By The Numbers: A Statistical Overview of OCD

May 2008

The following is an excerpt from an interview between CEHL founder Dr. Howard King and Dr. Evelyn Stewart, Director of Research at the Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Institute at McLean Hospital on the facts and figures of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

What is the frequency of OCD?

It is one to three percent of the general population.

How many children with this diagnosis do you think the average pediatrician might see per year?

Approximately 3 to 5% of their practice

In an average school, out of 100 children, how many might have an obsessive-compulsive disorder?

One to three.

Could you estimate its frequency compared to children who have other diagnoses, e.g. those who have “depression” or “anxiety disorder?”

This is one of the most common childhood mental illnesses including ADHD, other anxiety disorders and depression.

In the last 100 children you have seen, were they on medications, appropriately or not?

No, they were not on medications (appropriately or not)

Do you think pediatricians might have been more helpful for the child and his/her family by what they could have done prior to being referred to you?

I think what would be extremely helpful would be for pediatricians to become more aware of the disorder, to screen for it more often and to make the diagnosis that will allow referral for the treatment process to begin, regardless of whether they themselves will treat OCD.

In short, what lessons can learn pediatricians from your observations as an intake worker?

OCD is more common than you think!

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I would like to thank the following for their generous support, without whom this web site and training program would not exist: The Sidney R. Baer, Jr. Foundation, The Alden Trust, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, Project INTERFACE (Newton Public Schools and the U.S. Department of Education), the Locke Educational Fund at Newton- Wellesley Hospital, Aetna Health Plan, the Kenneth B. Schwartz Center,  and the families of my medical practice. 

I hope you find this site useful and encourage any comments.

- Dr. Howard King, M.D.