David Mataix-Cols research group

Anxiety, Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders across the lifespan

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a major psychiatric disorder characterized by intrusive and anxiety provoking thoughts (obsessions) which are followed by repetitive behaviours (compulsions) and cause substantial distress and disability. OCD typically starts in adolescence but can affect people of all ages. It is a prevalent disorder affecting ~2% of the general population and often co-occurs with other mental disorders such as major depression and anxiety disorders. OCD is one of the most severe and incapacitating of childhood-onset disorders. The World Health Organisation ranks it among the top 10 worst illnesses in the developed world in terms of its impact on income and quality of life. Although traditionally conceptualized as an anxiety disorder, emerging data from the neurosciences supports the reconceptualization of OCD as a spectrum disorder, related to but different from the anxiety disorders, and closely aligned with other equally frequent but less well understood psychiatric disorders characterized by compulsive acts, including:

  • Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD): Preoccupation by perceived defects in appearance and repetitive behaviours (e.g. mirror checking)
  • Hoarding Disorder: Persistent difficulty parting with possessions, resulting in congestive clutter and disability
  • Hair Pulling Disorder (or Trichotillomania): Repetitive pulling of head and body hair resulting in noticeable hair loss
  • Skin-Picking Disorder (or Excoriation Disorder): Repetitive manipulation of skin resulting in skin lesions and medical complications
  • Chronic tic disorders (e.g. Tourette’s Syndrome): multiple motor and/or vocal tics

Collectively, these disorders are known as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Related Disorders (OCD-RDs), and are highly disabling psychiatric illnesses of childhood-onset that are responsible for considerable morbidity and socioeconomic burden. Despite their high combined prevalence, associated disability and cost to society, OCD-RDs are severely under-detected, under-treated and under-researched.

Research Projects

Our multidisciplinary research group has recently moved to the Karolinska Institutet from the Institute of Psychiatry (King’s College London). Our research program aims to understand the causes of anxiety and OCD-RDs using a variety of methods such as genetic epidemiology and brain imaging. The group also conducts clinical trials and research into the dissemination of evidence-based treatments for these problems across the lifespan.

Selected publications

The structure of genetic and environmental risk factors for dimensional representations of DSM-5 obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders.
Monzani B, Rijsdijk F, Harris J, Mataix-Cols D
JAMA Psychiatry 2014 Feb;71(2):182-9

Cognitive-behavioural therapy with post-session D-cycloserine augmentation for paediatric obsessive-compulsive disorder: pilot randomised controlled trial.
Mataix-Cols D, Turner C, Monzani B, Isomura K, Murphy C, Krebs G, et al
Br J Psychiatry 2014 Jan;204(1):77-8

Multicenter voxel-based morphometry mega-analysis of structural brain scans in obsessive-compulsive disorder.
de Wit SJ, Alonso P, Schweren L, Mataix-Cols D, Lochner C, Menchón JM, et al
Am J Psychiatry 2014 Mar;171(3):340-9

Epidemiology of hoarding disorder.
Nordsletten AE, Reichenberg A, Hatch SL, Fernández de la Cruz L, Pertusa A, Hotopf M, et al
Br J Psychiatry 2013 Dec;203(6):445-52

Population-based, multigenerational family clustering study of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Mataix-Cols D, Boman M, Monzani B, Rück C, Serlachius E, Långström N, et al
JAMA Psychiatry 2013 Jul;70(7):709-17

Group members