Psychopharmacotherapy of Obsessive-Compulsive Symptoms within the Framework of Tourette Syndrome

Curr Neuropharmacol. 2019;17(8):703-709. doi: 10.2174/1570159X16666180828095131.


While Behavioral Therapy (BT) should be recommended as the first step in the treatment of OCD as well as TS, medication can be added for augmentation and in certain situations (e.g. family preference, BT not available or feasible) the priority may even reverse. This narrative review is given on the complexity of drug treatment in patients comorbid with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and Tourette syndrome (TS) and other tic problems. OCD with TS is a co-occurring combination of the two generally delimitable, but in detail, also overlapping disorders which wax and wane with time but have different courses as well as necessities and options of treatment. Distinct subtypes like "tic-related OCD" are questionable. Obsessive-compulsive symptoms (OCS) and tics are frequently associated (OCS in TS up to 90%, tics in OCD up to 37%). Sensory-motor phenomena like urges and just-right feelings reflect some behavioral overlap. The main additional psychopathologies are attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), mood problems and anxiety. Also, hair pulling disorder and skin picking disorder are related to OCD with TS. Hence, the assessment and drug treatment of its many psychopathological problems need high clinical experience, careful planning, and ongoing evaluation/adaptation. Drugs are able to reduce clinical symptoms but cannot cure the disorders, which should be treated in parallel in their own right; i.e. for OCD serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) and for TS (tics), certain antipsychotics can be successfully prescribed. In cases of OCD with tics, when OCS responds only partially, an augmentation with antipsychotics (recommended: risperidone and aripiprazole) may improve OCS as well as tics. Also, the benzamide sulpiride, an atypical antipsychotics, may be beneficial in treating the combination of OCS, tics and anxious-depressive problems. Probably, any additional psychopathologies of OCD might attenuate the effectiveness of SSRI on OCS; on the other hand, in cases of OCD with tics, SSRI may reduce not only OCS but also stress sensitivity and emotional problems and thus leading to better selfregulatory abilities, useful to improve tic suppression. In sum, some clinical guidance can be given, but there remain many uncertainties because of a scarce database for psychopharmacotherapy in OCD with TS.

Keywords: Obsessive-compulsive symptoms; SSRI; associated psychopathology; comorbidity; drug treatment; neuroleptics; tic disorders..

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity
  • Comorbidity
  • Humans
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Tics / drug therapy
  • Tourette Syndrome / drug therapy*