Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

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Abstract

PURPOSE OF REVIEW

This article reviews current knowledge regarding diagnosis, pathophysiology, and treatment trends in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a severe, underrecognized, and chronic condition frequently encountered in neurologic practice.

RECENT FINDINGS

With a lifetime prevalence estimated at 2.5%, OCD is a common condition that can also present comorbidly with neurologic disease. The core symptoms of OCD are obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are intrusive repetitive thoughts, urges, images, or impulses that trigger anxiety and that the individual is not able to suppress. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts occurring in response to an obsession with the intention of reducing the distress caused by obsessions. Neuroimaging, neuropsychological, and pharmacologic studies suggest that the expression of OCD symptoms is associated with dysfunction in a cortico-striato-thalamo-cortical circuit. Evidence-based treatments for OCD comprise pharmacotherapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the first-line drugs recommended for OCD, but significant differences exist in their use for OCD compared to their use for other mood and anxiety conditions, including the need for higher dosage, longer trials necessitated by a longer lag for therapeutic response, and typically lower response rates. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, based on the principles of exposure and response prevention, shows results superior to pharmacologic treatments with lower relapse rates on long-term follow-up and thus should be considered in the treatment plan of every patient with OCD.

SUMMARY

OCD and obsessive-compulsive symptoms are frequently encountered in the neurologic clinic setting and require a high index of suspicion to effectively screen for them and an illness-specific therapeutic approach.

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