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Want the Most Accurate OCD Diagnosis? Visit the Zoo

By Boonsri Dickinson
Jan 31, 2009 5:57 AMNov 5, 2019 8:48 AM


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Got OCD? It may surprise you to know that three percent of all Americans do! Normally, when people display compulsive behaviors such as excessively washing their hands, psychiatrists give them a simple questionnaire to screen for OCD. But for the first time, researchers at Tel Aviv University have connected animal behavior to OCD in humans, after observing animals at the zoo. It turns out that OCD patients respond the best to behavioral treatment when researchers videotape them behaving compulsively. But before this new program for humans was created, the researchers had to first watch animals at the zoo. The researchers observed OCD in bears, gazelles, rats, and other animals, both in the wild and in captivity. In the wild, animals appeared to have automated routines. But when the researchers watched animals in the zoo, they noticed the animals had rituals of repetitious movements such as pacing back and forth. By looking for common (compulsive) behavior in different animals, the researchers were able to identify which repetitious behaviors were healthy, and which were not. As such, when psychiatrists apply the videotaping to humans, they can use the animal database to classify human OCD behaviors. Not surprisingly, when the researchers videotaped humans with compulsive behavior and then showed the footage to their patients, some of the OCD suffers broke down and cried at the sight of their own compulsive behavior. On the upside, at least they were more likely to respond to treatment. Related Content: DISCOVER: Can Acid Cure Your OCD? 80beats: Brain Scans Could Diagnose OCD. DISCOVER: The Chemistry of Obsession.

Image: flickr/ wallyg

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