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Obsessive-compulsive disorder tied to increased suicide risk

10 Nov 2017

Patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are at greater risk of suicide, with many successfully completing the act even in the absence of other psychiatric comorbidities, a study suggests.

Researchers looked at 36,788 OCD patients in the Swedish National Patient Register between 1969 and 2013. They estimated the risk of deaths by suicide and suicide attempts in comparison with matched general population controls (1:10).

Of the patients, 545 had died by suicide and 4,297 had attempted suicide. Compared with controls, patients with OCD were more likely to both die by suicide (odds ratio [OR], 9.83; 95percent CI, 8.72 to 11.08) and attempt suicide (OR, 5.45; 5.24 to 5.67). These associations were maintained, however attenuated, in an analysis controlling for psychiatric comorbidities.

Among OCD patients, a previous suicide attempt emerged as the strongest predictor of death by suicide. Poisoning was the most frequently used method potentially due to the availability of prescription drugs. A comorbid personality or substance use disorder also increased the risk of suicide.

On the other hand, factors such as female gender, higher parental education and a comorbid anxiety disorder were protective against suicide risk.

Researchers pointed out that OCD should be added to the list of psychiatric disorders that are known to increase the risk of suicide, with suicide risk carefully monitored in patients who have this mental disorder, especially those who have previously attempted suicide.

“Our results represent a first step towards the design of preventive and interventional strategies aiming to prevent fatal consequences in [the OCD population],” they added.

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