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Comparing OCD-affected youth with and without religious symptoms: Clinical profiles and treatment response



Childhood obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a heterogeneous psychiatric condition, with varied symptom presentations that have been differentially associated with clinical characteristics and treatment response. One OCD symptom cluster of particular interest is religious symptoms, including fears of offending religious figures/objects; patients affected by these symptoms have been characterized as having greater overall OCD severity and poorer treatment response. However, the extant literature primarily examines this symptom subtype within adults, leaving a gap in our understanding of this subtype in youth.


Consequently, this study examined whether presence of religious symptoms in OCD-affected children and adolescents (N = 215) was associated with greater clinical impairments across OCD symptoms and severity, insight, other psychiatric comorbidity, family variables, or worse treatment response.


Results found that youth with religious OCD symptoms presented with higher OCD symptom severity and exhibited more symptoms in the aggressive, sexual, somatic, and checking symptom cluster, as well as the symmetry, ordering, counting, and repeating cluster. Religious OCD symptoms were also significantly associated with poorer insight and higher family expressiveness. No differences in treatment response were observed in youths with versus without religious OCD symptoms.


Ultimately, youths with religious OCD symptoms only differed from their OCD-affected counterparts without religious symptoms on a minority of clinical variables; this suggests they may be more comparable to youths without religious OCD symptoms than would be expected based on the adult OCD literature and highlights the importance of examining these symptoms within a pediatric OCD sample.

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