men more likely to suffer from ocd

Are Men More Likely To Suffer From OCD?

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Gender is correlated with the prevalence of not only physical ailments but certain mental illnesses as well. 

For example, women are more likely to suffer from major depressive disorder, while men are more likely to be diagnosed with substance abuse and antisocial personality disorder. 

The now-refuted neurologist Sigmund Freud suggested that past experiences, especially childhood developmental factors, play a significant role in the development of mental illnesses in general. However, contemporary theories point to social factors, such as gender roles, and their contribution to the development of certain mental disorders. 

Case in point: Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). 

There is an undeniable correlation between gender and OCD prevalence, onset, and symptoms. But how the two are correlated may surprise you. 

Before we get into that, though, let’s quickly review the definition and symptoms of OCD. 

What is OCD?

Obsessive- compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an extremely debilitating chronic and incurable disorder. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), OCD is characterized by two broad and overarching symptoms— obsessions and compulsions:

1. Obsessions are unceasing intrusive and distressing thoughts, ideas, images, or urges. The sufferer usually doesn’t want  these thoughts or urges but can not control them from popping up in their heads. 

2. Compulsions are repetitive, borderline ritualistic behaviors the sufferer performs to soothe or neutralize the obsessions. If they do not perform these compulsions, the sufferer can experience a lot of anxiety and discomfort. 

Obsessions and compulsions can manifest differently for different people. For example, they could revolve around cleanliness for one person and symmetry and order for another. Hence, different subtypes of OCD exist, including but not limited to: 

• Contamination and washing OCD
• Symmetry OCD
Checking OCD
Relationship OCD
Taboo thoughts OCD
Harm OCD
Rumination OCD
Perinatal OCD

Countless other subtypes exist, and it’s common to experience more than one subtype of OCD. At the end of the day, OCD is a very case-by-case illness, its specific symptoms differing from person to person. This is why getting professionally tested for OCD is so important. 

That being said, there are some trends that emerge about the prevalence, onset, presentation, and impact of OCD, especially when it comes to gender. 

Is OCD More Common in Men? 

Countless studies have been conducted on the gender demographics of OCD prevalence. In other words, which gender is more likely to suffer from OCD?

However, these studies have produced “mixed findings” or inconclusive results. Still, they do reveal some interesting and valuable information. 

Generally speaking, men are not more likely than women to suffer from OCD. On the contrary, various studies corroborate that OCD prevalence is higher in women than men. However, this finding only holds for adolescence and adulthood. 

When it comes to childhood OCD, boys actually present early onset symptoms more frequently than girls. In other words, prepubescent boys are more likely to develop OCD than prepubescent girls. 

After puberty hits, though, that ratio flips. 

The reasons for these gender differences in OCD prevalence remain unknown, but some experts commonly cite social factors.

But prevalence isn’t the only difference; men and women also seem to experience OCD in slightly different ways. 

Gender Differences in OCD

When it comes to OCD prevalence between men and women, there are two trends: early-onset OCD is more prevalent in men, whereas adult-onset OCD is more prevalent in women. 

Here are some other important gender differences in OCD. 

Age of onset

Age of onset refers to the age when OCD symptoms first begin to develop. For example, childhood or early-onset OCD is when OCD develops at an early age (before puberty). Conversely, adult or late-onset OCD develops at a later stage in life. 

According to various studies, early-onset OCD affects boys more commonly than girls. 

However, this ratio flips for adult-onset OCD, which is more prevalent in women than men. Moreover, OCD onset in women is also common during or after pregnancy. 

Time period of illness

Not only are men more likely to develop early-onset OCD, but the longevity or persistence of the illness also appears to be higher in men. 

While OCD is generally considered a chronic disease, many people are able to gain some control over it through proper treatment. Even with treatment, though, there is always a risk of a relapse.

Various studies suggest that men are more likely to experience a chronic course of the disorder. In other words, they tend to have less control over their OCD symptoms, which ultimately worsen throughout their lives. 

Content of obsessions and compulsions

OCD manifests as different subtypes, categorized by the content of the obsession and compulsion. It turns out certain subtypes of OCD are more prevalent in men, while others are more prevalent in women. 

For example, women tend to present more contamination/ cleaning OCD subtypes than men. On the other hand, men are more likely than women to present with symptoms related to blasphemous, sexual, and aggressive thoughts. 

Comorbidity

Comorbidity refers to two or more disorders or illnesses occurring in the same person and at the same time or one after the other. OCD is typically comorbid with other conditions, such as chronic anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, addiction, body dysmorphic disorders, etc. 

According to studies, some comorbid conditions are more common in men, while others are more common in women. The former are more likely to experience tic and substance abuse disorder, while the latter experience eating and impulse-control disorders. Women also tend to report significantly higher depression and anxiety. 

Treatment outcome

The most common treatment for OCD is a form of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) known as exposure response prevention therapy (ERP). Furthermore, medication commonly supplements ERP. 

Across clinical studies, there are no notable differences in OCD treatment outcomes between men and women. 

Final Thoughts

The relationship between mental disorders and gender is an important one. Understanding the differences in the ways that OCD manifests in men and women can improve successful diagnosis and effective treatment. 

Some major differences between OCD in men and women are prevalence, age of onset, time period of illness, OCD subtypes, and comorbidity. 

However, it is important to remember that the available research on gender differences in OCD isn’t conclusive. So while certain trends are emerging, it’s too early to make definitive claims about the gender differences in OCD.