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Niacin and OCD: Can It Make a Difference?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder also known as OCD, is a type of anxiety disorder linked to low serotonin levels in the brain. According to researchers, certain vitamins can balance serotonin, leading to a reduction in the frequency and severity of OCD symptoms. OCD is characterized as having intrusive or upsetting thoughts, worries, visions, urges, emotions, or fears (obsessions) that stem from stress and anxiety. 

Many OCD sufferers who experience obsessions also experience compulsions or repetitive rituals or routines. However, some only experience one or the other – obsessions or compulsions. The goal of compulsions is to ease the anxiety and stress precipitating and causing the OCD symptoms. Adopting a healthy diet and ensuring that you are consuming the right type of vitamins can make living with OCD more bearable. 

One of the vitamins that have gained in popularity over the years as people have increasingly turned to self-help, holistic, or natural remedies to treat their ailments is niacin – or vitamin B3. Studies suggest that niacin may offer a wide range of health benefits when it comes to OCD. If you are wondering if niacin may reduce or alleviate your OCD symptoms, keep reading! In this article, we will delve into what niacin is and how it may help OCD sufferers, like you, reduce their symptoms, and have happier and more productive lives.


What is OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common mental health condition that involves non-stop, involuntary, and repetitive obsessions and compulsions. Contrary to popular belief there are many different “types” of OCD, ranging from music and social media OCD to contamination and hoarding OCD. OCD can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, religion, educational background, or economic status. It does not discriminate and it is a real condition, although it is often misunderstood, mislabeled, or the butt of a joke.

Treatment for OCD typically begins with psychotherapy, particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure-response prevention (ERP) therapy. However, when this treatment is ineffective, medications are often introduced. The most common medication used to treat OCD is antidepressants, although antipsychotics are also sometimes prescribed for people struggling with OCD.

What is Niacin?

Your body produces niacin (vitamin B3), a water-soluble vitamin, and uses it to convert your food into energy. It also promotes skin, and nervous and digestive system health and well-being. Niacin is a popular B vitamin often included in multivitamins. Although this B vitamin is included most people consume the right amount of niacin from their diets. Because niacin is water-soluble, excess amounts of the vitamin are flushed out in your urine and sweat making it hard to overdose on.

Foods rich in niacin include avocado, chicken, meat, Peanuts, yeast, milk, tortillas, bell peppers, kidney beans, and cereals. The recommended daily amount of niacin for men is 16 mg, and for non-pregnant women is 14 mg. Niacin is generally considered safe, however, extremely high doses (2,000 to 6,000 mg a day) of this medicine can lead to side effects like severe skin flushing combined with dizziness, an accelerated heart rate, itchiness, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, gout, liver damage, diabetes, or diarrhea.

Can Niacin Ease OCD Symptoms?

In a world where many people turn to vitamins for a variety of ailments, it makes sense to wonder if niacin could or would make a difference with your OCD. Well, researchers have found that B vitamins are essential for boosting or balancing your serotonin level, which in turn, can reduce OCD symptoms.

How does it work? Well, niacin (vitamin B3) increases tryptophan, an amino acid. Tryptophan is needed to produce serotonin. Niacin makes a difference with OCD by calming your mood and reducing or eliminating your obsessive (intrusive) thoughts, visions, fears, worries, emotions, and urges. Studies also indicate that niacin may alleviate stress and anxiety, which are usually triggers and symptoms of OCD. Lower levels of stress and anxiety may mean fewer and less severe OCD symptoms.

Niacin triggers vasodilation which helps ease stress and anxiety. Vasodilation occurs when your blood vessels expand allowing more oxygen-rich blood to reach your vital organs like your brain and heart. Additionally, niacin is like an antidote to adrenaline, which is often over-produced in people who suffer from OCD.

Researchers also suggest that niacinamide, a form of niacin, may have anti-anxiety properties that mimic benzodiazepines. Understand that higher doses (up to 3,000 mg) may be needed for niacin to produce anti-anxiety properties in your body. One caveat of using high doses of niacin for anxiety or OCD is the risk of “flushing” which involves redness, itchiness, and mild burning. “Flushing” occurs due to the widespread vasodilation of blood vessels beneath the skin. And, surprisingly, niacin-related “flushing” may actually increase your anxiety in some cases.

Keep in mind, however, that the evidence suggesting that niacin is an effective and reliable treatment for OCD or anxiety is weak. Some studies suggest that other amino acids, like N-acetylcysteine, may be more effective in treating OCD than niacin.

What Does The Research Say?

Well, not much.

Little to no research has been conducted on the effects of niacin on OCD – or niacin on anxiety, so more studies are needed to determine its long-term effects.

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What Do People With OCD Say About Niacin?

The best way to get an idea of whether or not niacin can make a difference with OCD is to hear from other people who have used it for their anxiety and OCD symptoms. 

  • “I got my d3 levels checked once and my doctor was amazed at how low it was. I’ve been taking niacin daily for the past couple of years and my mood and OCD have definitely improved. Not medical advice, just my experience.”
  • “I’ve tried many things but Niacin is the only thing that cures severe negative thought patterns, anxiety, brain fog, etc. The only problem is it only works for about 2 hours.”
  • Large doses of niacin help me to relax. Read that there was once a study that indicated it helped soldiers with PTSD. So I tried it for my OCD.”
  • “Niacinamide is decent for certain things. Depression more than anxiety or OCD. Two good supplements for anxiety are sustained released NAC and a flavonoid called apigenin. Some do well on magnolia bark extracts as well. Baicalin is also quite powerful. There’s a good product that has magnesium glycinate, lavender extract, and lemon balm that I like right now. Those have good research and efficacy, although it depends on your brain chemistry.

    Stacking NMN with flavonoids is powerful also, there’s one product called N-Stac that has a large dose of apigenin in it with NMN. Most apigenin supplements I’ve seen have a pretty small mg amount. But those are some of the better supplements for anxiety.”

Can Niacin Make a Difference with OCD?


There is limited evidence that niacin may help reduce OCD symptoms – in some people, but more research is needed to confirm this finding. Niacin works by restoring your serotonin levels and calming your mind and body. Serotonin is the “happy hormone” so it plays an important role in balancing your mood and behavior.

People with mental health conditions, like anxiety and OCD, tend to have low levels of serotonin. A serotonin deficiency (a low level of serotonin) can lead to non-stop and intrusive obsessions and compulsions. Some people believe that B vitamins, like niacin (vitamin B3), can reduce stress and anxiety, triggers and symptoms of niacin.

Niacin is considered fairly safe and an essential vitamin, so it probably would not hurt to supplement with this vitamin while adhering to your prescribed treatment plan and trying other self-help tools and natural remedies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, SSRI antidepressants, mindfulness meditation, other vitamins, crystal therapy, art therapy, CBD, homeopathy, probiotics, acupuncture, OCD support groups or forums, yoga, or Impulse Therapy, an online treatment recovery program.

If you are considering supplementing with niacin for your OCD, clear it with your doctor first. If your doctor reassures you that it will not interact with your current medications, proceed with your plans. The worst-case scenario is that it improves your overall health, which indirectly improves your OCD symptoms. Keep in mind, however, that the best way for your body to metabolize vitamins is through foods. With a healthy diet, sleep, regular exercise, support, healthy coping skills, and OCD help (i.e., therapy, medication, etc.), you should be on track to take back control of your life!


  • Prousky, Jonathan. (2004). Niacinamide’s potent role in alleviating anxiety with its benzodiazepine-like properties: A case report. Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, 19, 104-110.
  • Bloch, M. H., Panza, K. E., Grant, J. E., Pittenger, C., & Leckman, J. F. (2013). N-Acetylcysteine in the treatment of pediatric trichotillomania: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled add-on trial. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 52(3), 231–240. 
  • Young, L. M., Pipingas, A., White, D. J., Gauci, S., & Scholey, A. (2019). A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of B Vitamin Supplementation on Depressive Symptoms, Anxiety, and Stress: Effects on Healthy and ‘At-Risk’ Individuals. Nutrients, 11(9).
  • Calderón-Ospina, C. A., & Nava-Mesa, M. O. (2020). B Vitamins in the nervous system: Current knowledge of the biochemical modes of action and synergies of thiamine, pyridoxine, and cobalamin. CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics, 26(1), 5-13.
  • Gasperi, V., Sibilano, M., Savini, I., & Catani, M. V. (2019). Niacin in the Central Nervous System: An Update of Biological Aspects and Clinical Applications. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 20(4).
  • Kennedy, D. O. (2016). B Vitamins and the Brain: Mechanisms, Dose, and Efficacy—A Review. Nutrients, 8(2).

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DR. R. Y. Langham

Dr. R. Y. Langham has a B.A. in English, an M.M.F.T in Marriage and Family Therapy (Psychology), and a Ph.D. in Family Psychology. She is currently a medical, health & wellness contributor, copywriter, and psychological consultant

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