What is the prognosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)?

Updated: May 17, 2018
  • Author: William M Greenberg, MD; Chief Editor: David Bienenfeld, MD  more...
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OCD is a chronic disorder with a wide range of potential severities. Without treatment, symptoms may wax and wane in intensity, but they rarely remit spontaneously.

Overall, close to 70% of patients entering treatment experience a significant improvement in their symptoms. However, OCD remains a chronic illness, with symptoms that may wax and wane during the life of the patient.

Roughly 15% of patients can show a progressive worsening of symptoms or deterioration in functioning over time.

Approximately 5% of patients have a complete remission of symptoms between episodes of exacerbation.

Pharmacologic treatment is often prescribed on a continuing basis; if a successfully treated individual discontinues his/her medication regimen, relapse is not uncommon. However, patients who successfully complete a course of CBT (perhaps as few as 12-20 sessions) may experience enduring relief even after the treatment, although some evidence shows that having CBT continue in some extended but less frequent fashion may further decrease the risk of relapse.

A certain percentage of patients may have disabling, treatment-resistant symptoms. These patients may require multiple medication trials and/or referral to a research center. A small subgroup of these patients may be candidates for neurosurgical intervention.

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