The British Journal of Psychiatry

Abstract

Background

Obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) often starts in childhood and adolescence and can be a chronic disorder with high persistence rates. There are few prospective long-term follow-up studies.

Aims

To follow up young people with OCD to clarify persistence rates and relevant predictors, presence of other psychiatric disorders, functional impairment, service utilisation and perceived treatment needs.

Method

All young people with OCD assessed over 9 years at the National and Specialist Paediatric OCD clinic, Maudsley Hospital, London, were included. Sixty-one per cent (142 of 222) of all contactable young people and parents completed computerised diagnostic interviews and questionnaires.

Results

We found a persistence rate of OCD of 41%; 40% of participants had a psychiatric diagnosis other than OCD at follow-up. The main predictor for persistent OCD was duration of illness at assessment. High levels of baseline psychopathology predicted other psychiatric disorders at follow-up. Functional impairment and quality of life were mildly to moderately affected. Approximately 50% of participants were still receiving treatment and about 50% felt a need for further treatment.

Conclusions

This study confirms that paediatric OCD can be a chronic condition that persists into adulthood. Early recognition and treatment might prevent chronicity. Important challenges for services are ensuring adequate treatment and a smooth transition from child to adult services.

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