Predicting Course of Illness in Patients With Severe Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Objective: Few data are available to inform clinical expectations about course and prognosis of severe obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Such information is necessary to guide clinicians and to inform criteria for invasive interventions for severe and intractable OCD. This study sought to examine course and prospective predictors of a chronic course in patients with severe OCD over 5 years.

Method: A selected subset of adults in the Brown Longitudinal Obsessive-Compulsive Study (BLOCS) was included. Adult BLOCS participants were enrolled between 2001 and 2006. All participants in the current study (N = 113) had DSM-IV OCD diagnosis, severe OCD symptoms at baseline, and at least 1 year of follow-up data.

Results: Cox proportional hazard models were used to examine the general pattern of course in the severe OCD sample based on Longitudinal Interval Follow-Up Evaluation (LIFE) psychiatric status ratings, as well as test predictors of chronically severe course. Results indicated that approximately half of patients with severe OCD at baseline had illness drop to a moderate or lower range of severity during 5 years of follow-up (50.4%) and that marked improvement was rare after 3 years of severe illness. The only unique predictor of a more chronically severe course was patient report of ever having been housebound for a week or more due to OCD symptoms (P < .05).

Conclusions: Findings of this study were 3-fold: (1) half of participants with severe OCD have symptom improvement over 5 years of follow-up, (2) the majority of participants that drop out of the severe range of symptom severity do so within the first 3 years of follow-up, and (3) patient-reported history of being housebound for 1 week or more due to OCD is a significant predictor of OCD’s remaining severe over the 5-year follow-up.

J Clin Psychiatry 2015;76(12):e1605–e1610

https://doi.org/10.4088/JCP.14m09468