A common misconception in the media and general public is that poor parenting or eccentric quirky preferences on the part of some individuals are the causes of OCD. While some aspects of OCD do involve learned behavior, it is becoming increasingly clear that OCD has strong biological and genetic influences.
In fact, earlier this week the Nature Publishing Group journal Molecular Psychiatry released the results of the first genome-wide association study (GWAS) of OCD. S. Evelyn Stewart, MD, and the International OCD Foundation Genetics Collaborative, examined approximately a half million locations along the DNA of over two thousand OCD-affected individuals, to look for differences compared to the DNA of control samples. Researchers from over 20 sites on 4 continents contributed to this work. Genome-wide studies are the gold standard of genetic research, and by completing this study, OCD research is now on par with research on other psychiatric disorders (example: schizophrenia) and neuropsychiatric disorders (example: epilepsy).
Why is genetics research useful? OCD is turning out to be much more complex than we initially thought. To trivialize it by saying a mother was too strict during toilet training with her child or these Type A personalities just need to “relax more” is dismissive of those struggling with the truly debilitating aspects of this disorder. By having a comprehensive and accurate understanding of what contributes to the onset of OCD, we are in a better position to develop more effective treatments. Genetics research is a critical component of this understanding.