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Combination therapy for obsessions more effective than drugs alone

Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research

People with obsessions and compulsions experience considerable benefit from a combined treatment of drugs and behavioural therapy. Treatment with drugs alone is less effective. This is revealed in doctoral research by psychologist Nienke Tenney from Utrecht University.

About half of the patients with an obsessive-compulsive disorder do not benefit from treatment. Some refuse treatment or stop the treatment before it has been completed. Moreover, many patients who do respond to treatment continue to experience a considerable number of residual symptoms.

Tenney discovered that when patients who respond to medicinal treatment (venlafaxine or paroxetine) also undergo behavioural therapy, the combined treatment is more effective than the medicinal treatment alone. Furthermore, the outcome was the same irrespective of whether the therapy was started after 3 months or 9 months of medicinal treatment.

People with obsessions and compulsions often experience limitations in their social functioning and a reduced quality of life. The psychologist's research revealed that such limitations were mostly due to personality and symptoms of depression and that the seriousness of the obsessive-compulsive disorder played a much smaller role.

About half of the patients with an obsessive-compulsive disorder also have a personality disorder. Tenney investigated the extent to which a personality disorder influences the treatment of the obsessive-compulsive disorder, but discovered that personality disorders did not affect the effectiveness of the treatment. However, certain personality disorders were related to limitations in the social functioning.


For further information please contact Nienke Tenney (Department of Psychiatry, Utrecht University), tel. +31 (0)30 6560575 (home), e-mail: The defence of the doctoral thesis will take place on 14 February 2003. Ms Tenny's supervisor is Prof. H.G.M. Westenberg.

The research was funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).

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