Artist's representation of DNA.
Artist’s representation of DNA.

Approximately 3.5 million Americans are affected by obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It can develop at any age and equally affects men, women, and children of all races, ethnicities and backgrounds. A new study being conducted at Rogers Research Center in collaboration with the University of California, San Francisco will be investigating the genetics behind OCD.

Through identifying risk genes, the study aims to give insight into developing new treatments for OCD and how to identify risk factors better. Dr. Kelly Piascek, Vice President of Research for Rogers Behavioral Health and research scientist Dr. Sheldon Garrison believe that the research will lead to promising discoveries.

Piaseck describes obsessions related to OCD as unwanted thoughts or urges that create high anxiety and compulsions as repetitive behaviors, or thoughts that attempt to lower the anxiety induced by the obsessions. These symptoms will often manifest through actions like obsessive hand washing or repeating thoughts to yourself. These behaviors generally tend to limit a person’s ability to focus severely and impact quality of life.

The typical diagnosis process for OCD consists of an extensive screening method after the patient initially report symptoms. Once a patient is diagnosed, treatment methods include the commonly-utilized cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure response prevention (ERP). The study could lead to more extensive treatment options.

Garrison says the study has contributors, including the University of IowaYale University and other educational institutions along Rogers Health. It’s currently in the early stages of a three-year planned project to collect data from 13,000 people across the contributing institutions. Each patient will provide a blood sample and answer questions about their experience with the condition. By collecting the responses and noting the genetics of each participant, researchers hope to find trends and correlations that can serve as early indicators for the condition and offer new treatment methods. The study will also help explore questions regarding the genetic overlap with co-occurring and related conditions such as hair pulling disorder, autism, Tourette Syndrome, ADHD, and more.

Piascek and Garrison are both excited for the study. “We think that we have an opportunity to contribute to the greater science and knowledge development in this space. And so we’re excited about formulating some of these collaborations and then also being able to bring these insights back to how we treat our patients in the future,” says Piascek.

Garrison adds, “I’m really excited to start understanding how the genetics are involved with OCD and also the relationship of any genes that might be altered within an OCD patient — how that relates to other conditions or other types of features.”

You can find more information regarding the study and OCD on Rogers Behavioral Health’s website.