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Behaviors typical of body-focused repetitive behavior disorders such as trichotillomania (TTM) and skin-picking disorder (SPD) are often associated with pleasure or relief, and with little or no physical pain, suggesting aberrant pain perception. Conclusive evidence about pain perception and correlates in these conditions is, however, lacking.
A multisite international study examined pain perception and its physiological correlates in adults with TTM (n = 31), SPD (n = 24), and healthy controls (HCs; n = 26). The cold pressor test was administered, and measurements of pain perception and cardiovascular parameters were taken every 15 seconds. Pain perception, latency to pain tolerance, cardiovascular parameters and associations with illness severity, and comorbid depression, as well as interaction effects (group × time interval), were investigated across groups.
There were no group differences in pain ratings over time (P = .8) or latency to pain tolerance (P = .8). Illness severity was not associated with pain ratings (all P > .05). In terms of diastolic blood pressure (DBP), the main effect of group was statistically significant (P = .01), with post hoc analyses indicating higher mean DBP in TTM (95% confidence intervals [CI], 84.0-93.5) compared to SPD (95% CI, 73.5-84.2; P = .01), and HCs (95% CI, 75.6-86.0; P = .03). Pain perception did not differ between those with and those without depression (TTM: P = .2, SPD: P = .4).
The study findings were mostly negative suggesting that general pain perception aberration is not involved in TTM and SPD. Other underlying drivers of hair-pulling and skin-picking behavior (eg, abnormal reward processing) should be investigated.
Trichotillomania (TTM) and skin picking disorder (SPD) are common and often debilitating mental health conditions, grouped under the umbrella term of body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs). Recent clinical subtyping found that there were three distinct subtypes of TTM and two of SPD. Whether these clinical subtypes map on to any unique neurobiological underpinnings, however, remains unknown.
Two hundred and fifty one adults [193 with a BFRB (85.5% [n = 165] female) and 58 healthy controls (77.6% [n = 45] female)] were recruited from the community for a multicenter between-group comparison using structural neuroimaging. Differences in whole brain structure were compared across the subtypes of BFRBs, controlling for age, sex, scanning site, and intracranial volume.
When the subtypes of TTM were compared, low awareness hair pullers demonstrated increased cortical volume in the lateral occipital lobe relative to controls and sensory sensitive pullers. In addition, impulsive/perfectionist hair pullers showed relative decreased volume near the lingual gyrus of the inferior occipital–parietal lobe compared with controls.
These data indicate that the anatomical substrates of particular forms of BFRBs are dissociable, which may have implications for understanding clinical presentations and treatment response.
Although behavior therapy reduces tic severity, it is unknown whether it improves co-occurring psychiatric symptoms and functional outcomes for adults with Tourette's disorder (TD). This information is essential for effective treatment planning. This study examined the effects of behavior therapy on psychiatric symptoms and functional outcomes in older adolescents and adults with TD.
A total of 122 individuals with TD or a chronic tic disorder participated in a clinical trial comparing behavior therapy to psychoeducation and supportive therapy. At baseline, posttreatment, and follow-up visits, participants completed assessments of tic severity, co-occurring symptoms (inattention, impulsiveness, hyperactivity, anger, anxiety, depression, obsessions, and compulsions), and psychosocial functioning. We compared changes in tic severity, psychiatric symptoms, and functional outcomes using repeated measure and one-way analysis of variance.
At posttreatment, participants receiving behavior therapy reported greater reductions in obsessions compared to participants in supportive therapy ($\eta _p^2 $ = 0.04, p = 0.04). Across treatments, a positive treatment response on the Clinical Global Impression of Improvement scale was associated with a reduced disruption in family life ($\eta _p^2 $ = 0.05, p = 0.02) and improved functioning in a parental role ($\eta _p^2 $ = 0.37, p = 0.02). Participants who responded positively to eight sessions of behavior therapy had an improvement in tic severity ($\eta _p^2 $ = 0.75, p < 0.001), inattention ($\eta _p^2 $ = 0.48, p < 0.02), and functioning ($\eta _p^2 $ = 0.39–0.42, p < 0.03–0.04) at the 6-month follow-up.
Behavior therapy has a therapeutic benefit for co-occurring obsessive symptoms in the short-term, and reduces tic severity and disability in adults with TD over time. Additional treatments may be necessary to address co-occurring symptoms and improve functional outcomes.
Previous research examining the clinical phenomenology of obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) has provided some evidence that OCD might be associated with different clinical correlates at different stages of development. In particular, there appears to be a bimodal distribution in terms of the age of onset of the disorder, a male predominance during childhood and adolescence compared to adulthood, stronger familial aggregation of OCD in early onset cases, and differences in the types of symptoms and the patterns of comorbidity across age groups. This study assessed the continuity in clinical presentation of OCD across three distinct age groups: children, adolescents and adults. It was hypothesised that the sample of children would be predominantly male, and would have a higher familial aggregation of OCD and/or anxiety/depression in first-degree relatives. It was further hypothesised that there would be significant age-related differences in terms of specific symptoms, patterns of comorbidity, OCD severity, functional impairment, and level of insight and distress. The results of this study support the developmental heterogeneity hypothesis, with significant differences occurring across age groups on a number of clinical features of OCD including age at onset, symptoms experienced, comorbidity, severity, insight and impairment. Implications of the findings and future directions for research in this area are discussed.
Anxiety disorders are among the most common conditions affecting children and adolescents (Costello and Angold, 1995) with most modern epidemiological reports estimating the prevalence of significant anxiety disorders at greater than 10% worldwide (Pine, 1994) and from 12% to 20% in the USA (Kessler et al., 1994; Achenbach et al., 1995; Shaffer et al., 1996). Nevertheless, and in spite of the high prevalence, anxiety in childhood has not been as well studied as many other less common childhood disorders, possibly due to the incorrect perception that this problem is typically transient and innocuous (Benjamin et al., 1990). Over the last decade, however, our understanding of the phenomenology, prevalence, and treatment of childhood anxiety has increased dramatically. Although cognitive factors are presumed to play an important role in the expression and maintenance of childhood anxiety and most treatments contain at least some cognitive techniques specifically addressing these factors, only a handful of studies have been published investigating cognitive aspects of anxiety in children and adolescents.
In addition to the epidemiological findings, recent studies suggest that anxiety disorders in childhood are highly comorbid, relatively stable over time, and associated with significant impairment both acutely and over the long term. Clinic and community studies suggest that 50–75% of anxious children demonstrate two or more anxiety diagnoses (Costello and Angold, 1995; Last et al., 1987), and that comorbidity with both mood and externalizing disorders is also common (Bernstein and Borchardt, 1991; Ollendick and King, 1994).
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