University researchers recently completed a study on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that shows genetics may play a bigger role in the disorder than previously thought.
“(The research) has the potential to identify etiological factors in OCD. That may lead to improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of the disorder,” said Gregory Hanna, an OCD researcher and director of the Child and Psychiatry Division of the University Health System.
Research on OCD is important because doctors are not yet certain of a single cause although recent studies indicate that the disorder may be linked to previous strep infections or other types of infections.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is one of the most common mental illnesses in the world.
“There are epidemiological studies from several countries
indicating that lifetime prevalence is two to three percent,” Hanna said.
He added that those figures make OCD more common than schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or panic disorder. The risk for developing OCD increases primarily in females during early adulthood, while males are at greater risk for developing the disorder during childhood and adolescence, he added.
“It is a pattern of intrusive thoughts that seem obsessive and obtrusive,” said Jim Etzkorn, the clinical director of the University”s Counseling and Psychological Services.
“It”s very unpleasant and anxiety-producing. People try to lower their anxiety by engaging in compulsive repetitive behaviors, for example, constantly checking to see that the stove is off or turning a doorknob X number of times.”
University Health Services interim Director Robert Winfield said that in straightforward cases of OCD, UHS might make the diagnosis.
“We would get a psychiatrist involved typically from the Anxiety Disorders Program at the University of Michigan Health Systems,” Winfield said.
Both Winfield and Etzkorn said it is important for students to know that there are effective treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and medications.
Hanna said that most adults with OCD wait about seven years before seeking treatment.
“Some wait until a cormorbid depression motivates them to seek help,” he said.
Students who are concerned that they may be exhibiting signs of OCD are encouraged to be seen at CAPS or the University Health Service for a discussion about whether the behaviors that are worrying them appear to be typical of OCD.
For further research, Hanna is also recruiting families in which two or more individuals have a history of OCD. Prospective participants can reach him at 764-7174.