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Surge of OCD Diagnoses in Young Adults Explained? (Chh chh chh chh, chh chh chh chh)

In the British Journal of Psychiatry, Heyman et al (2001) find a trend of rising numbers of cases of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) as people age out of childhood and into their early adult lives. What can explain this age trend? OCD Education Station writes about another trend related to time — a surge in OCD diagnoses over the past few decades:

Some people wonder how OCD could grow from a little-known condition just a few decades ago to one widely recognized today. They ask if OCD is some new form of disorder brought about by the way our society is changing, or if parents are doing something differently today that has caused a spike in the prevalence of this disorder.

A few facts that might tie this all together:

  1. Before the 1970s, OCD was considered rare.
  2. In 1976, Raffi’s album Singable Songs for the Very Young was released.
  3. Subsequent releases of the same album were made in 1990, 1996, 2008 and 2010.
  4. The album stormed the Billboard Top Kid Audio Charts in 1999 and 2013.
  5. The lyrics of one song on the album, “You Brush Your Teeth!,” suggest that children brush their teeth habitually, on the hour, in the middle of the night. When? When you think you hear a knock on the door. When you want to have a little fun. When you want to find something to do. When you just can’t wait to come alive. When your mind starts humming — “Twiddle dee dee, twiddle dee dee.”
  6. All the while… OCD diagnoses rise.

Something to think about.

Others say the rise in diagnosis has something to do with “awareness,” “education,” and “support” for those who were previously suffering in the dark. Raffi or community? You decide — but if you belong to the OCD tribe, consider a walk along the path of the OCD tribe.

1 comment to Surge of OCD Diagnoses in Young Adults Explained? (Chh chh chh chh, chh chh chh chh)

  • Bill

    Thanks for the good laugh, Jim. I always suspected Raffi wasn’t to be trusted with my children.

    It’s a classic epidemiological problem, though. Increased awareness of a disease or disorder (often prompted by a patient advocacy organization) can and frequently does lead to higher rates of diagnosis, which is a perfectly human response (you tend to see what you’re looking for, and miss what you aren’t). The trouble is that this makes it difficult to distinguish an increase in the incidence of a disease — which is a red flag — from a mere increase in the diagnosis of a disease, which is usually a good thing. One of the many reasons I’m glad I’m not an epidemiologist.

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