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A 2-Year Prospective Follow-Up Study of the Course of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

J Clin Psychiatry 2010;71(8):1033-1039
10.4088/JCP.08m04806blu

Background: Surprisingly little is known about the long-term course of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). This prospective study presents 2-year course findings, as well as predictors of course, from the Brown Longitudinal Obsessive Compulsive Study, the first comprehensive prospective investigation of the observational course of OCD in a large clinical sample.

Method: The sample included 214 treatment-seeking adults with DSM-IV OCD at intake who identified OCD as the most problematic disorder over their lifetime. Subjects were enrolled from 2001–2004. At annual interviews, data on weekly OCD symptom status were obtained using the Longitudinal Interval Follow-Up Evaluation. Probabilities of full remission and partial remission over the first 2 years of collected data and potential predictors of remission were examined.

Results: The probability of full remission from OCD was 0.06, and the probability of partial remission was 0.24. Of the 48 subjects whose OCD symptoms partially or fully remitted, only 1 relapsed within the first 2 years. Earlier age at onset of OCD, greater severity of symptoms at intake, older age at intake, and being male were associated with a decreased likelihood of remission. Insight, diagnostic comorbidity, and treatment were not found to be associated with the likelihood of achieving full or partial remission.

Conclusions: Though one-quarter of the sample had periods of subclinical OCD symptoms during the prospective period, full remission was rare, consistent with the view of OCD as a chronic and persistent illness. Age at onset, OCD symptom severity, current age, and sex emerged as potent predictors of course.

J Clin Psychiatry 2010;71(8):1033–1039

Submitted: October 19, 2008; accepted July 10, 2009 (doi:10.4088/JCP.08m04806blu).

Corresponding author: Jane L. Eisen, MD, Butler Hospital, 345 Blackstone Blvd, Providence, RI 02906 (Jane_Eisen@brown.edu).