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Co-occurring obsessive–compulsive disorder and autism spectrum disorder in young people: prevalence, clinical characteristics and outcomes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Early online date1 Feb 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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Abstract

Obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) and autism spectrum disorders (ASD) commonly co-occur and are considered challenging to manage when they co-occur in youth. However, clinical characteristics and prognosis of this group remain poorly understood. This study examined the prevalence, clinical correlates and outcomes of paediatric OCD co-occurring with ASD (OCD + ASD) in a large clinical cohort. Data were extracted from electronic clinical records of young people aged 4–17 years who had attended a mental health trust in South London, United Kingdom. We identified young people with diagnoses of OCD + ASD (n = 335), OCD without ASD (n = 1010), and ASD without OCD (n = 6577). 25% of youth with OCD had a diagnosis of ASD, while 5% of those with ASD had a diagnosis of OCD. At diagnosis, youth with OCD + ASD had lower psychosocial functioning scores on the clinician-rated Child Global Assessment Scale (CGAS) compared to those with either OCD or ASD. Youth with OCD + ASD were equally likely to receive CBT compared to those with OCD but were more likely to be prescribed medication and use services for longer than either comparison group. Youth with OCD + ASD showed significant improvements in functioning (CGAS scores) after service utilisation but their gains were smaller than those with OCD. OCD + ASD commonly co-occur, conferring substantial impairment, although OCD may be underdiagnosed in youth with ASD. Young people with co-occurring OCD + ASD can make significant improvements in functioning with routine clinical care but are likely to remain more impaired than typically developing youth with OCD, indicating a need for longer-term support for these young people.

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