Background: Transcutaneous electrical acupoint stimulation (TEAS) is thought to have potential to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine whether adding TEAS to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and clomipramine would improve the efficacy of these conventional treatments in OCD.
Methods: In this randomized controlled trial, 360 OCD patients were assigned to receive TEAS combined with CBT plus clomipramine (Group A, n = 120), TEAS combined with CBT plus placebo (Group B, n = 120), and simulated (placebo) TEAS combined with CBT plus clomipramine (Group C, n = 120) for 12 weeks. The primary outcome was measured using the Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS).
Results: OCD symptoms in all patients reduced over time, however Groups A and B had a significantly greater reduction in Y-BOCS total score and the subscale for obsession and compulsion between week 2 and week 12 compared to Group C. Groups A and B had similar scores on these measures. Both groups had significantly higher rates of clinical response than Group C (88.3% and 81.7% vs. 67.5%, respectively, p < 0.001); and higher rates of remission (30.0% and 22.5% vs. 9.2%, respectively, p < 0.001). Group B experienced fewer adverse events than the other two groups.
Conclusions: TEAS enhances the efficacy of conventional OCD interventions and avoids the adverse effects associated with conventional pharmacological treatment. It can be considered as an effective adjunct intervention for OCD.
Keywords: Clomipramine; Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT); Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD); Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs); Transcutaneous electrical acupoint stimulation (TEAS); Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).
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