COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE

Obsessive-compulsive disorder among African Americans and blacks of Caribbean descent: results from the National Survey of American Life

Joseph A Himle, Jordana R Muroff, Robert Joseph Taylor, Raymond E Baser, Jamie M Abelson, Gregory L Hanna, James L Abelson, James S Jackson
Depression and Anxiety 2008, 25 (12): 993-1005
18833577

BACKGROUND: There is limited research regarding the nature and prevalence of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) among various racial and ethnic subpopulations within the United States, including African Americans and blacks of Caribbean descent. Although heterogeneity within the black population in the United States has largely been ignored, notable differences exist between blacks of Caribbean descent and African Americans with respect to ethnicity, national heritage, and living circumstances. This is the first comprehensive examination of OCD among African Americans and blacks of Caribbean descent.

METHODS: Data from the National Survey of American Life, a national household probability sample of African Americans and Caribbean blacks in the United States, were used to examine rates of OCD among these groups.

RESULTS: Lifetime and 12-month OCD prevalence estimates were very similar for African Americans and Caribbean blacks. Persistence of OCD and rates of co-occurring psychiatric disorders were very high and also similar between African American and Caribbean black respondents. Both groups had high levels of overall mental illness severity and functional impairment. Use of services was low for both groups, particularly in specialty mental health settings. Use of anti-obsessional medications was also rare, especially among the Caribbean black OCD population.

CONCLUSIONS: OCD among African Americans and Caribbean blacks is very persistent, often accompanied by other psychiatric disorders, and is associated with high overall mental illness severity and functional impairment. It is also likely that very few blacks in the United States with OCD are receiving evidence-based treatment and thus considerable effort is needed to bring treatment to these groups.

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