Outlining new frontiers for the comprehension of obsessive-compulsive disorder: a review of its relationship with fear and anxiety

Anxiety is an important component of the psychopathology of the obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). So far, most interventions that have proven to be effective for treating OCD are similar to those developed for other anxiety disorders. However, neurobiological studies of OCD came to conclusions that are not always compatible with those previously associated with other anxiety disorders. OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study is to review the degree of overlap between OCD and other anxiety disorders phenomenology and pathophysiology to support the rationale that guides research in this field. RESULTS: Clues about the neurocircuits involved in the manifestation of anxiety disorders have been obtained through the study of animal anxiety models, and structural and functional neuroimaging in humans. These investigations suggest that in OCD, in addition to dysfunction in cortico-striatal pathways, the functioning of an alternative neurocircuitry, which involves amygdalo-cortical interactions and participates in fear conditioning and extinction processes, may be impaired. CONCLUSION: It is likely that anxiety is a relevant dimension of OCD that impacts on other features of this disorder. Therefore, future studies may benefit from the investigation of the expression of fear and anxiety by OCD patients according to their type of obsessions and compulsions, age of OCD onset, comorbidities, and patterns of treatment response.

obsessive-compulsive disorder; anxiety disorders; fear; stress disorders, post-traumatic; neuroimaging; epidemiology; treatment


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