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OCD may be a precursor to schizophrenia


Symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) precede symptoms of schizophrenia in almost half of the patients hospitalized over an 11-year period with both disorders.

Men show symptoms earlier

OCD and psychotic symptoms occurred at the same time in about 24% of those patients. The first significant symptoms of OCD occurred at the mean age of 19.1 years. Psychotic symptoms happened at 20.4 years of age. The difference in age was more significant for men. Both disorders appear earlier in men than women.

OCD shows three years before schizophrenia

There was a considerable gap between the appearance of symptoms and the diagnosis of disease - mean of 30 years for diagnosis. Researchers decided to focus on a subset of patients with a first episode of schizophrenia at a mean age of 22 years in order to minimize recall bias. The found that clinically significant OCD symptoms emerged about three years earlier than the schizophrenia symptoms. This was especially true for men.

Independent conditions

The findings suggest that obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms are independent of psychosis and not a result of the psychosis. Still, antipsychotic drug treatment for unknown schizophrenia-related causes triggers secondary OCD symptoms in some patients with schizophrenia. This was known prior to this study.

Could be an indicator

Since OCD appears early in so many schizo-obsessive patients, OC might be useful to identify youths at high risk for progression to schizophrenia. The same could be inferred for bipolar disorder.

The study is the largest so far to analyze the onset of symptoms in patients with schizo-obsessive disorder. Dr. Sarit Faragian, PhD, and associates reported their findings in Psychiatry Research.

Source: Clinical Psychiatry News

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