With a $1.9 million, four-year grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), addiction experts from Butler Hospital, who have successfully used exercise-based interventions to help people overcome smoking, alcohol and drug addictions, will be applying these strategies to help people who struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
Addiction researchers from Butler Hospital will work with members of the hospital’s OCD treatment program in this new study called Project HOPE (helping OCD patients excel). The researchers will test the benefits of two wellness interventions: a moderate-intensity aerobic exercise; and a health and wellness education program, focused on learning to live a healthy lifestyle. People between the ages of 18 and 65 years old who have been diagnosed with OCD are eligible to participate in one of these two 12-week studies.
“Using aerobic exercise to help reduce OCD symptoms represents a potentially useful yet unexplored strategy, and there are currently no established exercise interventions for use with this population,” says the principal investigator of the study, Ana M. Abrantes, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Butler’s addictions research program. Also involved in the study are Richard A. Brown, PhD, director of addictions research at Butler; and David R. Strong, PhD, assistant director of addictions research at Butler.
Working with a team of OCD treatment experts led by Benjamin Greenberg, MD, PhD, the Project HOPE researchers want to determine if aerobic exercise can in fact reduce symptoms in people with OCD and establish when the use of exercise or wellness education can be most helpful.
Other OCD experts involved in the study include Steven Rasmussen, MD, Butler’s medical director and acting chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University; Nicole McLaughlin, PhD, a neuropsychologist in the OCD program; Maria Mancebo, PhD, a clinical psychologist in the OCD Program.
Between two and three million people are estimated to have OCD, which causes them to suffer from obsessions—thoughts, images, or impulses—that occur over and over again and can make them feel out of control or cause intense, and debilitating anxiety. In an effort to neutralize or make their obsessions go away, OCD sufferers engage in compulsions, which are repetitive behaviors or thoughts such as counting, washing, or cleaning. They may also avoid situations or places that might trigger obsessions, and in severe cases, OCD can lead to a variety of serious employment, marital, and family problems or even result in suicide.
Founded in 1844, Butler Hospital is Rhode Island’s only private, nonprofit psychiatric and substance abuse hospital for adults, adolescents, children, and seniors. Butler is affiliated with The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and is the flagship hospital for its department of psychiatry, which has been recognized by its peers as one of the top ten in the United States.
A national leader in the development of acute psychiatric and substance abuse treatment, Butler is involved in a variety of research efforts which has earned it a national reputation as a major teaching and research facility.