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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Runs in Families

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This shows that, "early age of onset ... indicates there is a really strong genetic biologic component." Hudak, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School, reviewed the study for WebMD.

In the study, researchers selected patients with OCD in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., areas and compared them with people who did not have OCD. They then contacted family members and used various rating scales to determine if the study participants' relatives were affected, too.

The occurrence of OCD was almost five times higher among relatives of patients than among relatives of people who did not have OCD.

In addition, when the researchers looked at the age when symptoms occurred, they found that when the age of onset was 5 to 17 years, the occurrence of OCD in relatives was 13.8%, but it was 0% in patients whose symptoms began between ages 18 to 41.

"If we want to find a cause -- and we don?t have any clear cut causes for this condition -- we have to look somewhere," says Nestadt. "If we [can] show this is a familial condition, and hence derive the conclusion that it is a genetic condition, we [can] study genes and may find a gene or genes that may be causing this."

"The second thing is that families who suffer from this condition want to know if their children are going to have it." Because treatments are available for the condition, he adds, "... related to that, if you are a relative of someone with OCD and if you start exhibiting obsessional-like or compulsive-like behaviors, you may be more in tune with it or more ready to get treatment," he says.

"My opinion -- and we have already submitted grants to do this -- is that we ought to go out there and start looking at genes," says Nestadt. "There may be people that disagree with me."

Not Hudak. "I think the next step, and studies are going on now, is taking a look at specific genes," he says. "Studies like this are extremely helpful."

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