Fish Oil and OCD

I am a naturopathic physician with nearly 20 years of experience developing breakthrough nutritional products.I also have extensive television and radio experience and have lectured widely to health professionals, the military and the public on all aspects of natural health.

Dr Myers, an expert who holds a doctorate in naturopathic medicine

Stephen Fry in my surgery during the making of the BBC TV program

Me with Lord Bragg, accepting my "Champion of the Year" award

After graduating, I was recognised as being the 'best young neurosurgeon in Britain'

Dealing with mental illness can be a difficult process of trial and error as medications don’t always work in the same way for every patient. Different conditions require different treatments, but their actual diagnosis can be problematic when the symptoms are vague or if the patient has been misdiagnosed in the past. Though natural medications are being investigated for their value in the treatment and management of mental illness, they are still not considered the first line of defence when it comes to complicated diagnoses – as is the case with OCD.

What is OCD?

Most people hear OCD and they think of a person that washes their hands over and over again or a person that needs to count the number of times that the door closes before they can leave a room – both of these are generic examples and possible behaviours that can be explained by OCD. OCD, or obsessive compulsive disorder, is a condition in which the person can not control a behaviour that they have. This might be hand washing, but it can also be something like hair pulling. What happens is that the patient is unable to control these behaviours because whenever they are not done, they feel extreme anxiety. But at the same time, the patient realises that they are being controlled by their behaviours and can begin to feel stress at the amount of time these actions are taking from their life.

A patient might begin to spend hours in these ritualised behaviours in order to feel like they can cope in the world. Eventually, the behaviours can become so controlling that they begin to crowd into their life causing them to isolate themselves and to not be able to keep a job. OCD has also led to a number of suicides among the afflicted as these people can begin to feel like their life is meaningless.

No one is quite sure what causes OCD, though most agree that it must be some sort of chemical imbalance in the brain that is causing the reactions to the ritualistic behaviours – or the lack thereof.

What are the Treatments for OCD?

At the current time, OCD is generally treated with a combination of SSRIs as well as cognitive and behavioural therapies. The medications help to control the anxiety issues that the person feels when they aren’t following these uncontrollable impulses. And the other therapies help by giving the patient other alternatives to the behaviours they are accustomed to doing. For example, someone who is obsessed about hand washing might be directed to try another sort of behaviour when that impulse strikes.

Alternative therapies like Saint John’s Wort are also being investigated as possible treatments for OCD, but studies are not conclusive at the current time. Some researchers are even looking into using illicit drugs to help with OCD impulses.

How can OCD Be Helped by Fish Oil?

Fish oil is one of the alternative therapies that seem to be the most promising. Because the essential fatty acids in the fish oil are necessary for the body to promote basic cellular function and repair, they are used in the nervous system functioning. When the nervous system is working well, the impulses of OCD are not as strong. This can help the patient to begin to find other ways of dealing with these impulses, eventually causing them to stop these impulses altogether.

Fish oil has been linked in studies done at Harvard Medical to the slowing of the OCD in many patients. Researchers have found that patients with OCD as well as other mental disorders are vastly improved and able to function in society as a result of taking fish oil supplements.

How to Add Fish Oil to the Treatment Regimen

While fish oil seems to be a promising way to deal with OCD and other mental disorders, it is not without concerns. Since fish oil can often thin the blood when taken in larger doses, this is a treatment addition that needs to be monitored by a trained physician – especially if the patient is taking other medications at the same time. Try to find a physician that is open to alternative therapies to see if they will advise you on the correct dose for you.

If taking a supplement doesn’t seem to be the best course for you, you might also want to try adding a few servings of fish to your weekly menu. Just two servings per week is the recommended dosage for helping to ensure that the patient is getting enough essential fatty acids. Try fishes like mackerel, herring, and kipper if you want to get the maximum amounts of fish oil in your diet.


Adding fish oil to the diet can help with OCD in many patients. While no one cure works for all people, the lack of side effects in comparison to traditional psychiatric medications helps to make fish oil something that should be considered.

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