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Risk Factors for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing OCD. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.

Risk factors may include:

Age

OCD tends to develop in late adolescence or early adulthood. However, it can begin as early as preschool age and as late as age 40.

Genetic Factors

Research suggests that genes may play a role in the development of OCD in some cases. The condition tends to run in families. A person who has OCD has a 25% chance of having a blood relative who has it.

One study found that children have inherited OCD symptoms in 45%-60% of cases, while adults have inherited symptoms in 27%-47% of cases.

Presence of Other Mental or Neurologic Conditions

OCD often occurs in people who have other anxiety disorders , depression , Tourette syndrome , attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) , substance abuse , eating disorders , and certain personality disorders.

PANDAS, which refers to Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders associated with Streptococcal Infections, is a term that refers to a group of children who have OCD and/or a tic disorder, which gets worse or is related to strep throat . Researchers are studying what causes this, for example, antibodies in the body may interact with the brain.

Stress

OCD symptoms often occur during stress from major life changes, such as loss of a loved one, divorce, relationship difficulties, problems in school, or abuse.

Pregnancy and Postpartum

OCD symptoms may worsen during and immediately after pregnancy. In this case, fluctuating hormones can trigger symptoms. Postpartum OCD is characterized by disturbing thoughts and compulsions regarding the baby’s well-being.

Revision Information

  • About OCD. Obsessive-Compulsive Foundation website. Available at: http://www.ocfoundation.org/whatisocd.aspx . Accessed September 8, 2008.

  • Carson RC. Abnormal Psychology and Modern Life . 11th ed. Allyn and Bacon; 2000.

  • Moretti G, Pasquini M, Mandarelli G, et al. What every psychiatrist should know about PANDAS: a review. Clin Pract Epidemol Ment Health . 2008 May 21;4:13.

  • van Groothest DS, Cath DC, Beekman AT, Boomsma DI. Twin studies on OCD: A review. Twin Res Hum Genet . 2005;8:450-458.