"Effortless" smoking cessation and weight loss could be the unexpected benefits of electrical stimulation of the brain in a patient with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a new case report revealed.
The patient was a 47-year-old woman who had extremely severe OCD related to fear of dirt and excessive cleaning. In addition to OCD, the patient was a heavy smoker, nearly two packs per day; and was severely obese, with a weight of 235 pounds (body mass index 37).
When medications did not improve the patient's disabling OCD symptoms, an alternative treatment was recommended: deep brain stimulation.
The patient underwent placement of electrodes in a brain area called the nucleus accumbens, which has been found to be involved in OCD and other addictive disorders.
The electrodes were then connected to a small generator, which was programmed to deliver electrical stimulation to the brain.
Now commonly used in conditions like Parkinson's disease, deep brain stimulation has emerged as a new option for patients with severe OCD that do not respond to other treatments.
With electrical stimulation therapy, the patient's OCD symptoms gradually improved. Improvement peaked after ten months-the time she spent on her compulsions and obsessions decreased from 20 hours to 1 hour per day, and the patient no longer felt she was impaired by OCD in her daily life.
"At this moment," the researchers write, "she realized that she was not dependent on her compulsions anymore, but that she was still dependent on her cigarettes." After noticing that non-smokers looked "healthier and more relaxed than smokers," the patient decided to quit smoking-and the next day, she did so. She had no cravings and no withdrawal symptoms, even though her husband continued to smoke. (When she eventually convinced him to quit, he experienced "serious" withdrawal.)
Two weeks later, the patient decided to lose weight as well. She changed her diet with the help of a dietitian and began to lose weight steadily. Soon afterward, she began an exercise program. By 10 months, she had achieved her weight loss goal of nearly 100 pounds (body mass index 25). Two years later, she had kept the weight off and was still not smoking. Her OCD symptoms also stayed under control.
The report has been published in the September issue of Neurosurgery, official journal of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons.