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Omega-3 and OCD: Exploring the Potential Connection

Omega-3 is a fatty acid, which means it is fat-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins do not dissolve in water, which means it is best to consume them with foods that contain fat. If omega-3 is not consumed with “fatty foods,” the nutrients become “unavailable” for the body to use.

Omega-3 is primarily found in fish oil, cod liver oil, vegetarian or marine algae, and certain foods. Studies suggest that people who consume large amounts of omega-3 foods, like fish, are less likely to become depressed or anxious. As a result, researchers have begun to explore the benefits of omega-3 in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders.

Over the past decade or so, alternative or holistic treatments have become the go-to treatment for a wide range of ailments, including anxiety, stress, depression, arthritis, inflammation, eye issues, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), cognitive decline, autoimmune diseases, menstrual pain, asthma, cancer, and neurological conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Because there is some evidence (although most of this evidence is anecdotal) that omega-3 can reduce stress and anxiety, people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are now wondering if omega-3 could be a natural remedy for their OCD symptoms.

If you are wondering if omega-3 could help your OCD symptoms, you have come to the right place. In this article, we will explore the potential connection between omega-3 and OCD, and help you decide if this natural remedy may work for you!


What is OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder, also known simply as “OCD,” is a chronic but common mental health condition that involves stress, anxiety, obsessions, and/or compulsions. Obsessions are uncontrollable, persistent, and upsetting or intrusive thoughts, urges, fears, visions, and emotions, while compulsions are repetitive and compulsive behaviors like routines and rituals. 

While many people think there is only one type of OCD, this belief is inaccurate, because there are many different types of this condition, ranging from music OCD and social media OCD to hoarding OCD and contamination OCD (two of the most common types of OCD). 

An OCD obsession could be an extreme fear of becoming deathly ill if you leave your home, or an extreme fear of your home being burglarized if you forget to lock the doors or ensure that all of the windows are shut. A compulsion could be an overwhelming need to repeatedly and excessively sanitize your home or it could involve refusing to leave your home under any circumstances, or it could be checking your windows and doors to ensure they are shut and locked a specific number of times. 

The goal of compulsions is to reduce the stress and anxiety causing the obsession and/or compulsion. The problem is this relief is usually only temporary with OCD waiting until you are exposed to another trigger to re-emerge. Also, contrary to popular belief, some people only experience obsessions, others only compulsions, but most, both obsessions and compulsions. 

There are several possible causes of OCD, such as genes (hereditary), environmental factors, such as trauma, abuse, neglect, toxins, etc.), and/or biological factors, such as brain chemistry and structure irregularities or changes. Regardless of the possible causes, there are a myriad of OCD treatments (traditional and non-traditional) that can help you get your OCD symptoms under control.

How is OCD Normally Treated?

As mentioned above, there is a wealth of OCD treatments on the market. This condition is normally treated with psychotherapy, medication (when psychotherapy alone is ineffective), and natural remedies like mindfulness meditation, vitamin supplements, crystal therapy, hypnosis, homeopathy, music therapy, exercise, a healthy diet, healthy coping skills and strategies, an OCD support group, and an OCD recovery treatment program like Impulse Therapy.

The first-line treatment approach is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or exposure-response and prevention therapy (ERP) therapy. Sometimes, medication, like SSRI antidepressants, is added to the treatment plan. This usually occurs when CBT or ERP therapy is not yielding the desired results. Ultimately, the goal is to provide you with the OCD help you need to live a full and productive life.

What is Omega-3?

Studies indicate that our brains contain omega-3. It is important to understand that our bodies are mostly made up of fat. In other words, every cell in our bodies is, at least partially, derived from saturated fats. Many of our nerves are protected by an insulating coating of fat called myelin sheathing. 

Omega-3 fatty acids support this cholesterol-based coating. Omega-3 has also been linked to reduced inflammation and healing with saturated fats playing a significant role in your energy level. While studies on the connection between omega-3 and OCD are limited, there is no doubt that fatty acids are essential for good mental health. 

Still, researchers suggest that foods rich in omega-3 can ease anxiety in some people. Remember, however, that our bodies do not naturally produce omega-3, so it must be added to our diets through foods that contain omega-3 or omega-3 supplements. 

Note: If you are not fond of fatty, cold-water fish (i.e. salmon, halibut, sardines, mackerel, or tuna), or if you are allergic to or not keen on eggs, you can consume other omega-3 rich foods like sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, chia seeds, canola oil, broccoli, spinach, Brussel sprouts, and/or walnuts. Walnuts and seeds are especially good for OCD sufferers because they also contain zinc and iron, minerals that can ease mental confusion and emotional distress.

Is Omega-3 Safe For OCD?

Omega-3 is considered fairly safe and is easily tolerated by most people. When side effects present they are usually in the form of an upset stomach, diarrhea, and a “fishy” aftertaste. In the past, omega-3 was linked to an increased risk of bleeding, however, this theory has been debunked in recent years. 

Although the bleeding theory has been “unlinked” to omega-3, it is still 3 wise to stop taking it or avoid it, if you are taking blood thinners, or plan to have surgery in the next few weeks. 

As mentioned previously, omega-3 is believed to aid in brain development, so pregnant women may benefit from consuming foods with omega-3. Many pregnant women experience a dip in their omega-3 levels during pregnancy, so consuming foods rich in omega-3 may help their unborn babies’ brains develop. 

Although fish consumption is FDA-approved for pregnant women, there is not enough data on omega-3 supplements and pregnant women to determine its long-term effects. Therefore, omega-3 supplements should be avoided during pregnancy unless otherwise directed by your doctor.

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Are There Different Types of Omega-3?

Yes, there are three types of omega-3.

The three omega-3 fatty acids are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) , docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). While ALA is the most common type of omega-3 found in your diet, EPA and DHA are believed to be the most beneficial for those who struggle with depression or anxiety.

Can Omega-3 Reduce OCD Symptoms?

According to a JAMA Network Open review, omega-3 supplements may help ease stress and anxiety symptoms in people diagnosed with a wide range of physical and mental health problems. Researchers also found that people who take extremely high doses of omega-3 (i.e., 1, 000-2,000 mg a day) experience the highest reduction in anxiety. 

Studies also suggest that low levels of omega-3 in the brain can trigger a variety of mental and behavioral health conditions. Still, there is not enough evidence to suggest taking high doses of omega-3 for severe anxiety. Additional studies on omega-3 are needed to definitively determine if omega-3 is beneficial long-term for anxiety conditions. 

The consensus, however, is that DHA, ALA, and EPA are important for brain health, rational thinking, and balanced moods. According to some researchers, taking omega-3 capsules or consuming flaxseed oil (rich in all 3 types of omega-3) may help reduce OCD symptoms indefinitely, however, the jury is still out as to if this theory is true.

While OCD sufferers may still experience obsessive thoughts and compulsions while taking omega-3 supplements or consuming food rich in omega-3, the severity of these OCD symptoms may decline, leading to a calmer mood and mind. These individuals may also become less consumed by their obsessions and/or compulsions. 

Additionally, omega-3 may improve acne and skin health, and aid in digestion (i.e., reducing bloating and supporting healthy bowel movements) in people with OCD. People who take omega-3 report sleeping better, feeling happier and experiencing fewer PMS symptoms (.i.e., menstrual cramping, breast tenderness, and tearfulness).

How Much Omega-3 Should I Take for OCD?

The optimal dosage for omega-3 for OCD has not been established. 

While studies on omega-3 in connection to OCD are limited, some OCD sufferers have reported an improvement in their OCD symptoms while taking a 1g to 3g omega-3 supplement daily. Some parents who have a child with OCD have reported a decline in the frequency and severity of their child’s OCD symptoms while consuming foods rich in omega-3. Still, there is not enough evidence to recommend a specific dosage for omega-3 when it’s for OCD.

Is Omega 3 Effective For OCD?


Although omega-3 fatty acids have been extensively studied, in general, for their health-related benefits, and their effects on mental health conditions, like OCD, the results have been mixed. Some researchers suggest that there are no real benefits from taking omega-3 for OCD, while others suggest that it may be a viable alternative treatment for OCD, but stress the need for more studies. So, at this time, the potential connection between omega-3 and OCD is cloudy at best.

What Do The People Say?

The best way to determine if omega-3 could be beneficial for you is to hear from others who are using or have used omega-3 in the past for their OCD symptoms. 

  • “I’m not a health professional but I started taking high DHA omega-3 four months ago and my OCD has decreased substantially, by about 75%, some days 100%. I also take vitamin D supplements too. I read that people with mood disorders may benefit from omega-3. I am one of those people. I’ve read that up to 50% of people in North America are deficient in omega-3 and vitamin D.”
  • “For anyone thinking of buying omega 3 fish oil, from my experience, I don’t think it made a lot of difference to my depression and OCD, but the omega 3 caps derived from flaxseed oil did. For instance, I ran out of the flaxseed oil caps yesterday and didn’t have any today. Well, I ended up feeling terrible. Why there is a difference between fish oil and flaxseed omega 3, I don’t know! But I feel that there is. Maybe, it’s because the caps I’m taking are omega 3/6/9 and not just omega 3. So, it’s worth trying both, perhaps to see which one works for you”.
  • “Omega-3 helped me with OCD and made me less anxious, while SSRIs nearly destroyed my anger and made me a calm person. I noticed this when I first started to use SRRIs. I didn’t see a change in my OCD for 3 but eventually, with SSRIs, I became extremely calm. I bought a pack of omega-3 pills and noticed (after about a week) that I was able to ignore my obsessions and refrain from engaging in compulsions to rid myself of my obsessions.”
  • “I’ve been taking omega 3 because I’m pregnant and I don’t think it’s helped my OCD at all, but I suppose it might be worse if I wasn’t taking it – a frightening thought! The one I have is made from purified fish oil and is a 750mg capsule though it’s got omega 6 in it too from primrose oil. I haven’t noticed any side effects from it and you can have up to 3 capsules a day – I usually have 2. The EPA is 42 mg.”


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  • Su, K. P., Tseng, P. T., Lin, P. Y., Okubo, R., Chen, T. Y., Chen, Y. W., & Matsuoka, Y. J. (2018). Association of use of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids with changes in the severity of anxiety symptoms: A systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Network Open, 1(5), e182327. Retrieved from
  • Grosso, G., Galvano, F., Marventano, S., Malaguarnera, M., Bucolo, C., Drago, F., & Caraci, F. (2014). Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Depression: Scientific Evidence and Biological Mechanisms. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2014.
  • Polokowski, A. R., Shakil, H., Carmichael, C. L., & Reigada, L. C. (2020). Omega-3 fatty acids and anxiety: A systematic review of the possible mechanisms at play. Nutritional Neuroscience, 23(7), 494–504.

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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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