Obsessive-compulsive disorder may contribute to problems in school

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Having obsessive-compulsive disorder is often written off as “being a little anal retentive”, but those who live with the condition know OCD is far more dangerous. It can have an impact on every aspect of their life, including their education – as a new study confirms.

A report published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry indicates that people with obsessive-compulsive disorder were more likely to struggle in school and less likely to complete higher levels of education, especially if they were diagnosed before they turned 18.

Many have believed that OCD may impact a person’s education throughout their life, including their ability to finish college or achieve a postgraduate degree, but study author Ana Pérez-Vigil, MD, from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden says little research has been done to establish this.

“One-third of patients with OCD develop the disorder before age 15 years, and about 50% report onset in childhood and adolescence, explained Pérez-Vigil. “Clinical experience suggests that OCD might be negatively associated with the person’s education, not only in childhood and adolescence, but also in early adulthood.”

To empirically evaluate OCD’s impact on education, Pérez-Vigil’s team analyzed data collected from 2,115,554 Swedish citizens from 1976 to 1998. The participants were then followed through 2013, including 15,120 who were diagnosed with OCD.

Based on the data, those with OCD were notably less likely to pass all required core and additional courses to graduate from compulsory school. They were also less likely to enroll in a vocational or academic program in secondary education (the equivalent to high school).

The findings showed that those with OCD were less likely to finish upper secondary education, start a university degree, complete a university degree, and to finish a postgraduate education.  The findings remained consistent in models focused on siblings, as well.

The results in all areas were even worse for those diagnosed with OCD before reaching 18-years-old.

When accounting for comorbid psychiatric disorders and substance abuse issues, the disparity between those with OCD and control individuals was somewhat negated, however, OCD still showed a significant effect across all educational areas.

The findings led the team to conclude “obsessive-compulsive disorder, particularly when it has an early age at onset, is associated with pervasive and profound decreases in educational attainment across all levels, spanning from compulsory school to postgraduate education.”

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