Quality of life in obsessive-compulsive disorder: Impact of the disorder and of treatment

Mythily Subramaniam, Pauline Soh, Janhavi Ajit Vaingankar, Louisa Picco, Siow Ann Chong

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

65 Citations (Scopus)


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a chronic debilitating anxiety disorder characterized by two distinct phenomena: obsessions which are recurrent, intrusive thoughts, images or impulses, and/or compulsions which are repetitive covert or overt actions that are carried out to decrease anxiety. OCD commonly affects young adults, is associated with other comorbid mental illnesses and often has a large treatment gap (the proportion of individuals who have OCD and require care but do not receive treatment). OCD thus runs a chronic and disabling course which compromises an individual's functioning and well-being and ultimately has a rather detrimental impact on the lives of both patients and their families. Researchers and clinicians are increasingly paying attention to humanistic outcomes to encompass broader indicators of disease burden and outcome, one of which is quality of life (QoL). In this review, we provide a summary of the current knowledge of QoL in OCD, its socio-demographic and clinical correlates, and the effects of therapeutic interventions on QoL among those with OCD. Overall, studies indicate that those with OCD had diminished QoL across all domains relative to normative comparison subjects. Patients with OCD scored better on QoL domains than patients with major depressive disorder (MDD), whereas they showed no difference or scored worse than patients with schizophrenia. Although research on socio-demographic correlates of QoL in OCD is largely contradictory, most studies suggest that symptom severity and comorbid depression or depressive symptoms are predictors of decreased QoL in OCD, with numerous studies showing this association across multiple domains associated with QoL. Studies assessing QoL as an outcome of treatment have found an improvement in QoL in people with OCD after treatment with pharmacotherapy or cognitive behavioural therapy with some studies suggesting that this improvement in QoL is correlated with improvement in symptoms. A few studies have also evaluated other forms of treatment like partial hospitalisation programmes and deep brain stimulation for those with treatment-resistant OCD and found that QoL scores improve with treatment. A major gap in the field is the lack of instruments that measure QoL specifically in patients with OCD. It is evident that OCD affects specific domains and thus there is a pressing need for the development of multidimensional instruments that are reliable and valid. There is also a need for studies assessing QoL in individuals with OCD among both clinical and community samples with adequate sample size to examine socio-demographic and clinical correlates simultaneously. These populations ought to be followed longitudinally to examine QoL with the clinical course of the illness, and to help establish temporal relationships. Studies that examine improvements in QoL with treatment need to be designed carefully: sample size requirements should be met, raters must be blinded, and randomly assigning subjects to different arms would ensure that some of the inherent biases in open-label studies are avoided. QoL is an important component that measures the impact of OCD on an individual and QoL goals must be incorporated as an outcome measure of therapeutic interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)367-383
Number of pages17
JournalCNS Drugs
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2013
Externally publishedYes

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