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What Factors Protect Against Obsessive Compulsive Symptoms?

A recent study published in the Annals of General Psychiatry examines the factors that may protect against obsessive compulsive symptoms in Greek adolescents.

Obsessive compulsive symptoms include recurring thoughts that cannot be ignored. While these thoughts and actions can constitute a normal part of development, if they continue they may develop into obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a much more serious form of illness. A recent study in Athens, Greece sought to explain some of the variation among adolescents who experience obsessive compulsive symptoms. This longitudinal study was focused on severe obsessive compulsive symptoms observed in adolescent males. The study sought to particularly measure the relation of gender and emotional stability as a personality trait.

As published in the Annals of General Psychiatry, 515 Greek adolescents between the ages of 16 and 18 years were involved in this study. The adolescents had their obsessive compulsive symptoms assessed using relevant subscales in a Five Factor Questionnaire that focused on emotional stability. This assessment observed the variations of obsessive compulsive symptoms and determined how they were linked to gender and emotional stability.

The study found that male gender and a higher emotional stability were associated with lower obessesive compulsive symptoms. Specifically, it was revealed that obsessive compulsive symptoms increased with age, between 16-18 years. Also, there was a higher emotional stability observed for the male gender at age 16, as they showed lower obsessive compulsive symptoms and had remained stable over time.

This is one of only a few studies examining the relationship between age and gender and obsessive compulsive symptoms. The study indicates that prevention should focus on improving the emotional stability of younger adolescents, to protect against using obsessive compulsive symptoms as a coping strategy for stress. The researchers concluded that because of the individual differences as shown in this study regarding obsessive compulsive symptoms, consideration should be given when making preventative and planning measures, so they are suitable for this age group. More research is urgently needed.

Written by Dr. MòNique J. Grant Coke, DNP, MPH, BSN, Medical Writer

Reference: Stavropoulos, V., Moore, K., Lazaratou, H., Dikaios, D., & Gomez, R. (2017). A multilevel longitudinal study 
of obsessive compulsive symptoms
in adolescence: male gender and emotional stability as protective factors. Ann Gen Psychiatry (2017) 16:42 DOI 10.1186/s12991-017-0165-z

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  1. Interesting article. More and more research is pointing to a strong genetic component to OCD. My son had OCD so severe he could not even eat, and thankfully exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy, the first line psychological treatment for OCD, literally saved his life.Today he is a young man living life to the fullest. I recount my family’s story in my critically acclaimed book, Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery (Rowman & Littlefield, January 2015) and discuss all aspects of the disorder on my blog at There truly is hope for all those who suffer from this insidious disorder!


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