," said McIngvale.
The study of this new drug is being conducted at 59 centers across the country.
Elizabeth McIngvale has also started the Peace of Mind Foundation, dedicated to providing help with OCD.
If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at firstname.lastname@example.org or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at email@example.com.