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The epidemiology of obsessive-compulsive disorder in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication

Abstract

Despite significant advances in the study of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), important questions remain about the disorder's public health significance, appropriate diagnostic classification, and clinical heterogeneity. These issues were explored using data from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, a nationally representative survey of US adults. A subsample of 2073 respondents was assessed for lifetime Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edn (DSM-IV) OCD. More than one quarter of respondents reported experiencing obsessions or compulsions at some time in their lives. While conditional probability of OCD was strongly associated with the number of obsessions and compulsions reported, only small proportions of respondents met full DSM-IV criteria for lifetime (2.3%) or 12-month (1.2%) OCD. OCD is associated with substantial comorbidity, not only with anxiety and mood disorders but also with impulse-control and substance use disorders. Severity of OCD, assessed by an adapted version of the Yale–Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale, is associated with poor insight, high comorbidity, high role impairment, and high probability of seeking treatment. The high prevalence of subthreshold OCD symptoms may help explain past inconsistencies in prevalence estimates across surveys and suggests that the public health burden of OCD may be greater than its low prevalence implies. Evidence of a preponderance of early onset cases in men, high comorbidity with a wide range of disorders, and reliable associations between disorder severity and key outcomes may have implications for how OCD is classified in DSM-V.

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Acknowledgements

Preparation of this article was supported by National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Career Development Award K01-MH076162 to AM Ruscio. DJ Stein is supported by the Medical Research Council of South Africa. The National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R) is supported by NIMH (U01-MH60220) with supplemental support from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF; Grant 044780), and the John W Alden Trust. Collaborating NCS-R investigators include Ronald C Kessler (Principal Investigator, Harvard Medical School), Kathleen Merikangas (Co-Principal Investigator, NIMH), James Anthony (Michigan State University), William Eaton (The Johns Hopkins University), Meyer Glantz (NIDA), Doreen Koretz (Harvard University), Jane McLeod (Indiana University), Mark Olfson (New York State Psychiatric Institute, College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University), Harold Pincus (University of Pittsburgh), Greg Simon (Group Health Cooperative), Michael Von Korff (Group Health Cooperative), Philip Wang (Harvard Medical School), Kenneth Wells (UCLA), Elaine Wethington (Cornell University) and Hans-Ulrich Wittchen (Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry; Technical University of Dresden). The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the authors and should not be construed to represent the views of any of the sponsoring organizations, agencies or US Government. A complete list of NCS publications and the full text of all NCS-R instruments can be found at http://www.hcp.med.harvard.edu/ncs. Send correspondence to ncs@hcp.med.harvard.edu.

The NCS-R is carried out in conjunction with the World Health Organization World Mental Health (WMH) Survey Initiative. We thank the staff of the WMH Data Collection and Data Analysis Coordination Centers for assistance with instrumentation, fieldwork and consultation on data analysis. These activities were supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (R01 MH070884), the John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation, the Pfizer Foundation, the US Public Health Service (R13-MH066849, R01-MH069864 and R01 DA016558), the Fogarty International Center (FIRCA R03-TW006481), the Pan American Health Organization, Eli Lilly and Company, Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical Inc., Glaxo SmithKline and Bristol-Myers Squibb. A complete list of WMH publications can be found at http://www.hcp.med.harvard.edu/wmh/.

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Ruscio, A., Stein, D., Chiu, W. et al. The epidemiology of obsessive-compulsive disorder in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Mol Psychiatry 15, 53–63 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1038/mp.2008.94

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/mp.2008.94

Keywords

  • epidemiology
  • obsessive behavior
  • compulsive behavior
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • National Comorbidity Survey Replication

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