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Suicidal Behavior in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Prakash Kamath, D.P.M., M.D.; Y. C. Janardhan Reddy, D.P.M., M.D.; and Thennarasu Kandavel, Ph.D.

Objective: There are limited data on suicidal behavior in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). This study examines suicidal behavior and its clinical correlates in OCD subjects.

Method: One hundred consecutive DSM-IV OCD subjects attending the specialty OCD clinic and the inpatient services of a major psychiatric hospital in India from November 1, 2003, to October 31, 2004, formed the sample of this study. Subjects were assessed systematically by using structured interviews and various rating scales. The Scale for Suicide Ideation-worst ever (lifetime) and -current measured suicidal ideation. The 24-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D) measured severity of depression, and the Beck Hopelessness Scale (BHS) measured hopelessness. We performed assessments at study entry. We employed binary logistic regression (Wald) forward stepwise analysis for prediction of suicidal ideation and suicide attempt, and we used structural equation modeling for identifying the potential factors contributing to suicidal ideation.

Results: The rates of suicidal ideation, worst ever and current, were 59% and 28%, respectively. History of suicide attempt was reported in 27% of the subjects. For past suicide attempt, worst ever suicidal ideation (p < .001) was the only significant predictor, with an overall prediction of 89%, and accounted for 60% of the variance. For worst ever suicidal ideation, major depression (p = .043), HAM-D score (p = .013), BHS score (p = .011), and history of attempt (p = .009) were significant predictors, with an overall prediction of 82% and variance of 56%. Somewhat similar predictors emerged as significant for current suicidal ideators, with an overall prediction of 85% and variance of 50%. In the structural equation model, too, presence of depression and high BHS score contributed to suicidal ideation.

Conclusions: OCD is associated with a high risk for suicidal behavior. Depression and hopelessness are the major correlates of suicidal behavior. It is vital that patients with OCD undergo detailed assessment for suicide risk and associated depression. Aggressive treatment of depression may be warranted to modify the risk for suicide. Future studies should examine suicidal behavior in a prospective design in larger samples to examine if severity of OCD and treatment nonresponse contribute to suicide risk.

(J Clin Psychiatry 2007;68:1741-1750)

Received May 4, 2006; accepted Feb. 28, 2007. From the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore, India.

The authors report no financial affiliation or other relationship relevant to the subject of this article.

Corresponding author and reprints: Y. C. Janardhan Reddy, D.P.M., Department of Psychiatry, OCD Clinic, NIMHANS, Bangalore 560029, India (e-mail:;