Is Childhood OCD an Indicator of Food Issues in Later Years?

Researchers at the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust’s (SLaM) OCD Service in collaboration with the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP) have discovered an increase in the development of eating disorders in children who were previously diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). A new study found that nearly one in ten children who had OCD later went on to develop an eating disorder, a higher statistic than is found in those without OCD. Dr. Nadia Micali, of the IoP of King’s College in London, and colleagues tracked 126 children and their parents for as many as nine years to gather their data. They asked the participants a series of questions designed to determine the presence of an eating disorder. “Among the young people we followed up with, females who experienced OCD during childhood, and also have a family history of eating disorders, are at high risk for developing an eating disorder later in life,” said Dr Micali. “Recognizing childhood OCD as a contributing factor to developing an eating disorder in adolescence may help clinicians detect higher risk individuals and implement early treatment or even prevention.”

The OCD Service at SLaM treats children of all ages with mental health challenges including body dysmorphic disorder, OCD and trichotillomania. Dr. Isobel Heyman, the head of the service, hopes that this type of study will improve the methods of treatment available to young people with disorders such as OCD. “Longitudinal studies like this are essential to establish the outcomes of children who present at a young age with mental health problems,” Dr. Heyman explained. “We strive to keep in touch with the children we have treated over the years and are particularly grateful for the interest and commitment of families who agree to collaborate in research. This type of long-term study would be impossible without this partnership between the clinic and former patients and their families,” Dr. Heyman said.

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

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  • allan


    June 10th, 2011 at 5:58 AM

    it’s a bit confusing to me actually..coz OCD should mean you are particular about everything including your food and that you would eat well to maintain perfect health..and to know that such perfection-obsessed people have eating disorders is surprising!

  • Janie


    June 10th, 2011 at 10:01 AM

    Isn’t it peculiar how one thing always seems to lead to another? I mean here you are thinking that you only need to be treating the symptoms of OCD and then something else always seems to pop up. Weird how these things are not isolated, there always seems to be other things that are interrelated that maybe you would not have thought about before!

  • Ruth


    June 11th, 2011 at 8:57 AM

    Actually, allan, it makes perfect sense. I guess you could say people with OCD are obsessed with perfection, but it’s a perfection that’s very specific to each individual. So what one person with OCD considers perfect, another might not. Also, the perfection is often applied to minute details, not overarching states, such as “perfect health.” I’ve had OCD since I was 8 (almost 31 now) and a few years ago I got very into eating “properly” and exercizing. But it quickly got overtaken by the OCD (obsessively counting calories, exercizing for exact amounts of time, down to the second, etc.) and I could tell I was heading for an eating disorder. Fortunately I was able to stop, something I’ve never been able to do with my other OCD symptoms (I think it was the promise of being able to eat chocolate cake again!).

  • serene


    June 12th, 2011 at 4:55 AM

    please don’t set kids up for future problems just because of the things that they are experiencing now

  • Darryl W.

    Darryl W.

    June 16th, 2011 at 12:37 AM

    @Allan-OCD comes in different forms. Some have obsessive cleaning habits or zealous organizational skills, or just really bizarre rituals like checking doors are locked over and over.

    There’s really no single OCD “standard” where one size fits all.

  • K.A. Hendrix

    K.A. Hendrix

    June 16th, 2011 at 8:25 PM

    Why are all these pieces of mental health puzzles coming together out of nowhere suddenly now? We seem to be experiencing a flood of new connections coming to light between different conditions. Which of course is good!

    Did God come down to earth and say “Here’s the source code to the human body. Have a blast!” before going back to Heaven? :) It’ll not even be another week until they find a dozen more links between mental problems.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy I live in a time where I get to see that speedy rate of progress.

  • britney o'hare

    britney o'hare

    June 18th, 2011 at 8:29 PM

    @K.A. Hendrix–I don’t think that’s how it went, because I’m sure I’d have remembered seeing the clouds parting and the booming voice LOL. ;)

    We’re simply discovering more and more about how the human brain actually works instead of relying upon our previous best guesses. What was once theory is now being proven as fact.

    The more of these insights we get, the better we can help kids who live with these kinds of issues like OCD, right? S’all good.

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