Abstract

Role of stressful and traumatic life events in obsessive-compulsive disorder

Author(s): Leonardo F Fontenelle, Luca Cocchi, Ben J Harrison3, Euripedes C Miguel,Albina R Torres

Whilst genetic factors are thought to contribute to the development of obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), the role of environmental factors in OCD is only beginning to be understood. In this article, we review the influence of stress-related factors in OCD. Overall, studies indicate that: patients with OCD frequently report stressful and traumatic life events before illness onset, although these rates do not seem to be significantly different from those described in other disorders; the association between OCD and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) might result from symptom overlap, although cases of patients developing OCD after PTSD and showing obsessive–compulsive symptoms that were unrelated to trauma have been described fairly consistently; it is unclear whether patients with OCD and a history of stress-related factors (including stressful life events, traumatic life events or comorbid PTSD) may respond better or worse to the available treatments; and comorbid PTSD may modify the clinical expression of OCD – although controlled studies comparing pre- versus post-traumatic OCD patients are still unavailable. In conclusion, there is a growing evidence to suggest a role for stress-related factors in OCD. Although the available literature does not confirm the existence of a post-traumatic subtype of OCD, it does call for further systematic research into this topic.


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