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November 2016

Prenatal and Perinatal Risk Factors and the Promise of Birth Cohort Studies: Origins of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Author Affiliations
  • 1Child Study Center, Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut
  • 2Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut
JAMA Psychiatry. 2016;73(11):1117-1118. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.2092

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a developmental neuropsychiatric illness with onset typically occurring during adolescence or young adulthood. The disorder can cause substantial lifelong disability due to its severe and chronic course. As with most complex neuropsychiatric disorders, the causes and pathophysiologic mechanisms underlying OCD are not well understood. This lack of understanding limits our ability to discover new treatments and interventions that will alleviate the symptoms for the millions of people worldwide with this disorder. It is clear that there is a genetic contribution to OCD risk, with modern estimates of heritability in the range of 40% to 50%.1 Although less frequently studied, environmental risk factors (eg, infection and trauma) have also been suggested in OCD, although causal associations are less certain. There is great hope that continued study of genetic, epigenetic, and environmental susceptibility in OCD will provide needed insights into disease mechanisms and risk factors that can be leveraged for prevention and intervention.

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