Obsessive-compulsive bipolar comorbidity: Focus on children and adolescents

Gabriele Masi, Giulio Perugi, Cristina Toni, Stefania Millepiedi, Maria Mucci, Nicoletta Bertini, Hagop S. Akiskal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Growing evidence documents the frequent co-morbidity between Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Bipolar Disorder (BP) in adults. The aim of the present study is to explore some clinical aspects of this interface in children and adolescents, as it appears in a setting of routine clinical practice. Method: The sample comprised 102 consecutively referred children and adolescents, both inpatients and outpatients, with BP, OCD or co-morbid BP-OCD during a 3-year period. The mean age was 14.2 (SD=3.2); 65 (63.7%) were males. Diagnoses and clinical features were collected by means of structured interview according to DSM-IV (DICA-R) and a rating scale for OCD (CY-BOCS). Clinical outcome was evaluated prospectively by means of clinical global impression (CGI) as part of routine clinical care, throughout the follow-up. Results: Thirty-seven (36.3%) patients (21 males and 16 females) were diagnosed as BP, 35 (34.3%) patients (26 males and 9 females) were diagnosed as OCD and 30 (29.4%) patients (18 males and 12 females) were diagnosed as BP-OCD. BP II, was more frequent in the BP-OCD than in BP. When OCD was co-morbid with BP, age of onset was significantly earlier than in the 'pure' OCD patients. On the contrary, age of onset of BP was not affected by co-morbid OCD. According to CGI baseline scores, OCD patients were significantly less impaired than BP-OCD and BP patients, while the severity of the symtomatology was similar in the last two groups. Severity scores at the end of the follow-up were significantly higher in BP-OCD patients than in OCD patients. Patients with pure BP showed lower rates of panic disorder-agoraphobia than BP-OCD patients and higher rates of ADHD-conduct disorder. Pure OCD patients showed lower rates of ADHD and higher rates of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. The number of obsessions did not differentiate the two groups, whereas pure OCD patients showed significantly more compulsions. 'Other' obsessions - e.g., existential, philosophical, odd and/or superstitious - were significantly more frequent in BP-OCD than in pure OCD patients. Ordering compulsions were significantly more frequent in pure OCD patients. Limitations: Possible low reliability of children's and their parents' recall of past episodes of mental disorder. Conclusions: In a tertiary care center, co-morbidity between OCD and BP is a significant clinical problem affecting a large number of patients. The correct identification of OCD-bipolar co-morbidity has relevant clinical implications as far as other concomitant disorders, symptomatological features, course, complications, and treatment management and outcome are concerned.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-183
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2004


  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Children
  • Co-morbidity
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Neurology
  • Psychology(all)


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