Transcutaneous electrical acupoint stimulation as an adjunct therapy for obsessive-compulsive disorder: A randomized controlled study

J Psychiatr Res. 2016 Sep:80:30-37. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2016.05.015. Epub 2016 May 28.


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).

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Points*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Clomipramine / therapeutic use
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / therapy*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors
  • Clomipramine