A call for prevention and early intervention in obsessive-compulsive disorder

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Evidence suggests that many people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have subclinical symptoms years before the development of their disorder and that early treatment may reduce its severity.


To explore prevention and early intervention strategies for OCD.


A narrative literature review was conducted.


The literature in relation to the prevention of OCD is sparse. Genetic and environmental factors appear to be relevant to the aetiology of OCD, for example, the observation that hoarding symptoms and contamination/cleaning symptoms are more likely to also be present in first-degree relatives. Psychoeducation and the reduction of family accommodation, that is the act of parents, siblings or partners accommodating to the high-risk individual's requests to comply with their compulsions, are promising areas for prevention and early intervention in high-risk groups. Tertiary prevention has also been limited by an inadequate number of trained clinicians to deliver evidence-based treatments.


Much more research is needed in relation to the prevention of OCD. There is limited scope for primary prevention with respect to biological aetiological factors, but there is potential for strategies addressing environmental factors (eg, family factors). The effectiveness of psychoeducation for parents with OCD as a primary prevention strategy for OCD in their children requires scientific evaluation. Improving access to effective treatments for OCD would also improve tertiary prevention.

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