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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Research Clinic

Yale OCD Research Clinic
34 Park Street, 3rd Floor
New Haven, CT 06508


Director: Christopher Pittenger, MD, PhD
Assistant Director: Michael Bloch, MD, MS

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common psychiatric condition, affecting 2.0-2.5% of the population worldwide. Patients with OCD experience obsessions – intrusive, unwanted thoughts or images that are often disturbing – and compulsions – repetitive, ritualized behaviors that they feel compelled to perform, often in an effort to respond to or reduce the anxiety of the obsessions. Common obsessions include concerns about germs, fear that harm will come to others, intrusive disturbing images (often violent, sexual, or blasphemous in nature), and an excessive sense of responsibility for other peoples’ well-being. Common compulsions include repetitive hand-washing, ordering or symmetry-focused rituals, collecting and hoarding objects, and mental rituals like counting or reciting. Obsessions and compulsions are often associated with a great deal of shame, which can lead patients to hide their symptoms; many suffer in silence.

The Yale OCD Research Clinic has a 25-year history of groundbreaking advances in the understanding and treatment of OCD. Founded in the mid-1980s by Drs. Wayne Goodman and Dennis Charney, the Clinic fostered the development of the field’s standard instrument for rating symptom severity – the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS), as well as the first clinical trials demonstrating the efficacy of the medications that are now standard treatments for the disorder – the SSRIs and neuroleptics. The Obsessive Compulsive Foundation, a leading education and advocacy organization for patients with OCD, was founded in large part by participants in these early research trials.

While these medications, as well as focused cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can help many patients, others get little symptom relief from established approaches. Furthermore, many patients who do respond to medication or CBT are left with residual symptoms and lead constricted lives. New treatments, and new understanding of the neurobiology of the disorder, are urgently needed. The Yale OCD Research Clinic is dedicated to pursuing such advances.

Current research in the Clinic is focused on a new hypothesis of OCD: that its symptoms may, at least in some cases, result from an imbalance in the brain of the neurotransmitter glutamate. This suggests that medications that modulate glutamate levels may help those patients who get little or no benefit from established therapies. Indeed, recent studies from our clinic, and elsewhere, suggest that glutamate-modulating drugs hold promise for some patients with difficult-to-treat OCD.

If you are interested in learning more about our clinic and our research, please contact us at 203-974-7523.

We collaborate closely with other OCD research groups affiliated with Yale, including the Yale Child Study Center OCD/Tic Clinic, directed by Jim Leckman, MD, and the Anxiety Disorders Center at the Institute of Living in Hartford, directed by David Tolin, PhD.

More information

For more information, visit the OCD Clinic website.