Frequently Asked Questions About OCD

Are there higher occurrences of other mental disorders among individuals with OCD?

Some disorders do appear to be occur more often among people with OCD. For example, depression and other anxiety disorders (such as generalized anxiety disorder and agoraphobia) occur more frequently in those with OCD. However, some disorders (such as alcoholism, drug abuse, and schizophrenia) do not occur more frequently in those with OCD. In our studies, anorexia nervosa was not associated with OCD, but other studies have shown higher rates of this eating disorder among people with OCD.

Have there been any recent developments in drug treatments for OCD or related disorders?

There are several medications under study that may have beneficial effects in OCD. These include Riluzole, opiates, caffeine, amphetamine-like medications, among others.

Are ADHD-like symptoms in youth a separate disorder from OCD?

In a recent study, researchers concluded that symptoms of ADHD may be considered a separate disorder in adolescents with OCD. Therefore, if your adolescent has OCD as well as ADHD symptoms, speak to your doctor about potentially treating both conditions separately. (Journal of American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 2002, 41.)

Is pregnancy or childbirth related to the onset of OCD symptoms?

Several research studies have investigated whether stressful life events trigger the onset of OCD. Results have suggested that pregnancy and the period after delivery is associated with an increased risk of developing OCD in some women. "Postpartum OCD" may often remain undiagnosed and untreated; therefore awareness of this vulnerable time period is important for relieving the suffering of these individuals. Typically, symptoms developing at the time of pregnancy and/or delivery consist of obsessive, intrusive thoughts concerning fears of harming the newborn, and may also include compulsions. Fortunately, preliminary research has shown that medications and cognitive-behavioral therapy are effective treatments for these symptoms that arise at postpartum (Archives of Women's Mental Health, April 2004; Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 2003, 17; Epidemiologia e Psichiatria Sociale, Apr-Jun 2001; Psychiatry Research, Dec 1999). Interestingly, one study described some men who developed obsessions and compulsions while their spouses were pregnant or delivered. Each of these men responded well to cognitive-behavioral therapy using exposure procedures (Psychosomatics, Sept-Oct, 2001).

Is there any information about OCD and PANDAS?

Researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health have been studying pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections, which are referred to as PANDAS. Children with PANDAS experience a worsening of OCD symptoms and/or tic disorders following streptococcal infections. In this study, 23 children with PANDAS were enrolled into a double blind, randomized controlled trial. Prophylaxis penicillin or azithromycin was administered for 12 months and results were compared with the child's previous year of infections and symptoms. Streptococcal infections were significantly reduced, as were neuropsychiatric symptoms, during the 12 months of taking these medications. (Biological Psychiatry, 2005).

What areas of brain imagining are researchers studying?

There is a lot of interest in better understanding the differences between people who develop early and late-onset of OCD. Researchers have provided evidence of neuropsychological differences between these two groups, and further noticed differences in brain activity related to the age of onset. Both, positron emission tomography (PET) and functional MRI (fMRI) will be helpful in understanding the relationship between cognitive functioning and brain activity in early and late onset of OCD (J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci, 2005)

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