Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – OCD and Obsessionality


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) affects approximately 2% of the population, or about 1/50 people world-wide.  OCD is classified as an anxiety disorder, and consists of persistent, recurrent, and distressing thoughts, images, impulses, or fears that are experienced as inappropriate and intrusive, or obsessions, and repetitive or ritualized behaviors or mental acts that an individual feels compelled to perform in order to reduce anxiety or distress or to prevent some dreaded event from happening, or compulsions.  Ongoing research has shown that OCD has a strong genetic basis, and also suggests that culture and environment may play a role in the development and expression of OCD.  Our group has been involved in genetic studies of OCD in the US and Costa Rica since 2002.  We study large families (pedigrees) where multiple family members have OCD or some obsessive symptoms, small families (nuclear trios) consisting of a person with OCD and his/her parents (whether or not they have OCD), and individuals with obsessional traits but not necessarily OCD.  These studies have been conducted primarily in collaboration with scientists from Costa Rica and the University of California, San Diego. We are conducting genome-wide searches for susceptibility genes for OCD and obsessionality in large pedigrees, as well as candidate gene studies in individuals and nuclear trios.  We are also conducting studies examining the role of environmental factors such as prenatal factors, and the role of culture, on the expression of obsessive symptoms.

Principal Investigators

Carol A. Mathews, MD

Contact Info

Jody Williams - Contact Information

Research Programs


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