Does OCD Require Hospitalization for Effective Treatment?

Female depressed patient sitting on the bed in a hospital ward
Eric Audras/Getty Images

In most cases, hospitalization is not necessary to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The majority of people with OCD can be treated very effectively on an outpatient basis by a variety of qualified mental healthcare service providers using either psychotherapy or medication or a combination thereof.


The most common medications used to treat OCD are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac (fluoxetine), Luvox (fluvoxamine), Paxil (paroxetine hydrochloride) Zoloft (sertraline), Celexa (citalopram), and Lexapro (escitalopram); serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors like ​Effexor (venlafaxine); and a tricyclic antidepressant known as Anafranil (clomipramine).


Exposure therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) have been shown to be particularly helpful in the treatment of OCD symptoms.

Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Another potential treatment option is repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), which involves placing a magnetic coil on the skull to deliver a magnetic field to targeted areas of the brain. This treatment has varied results, but because it is non-invasive and has few side effects, it can be an option for people with OCD who are not finding relief from conventional methods.

When In-Patient Treatment Is Necessary

Participation in intensive in-patient treatment programs is reserved for only the most serious cases of OCD. Fortunately, these severe cases comprise the minority of OCD patients. Given the cost and commitment required, intensive in-patient programs are often viewed as a last resort when other treatments have failed.

In cases requiring hospitalization, the person is experiencing OCD symptoms ​severe enough to seriously impair their ability to function at work and at home. It is not uncommon for candidates for intensive OCD in-patient programs to have been unemployed for many years and to have serious impairments in their relationships with friends and family. In especially severe cases, the person may not have left their home for days, weeks, months (or longer).

Patients requiring in-patient treatment for severe symptoms may spend almost all day engaged in rituals or compulsions.

Hospitalization Options

Even in cases where patients need a higher level of treatment, there are options such as day programs, intensive outpatient programs, partial hospital programs, and residential programs. Full hospitalization is usually only implemented when patients cannot take care of themselves or they are dangerous to themselves or others.

While the vast majority of hospitalizations for OCD are voluntary, in cases where the person’s symptoms are so severe that they are a danger to themselves or others, they may be hospitalized involuntarily. Suicidal thoughts associated with depression caused by severe and unrelenting OCD symptoms might be a reason for hospitalization.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.


As a last resort, various psychosurgical treatments are available to treat patients with severe, treatment-resistant OCD. One procedure targets and burns away parts of the brain in the region known as the anterior cingulate cortex. Studies have shown that these surgical interventions can be effective for over half the people who have undergone treatment.

4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Pittenger C, Kelmendi B, Bloch M, Krystal J, Coric V. Clinical treatment of obsessive compulsive disorder. Psychiatry (Edgmont). 2005;2(11):34-43.

  2. Berlim MT, Neufeld NH, Van den eynde F. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): an exploratory meta-analysis of randomized and sham-controlled trials. J Psychiatr Res. 2013;47(8):999-1006. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2013.03.022

  3. Grøtte T, Hansen B, Haseth S, Vogel P, Guzey I, Solem S. Three-Week Inpatient Treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A 6-Month Follow-Up Study. Front Psychol. 2018;9:620. doi:10.3389%2Ffpsyg.2018.00620

  4. Albert U, De ronchi D, Maina G, Pompili M. Suicide Risk in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Exploration of Risk Factors: A Systematic Review. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2019;17(8):681-696. doi:10.2174%2F1570159X16666180620155941

Additional Reading

By Owen Kelly, PhD
Owen Kelly, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, professor, and author in Ontario, ON, who specializes in anxiety and mood disorders.