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Am J Psychiatry. 2009 Mar;166(3):329-36. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2008.08071006. Epub 2009 Feb 2.

Obsessions and compulsions in the community: prevalence, interference, help-seeking, developmental stability, and co-occurring psychiatric conditions.

Author information

  • 1King's College London, Institute of Psychiatry, UK. Miguel.Fullana@iop.kcl.ac.uk

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

It is unclear how many people in the community have obsessions and compulsions and associated levels of interference. It is also unknown what variables predict help-seeking for these symptoms, whether they are developmentally stable, and whether they increase the risk of mental disorders.

METHOD:

The authors analyzed data from the prospective longitudinal Dunedin study of an unselected birth cohort. The presence of obsessions and compulsions and mental disorders was assessed using the Diagnostic Interview Schedule (DIS) at ages 11, 26, and 32. Data on interference and help-seeking were obtained at ages 26 and 32.

RESULTS:

Obsessions and compulsions were frequent in individuals with mental disorders other than obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and among people without mental disorders. Even in the latter group, these symptoms caused significant interference. The presence of anxiety/depression and of obsessions (particularly aggressive and shameful thoughts), but not compulsions, was associated with help-seeking. Harm/checking was the most prevalent symptom dimension. Symptom dimensions were temporally stable and associated with increased comorbidity. Obsessive-compulsive symptoms at age 11 predicted a high risk of an adult OCD diagnosis as well as elevated adult symptom dimensions.

CONCLUSIONS:

Obsessions and compulsions are common in the adult population, have their roots in childhood, and are associated with interference, risk for disorders, and help-seeking. Subclinical obsessions and compulsions should be taken into account in research, intervention, and DSM-V.

Comment in

PMID:
19188283
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3818089
Free PMC Article

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