OCD appears to be genetic, but hoarding likely environmental

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is painful for those who have it, both for the social stigma attached to the condition and because their obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors are unwanted intrusions into their normal lives. Now, psychiatric researchers are better able to pin down which OCD behaviors likely have genetic roots and which ones are more related to their environments. As the Los Angeles Times reports, researchers achieved this by tapping into a massive British database of about 5,000 twins who had shared information about the severity of OCD behaviors.

According to the study, it turns out that genetics is responsible for obsessive hand-washing, and slightly less responsible for obsessive thoughts, checking and ordering behavior. Of all the OCD symptoms looked at, hoarding was the only one that turned out to be more related to environment than to genetics.

"The finding supports the notion that while hoarding may look like obsessive-compulsive behavior, it may actually spring from some different origin than classic obsessive-compulsive disorder behaviors: a separate genetic factor or a different environmental cue--or both--may be at work in starting a person on the road to hoarding behavior," the Times reports.

This appears to agree with what the American Psychiatric Association already believes about hoarding--that it should be listed separately from OCD and be treated differently.

- read the story in the Los Angeles Times' Booster Shots blog
- and the abstract in the Archives of General Psychiatry