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Original Research

Severe Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder With and Without Comorbid Hair Pulling: Comparisons and Clinical Implications

S. Evelyn Stewart, MD; Michael A. Jenike, MD; and Nancy J. Keuthen, PhD

Published: July 15, 2005

Article Abstract

Objective: Chronic hair pulling and trichotillomania are putative obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders. This study determined the prevalence of hair pulling in an inpatient obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) population and compared clinical characteristics and treatment response between subgroups with and without comorbid hair pulling.

Method: Patients with severe DSM-IV-diagnosed OCD (N = 154) who were consecutively admitted to an OCD residential treatment facility between August 2000 and July 2003 were included. Clinician-rated (Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale) and patient-rated (Massachusetts General Hospital Hairpulling Scale, Beck Depression Inventory, and Posttraumatic Diagnostic Scale) measures were administered at index evaluation. OCD patients with and without moderate to severe hair pulling were statistically compared on clinical and treatment characteristics and treatment response.

Results: Of the OCD subjects, 18.8% (N = 29) endorsed any hair pulling, 15.6% (N = 24) had moderate to severe hair pulling, and 7.8% (N = 12) had severe hair pulling comparable to that of a specialty trichotillomania clinic population. OCD patients with moderate to severe hair pulling were more likely to be women (p 1 comorbid tic (p < .05), and have earlier-onset OCD (p = .001). This cohort also had fewer contamination obsessions (p = .04) and checking compulsions (p = .04) and was more likely to be receiving stimulant (p = .006) or venlafaxine (p = .02) medication than those patients without hair pulling. Posttraumatic Diagnostic Scale scores were nearly significantly higher in the OCD + hair pulling group (p = .08). OCD treatment response was unaffected by the presence of comorbid hair pulling.

Conclusion: Hair pulling is a highly common comorbidity in severe OCD. Women and early-onset OCD patients appear to be more vulnerable to comorbid hair pulling. OCD sufferers with comorbid hair pulling also exhibit an increased risk for tics and may present with different OCD symptomatology.

Volume: 66

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