Obsessions and Compulsions
Many people engage in obsessive compulsive behaviors at some point in their life, but these behaviors typically don’t affect their daily functioning. Most of these individuals don’t necessarily develop OCD, as it’s clinically defined. On the other hand, people with clinically defined OCD develop symptoms that bring enormous distress and are, at times, disabling.
While the exact etiology of OCD is unknown, it is believed to be caused by a number of factors, including genetics, neurologic abnormalities, and environmental influences. Researchers have also discovered that common infections, such as strep, can trigger an abnormal autoimmune response which produces behaviors that mimic OCD.

Can you develop OCD?

Individuals who develop OCD suffer from persistent, intrusive thoughts and feelings (obsessions) so extreme that it drives them to perform obsessive behaviors (compulsions) to alleviate their anxiety. The behaviors can wax and wane in severity and present differently in every individual. However, the behaviors tend to revolve around several themes, including: contamination and cleanliness concerns; fear of being harmed or someone else being hurt; having items in symmetrical order or performing rituals; hoarding behaviors and having bad or “taboo” thoughts.

Obsessive compulsive behaviors may be driven by irrational fears, upsetting thoughts, or disturbing images. In most cases, OCD will develop gradually. Patients who develop an abrupt, and sudden onset of symptoms, may have an underlying organic cause, such as an infection, triggering OCD-like behaviors.

Get treated for treatment-resistant symptoms

Abrupt onset of OCD

These individuals experience an almost overnight eruption of obsessions and/or compulsions which, on the surface, appears to be OCD but may also be an infection-triggered autoimmune encephalopathy.

OCD typically appears in children around age 10 or in young adults. 1 Older individuals or very young children rarely develop OCD. 2 In fact, one study found that out of 1,000 OCD patients, only 5 had their initial symptoms develop later in life. 3

“The onset of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) after age 50 is rare and generally related to an organic etiology.” 2

Additionally, toddlers or very young children who develop a sudden onset of OCD-like behaviors, along with other neuropsychiatric symptoms following an infection may suffer from PANS or PANDAS, a manifestation of basal ganglia encephalitis.

Autoimmune dysfunction mimics OCD

Individuals with infection-triggered autoimmune encephalitis or basal ganglia encephalitis may exhibit one or more neurologic and/or psychiatric symptoms which mimic a mental disorder.

For example, in some people, common infections can trigger an autoimmune response which results in antineuronal antibodies attacking the basal ganglia region of the brain. These infections may include: strep, influenza, mycoplasma pneumonia, Lyme disease, herpes virus, mononucleosis and Coxsackie virus.

This autoimmune response targeting the basal ganglia can cause brain inflammation and the onset of neuropsychiatric symptoms, including OCD-like behaviors.

“In some subset of OCD patients, autoimmunity is likely triggered by specific bacterial, viral, or parasitic agents…” writes Gerentes et al. 4

Meanwhile, another study discovered that brain inflammation is “significantly elevated, more than 30% higher” in people with OCD. “This study is the strongest evidence to date for inflammation in the brain in OCD.” 5

  1. Barry Sarvet. Childhood Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Pediatrics in Review. Jan 2013, 34 (1) 19-28. http://pedsinreview.aappublications.org/content/34/1/19
  2. Tonna, M., Ottoni, R., Ossola, P. et al. Late-onset obsessive-compulsive disorder associated with left cerebellar lesion. Cerebellum. (2014) 13: 531. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24771488
  3. Anthony P. Weiss, M.D., and Michael A. Jenike, M.D. Late-Onset Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences. 1 May 2000. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11001607
  4. Gerentes, M., Pelissolo, A., Rajagopal, K. et al. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Autoimmunity and Neuroinflammation. Current Psychiatry Report. (2019) 21: 78. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11920-019-1062-8
  5. Attwells S, Setiawan E, Wilson AA, et al. Inflammation in the Neurocircuitry of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. JAMA Psychiatry. 2017;74(8):833–840. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/2631893
Can you develop OCD from brain inflammation?

People with OCD had more brain inflammation (32% higher) than healthy subjects, study finds.

Infections may result in developing OCD
Can you develop OCD from an infection?

Learn more about how infections can trigger neuropsychiatric symptoms

Cunningham Panel helps identify an autoimmune disorder in child initially diagnosed with schizophrenia

The Cunningham Panel™ helped identify an underlying autoimmune disorder in a child initially diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Researchers describe a complex case involving a 15-year-old girl, who abruptly developed multiple neurologic and psychiatric symptoms.

The association between streptococcus pyogenes and tics/OCD

Association between streptococcus pyogenes and tics/OCD

In this book chapter, Dr. Madeleine Cunningham explains the association between Group A strep and the onset of tics and/or OCD and their clinical manifestations in children with the autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder, PANDAS.

Childhood infections can increase risk of mental illness in kidss

Childhood infections can increase risk of mental illness in kids

Nationwide study finds both mild and severe infections can increase risk of mental disorders in children and adolescents.

  • Test Order Process
    The Cunningham Panel™ – Antibody testing that helps determine whether an autoimmune response may be triggering neurologic and/or psychiatric symptoms.

B. Robert Mozayeni, MD

Medical and Clinical Advisor

B. Robert Mozayeni MD

Dr. B. Robert Mozayeni was trained in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology at Yale and at NIH. He has had pre- and post-doctoral Fellowships in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale, and also at NIH where he was a Howard Hughes Research Scholar at LMB/DCBD/NCI and later, Senior Staff Fellow at LMMB/NHLBI/NIH. Editorial board of Infectious Diseases – Surveillance, Prevention and Treatment. Past President of the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS).

He is an expert in Translational Medicine, the science and art of advancing medical science safely and efficiently. He is a Fellow of the non-profit Think Lead Innovate Foundation and is a co-founder of the Foundation for the Study of Inflammatory Diseases. He is a Founder of the Foundation for the Study of Inflammatory Diseases to crowd-source medical solutions for complex conditions using existing knowledge, diagnostic methods, and therapies to meet patient needs immediately. He is the Chief Medical Officer of Galaxy Diagnostics, LLC. He is a Board member of the Human-Kind Alliance. Dr. Mozayeni has held admitting privileges (since 1994) on the clinical staff of Suburban Hospital, a member of Johns Hopkins Medicine and an affiliate of the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center.

Safedin Sajo Beqaj, PhD, HCLD, CC (ABB)

Moleculera Labs, Clinical Laboratory Advisor
Medical Database, Inc., President and CEO

Sajo Baqaj, PhD

Dr. Sajo Beqaj is board certified in molecular pathology and genetics and licensed as a Bioanalyst and High Complexity Laboratory Director. He has been practicing as a laboratory director since 2005.

Dr. Beqaj served as a technical director and was part of the initial management team for several well-known laboratories in the clinical lab industry including PathGroup, Nashville, TN; DCL Medical Laboratories, Indianapolis, IN, and Pathology, Inc, Torrance, CA. He is currently serving as off-side CLIA laboratory director for BioCorp Clinical Laboratory, Whittier, CA and Health360 Labs, Garden Grove, CA.

Dr. Beqaj received his Ph.D. in Pathology from Wayne State University Medical School, Detroit, Michigan. He performed his post-doctoral fellowship at Abbott Laboratories from 2001-2003 and with Children’s Hospital and Northwestern University from 2003-2005.

Dr. Beqaj has taught in several academic institutions and has published numerous medical textbook chapters and journal articles. He has served as a principal investigator in clinical trials for several well-known pharmaceutical and diagnostic companies such as Roche HPV Athena, Merck HPV vaccine, BD vaginitis panel, Roche (Vantana) CINtec® Histology clinical trials, and has presented various scientific clinical abstracts and presentations.

He is a member of several medical and scientific associations including the Association of Molecular Pathology, American Association of Clinical Chemistry and the Pan Am Society for Clinical Virology. He has served on a number of clinical laboratory regulatory and scientific committees, and has assisted several laboratories and physicians as a Clinical Laboratory Consultant.

Rodney Cotton, MBA

Moleculera Labs Board Member

Rodney Cotton, MBA

Rodney Cotton, MBA is an entrepreneurial thought leader in the pharmaceutical/biotech industry who is known for his holistic perspective, bias for action in the face of challenges, and commitment to agile processes.

Rod is an independent director for Orchard Software, a private equity-backed health technology company owned by Francisco Partners; an advisory board member to Flo2 Ventures, a venture capital-backed healthcare and health equity accelerator; and a member of the board of directors and three board committees (Audit, Compliance & Finance; Governance & Equity; and Quality of Care) for Community Health Network.

He built a successful career at Roche spanning more than two decades and culminating in the role of SVP, Head of Strategy & Transformation, and Chief of Staff to the CEO for Roche Diagnostics, the North American headquarters of the world’s largest ($17B) diagnostics company.

While at Roche, Rod led key enterprise initiatives, such as milestone corporate communications, health equity coalitions, the US/Roche Group audit, and global/US acquisition integrations. With 40+ years of experience, he drove the financial turnaround and cultural transformation of four global healthcare companies, led teams of up to 280 total reports, managed P&L of more than $1 billion, and served as a key member of the senior leadership team executing the most significant restructuring of the company in two decades.

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rod and his team at Roche accelerated six ground breaking products in 11 months, including the first launch of the market’s most accurate and in demand molecular diagnostic test. He also solved extraordinary challenges of product scarcity, supply chain, product allocation, and logistics to achieve accelerated global sourcing and self manufacturing in line with testing guidelines.

A frequent public speaker on health equity and other topics, Rod was named one of the Most Influential Black Executives in Corporate America by Savoy Magazine and one of the Top Blacks in Healthcare by BlackDoctor.org. He also received The Sagamore of the Wabash Award, one of the highest Indiana State honors, bestowed by Indiana Governor Eric J. Holcomb.

Rod holds an M.B.A. from California State University, Dominguez Hills, an M.S. in Strategic Management from the University of Southern California, and a B.A. in Biological Sciences & Technology from the University of California at Santa Barbara.