Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a chronic psychiatric disorder. It causes unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive actions (compulsions). In their everyday lives, many people have concentrated on ideas and repetitive acts. But, for people with OCD, the thoughts are more recurring, and the repetitive behaviors are over and cannot be ignored that they can disrupt their life [1,2,3,4].
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is reported to be the fourth most frequent mental disorder worldwide [5, 6]. OCD prevalence varies over age, regions, and others. However, OCD lifetime prevalence is estimated to be 2.3% ranging from 1.1-3.3%. Some researchers indicated that OCD affects females slightly higher than males but other does not [1, 2, 3, 7, 8].
Patients with OCD can have one or more groups of OCD symptoms. These symptoms can include an obsession with contamination washing rituals, frequent checking, persistent nasty or religious thoughts, redundant hoarding, uniformity and ordering, and others. However, these symptoms and attitudes are unsteady and tend to disappear for a period and return or change in their categories throughout the disease [7, 9, 10, 11].
While the exact causes of OCD are unclear and vary between genetic, environmental, and neurobiological factors. Patients with OCD might be with other co-existing mental hazards such as anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, substance use, eating disorder, learning, and suicidal thoughts [2, 8, 12].
Diagnosis of OCD is so difficult, not just because of the overlap of symptoms with other psychiatric disorders and diseases. But also, because many patients deny and not confirm the symptoms and ill behaviors they have encountered for numerous reasons, including the stigmatization of such mental diseases. And this raises the need for screening for OCD and OCD symptoms among patients with other mental disorders and risky groups including university students [2, 13, 14].
As the onset of OCD develops mainly during adolescence and late teens with a median age of onset of 19-20 years. That makes high school and university students a remarkable target for screening for OCD and OCD symptoms. Further, studies reported double rates of OCD among university students in comparison to their rates among the general population. Furthermore, this age group is more prone to other mental hazards including substance use and suicidal attempts that are explained to be associated comorbidities for OCD [2, 13, 15, 16].
Undergraduate Medical students are at an increased risk for OCD, due to the stressful nature of medical schools as part of the heavy curriculum, less leisure time, as well that medical students are taught, trained, and asked to be more precise, perfect, and obsessive a little bit more. On the other hand, OCD can adversely affect academic performance, general well-being, social interaction, and suicidal thoughts. Issues that might have a huge impact on life unless being diagnosed early and properly managed [4, 6, 11, 12, 17].
Corona COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest health challenge faced by the world in recent history. Affecting most countries with more than 42 million registered cases and over 1.150.000 deaths reported death till October 25. Iraq reported the highest number of cases and deaths among Arab countries, with more than 450 thousand cases and more than 10 thousand deaths.
Corona COVID-19 pandemic is expected to have a negative effect on OCD patients and medical students firstly as a general stressor on health and communities, secondly by the closure of medical schools and the shifting toward online learning, and lastly by the increasing efforts of handwashing and general hygiene as an essential step in COVID-19 prevention which might trigger the obsession with contamination and compulsive washing of hands. Which are reported as the most common symptoms of OCD [18, 19, 20].
So, this study aims to estimate the prevalence of the suggestive symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) among a sample of medical students in Iraqi universities during the COVID-19 pandemic era and to assess the associated psychological symptoms. In addition to the association of the probability of being OCD with the related sociodemographic features and other psychological symptoms.