Background: Demographic data, family history, psychopathological features, comorbidity and course of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are investigated and data generated to support the possible existence of two subgroups with gender-related differences of a broader nature.
Method: Two hundred and sixty-three OCD patients, consecutive admissions to the Institute of Psychiatry, University of Pisa over a period of 5 years, not excluding those with comorbid Axis I and Axis II conditions, were studied. Patients were evaluated with a specifically designed semi-structured OCD interview.
Results: We found a significantly greater history of perinatal trauma in men who also had an earlier onset, greater likelihood of never having been married and a higher frequency of such symptoms as sexual, exactness and symmetry obsessions and odd rituals; by contrast, women suffered a later onset of the disorder, were more likely to be married, had higher rates of associated panic attacks after the onset of OCD and a higher frequency of aggressive obsessions at the onset of their illness, and were less frequently associated with bipolar disorders.
Conclusions: Pathophysiological mechanisms in OCD seem to differ by gender. Perinatal trauma might predispose to earlier onset in men, whereas in women there is a close association between OCD and panic disorder.