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Sensory Phenomena in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Tourette's Disorder

J Clin Psychiatry 2000;61(2):150-156

Background: Recent studies have suggested that obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a heterogeneous disorder with some forms related to tics and Tourette's disorder. The present study was undertaken to investigate the sensory phenomena in patients with OCD and/or Tourette's disorder to determine if these phenotypic features represent valid clinical indices for differentiating tic-related OCD from non-tic-related OCD.

Method: We evaluated 20 adult outpatients with OCD, 20 with OCD plus Tourette's disorder, and 21 with Tourette's disorder, using a semistructured interview designed to assess several definitions of sensory phenomena reported in the literature. DSM-III-R criteria were used for the OCD and Tourette's disorder diagnoses.

Results: Sensory phenomena including bodily sensations, mental urges, and a sense of inner tension were significantly more frequent in the 2 Tourette's disorder groups when compared with the OCD alone group. Feelings of incompleteness and a need for things to be "just right" were reported more frequently in the OCD plus Tourette's disorder group compared with the other 2 groups.

Conclusion: Sensory phenomena may be an important phenotypic measure for grouping patients along the OCD-Tourette's disorder spectrum. Sensory phenomena include bodily and mental sensations. Bodily sensations include focal or generalized body sensations (usually tactile, muscular-skeletal/visceral, or both) occurring either before or during the patient's performance of the repetitive behaviors. These sensations are more frequently found in patients with OCD plus Tourette's disorder than in patients with OCD alone. Mental sensations include urge only, energy release (mental energy that builds up and needs to be discharged), incompleteness, and just-right perceptions. They are all more frequently found in patients with OCD plus Tourette's disorder than in patients with OCD alone.