The roles of chronotype and time of day in predicting symptom fluctuations in obsessive-compulsive disorder using a daily-monitoring design

13 October, 2021
The roles of chronotype and time of day in predicting symptom fluctuations in obsessive-compulsive disorder using a daily-monitoring design

Do you or someone you know suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)? Individuals with OCD experience intrusive and unwanted thoughts (e.g., “did I turn off the oven?”) along with strong urges to engage in behaviors meant to relieve the associated distress from the intrusive thoughts (e.g., repeatedly checking that the oven is turned off). As it turns out, certain individuals with OCD experience worse symptoms in the morning, while others later in the day. A new research of Hadar Naftalovich and Prof. Eyal Kalanthroff aims to answer: why? What factors impact when we feel better or when we feel worse throughout the day?

One possible explanation for these patterns has to do with one’s chronotype, which indicates one’s “biological clock”. Morning chronotypes tend to be more alert during the earlier hours of the day and less alert at night. The opposite is true for Evening types, who are more alert later in the day. Our alertness levels impact many aspects of our functioning, beyond just how awake or energetic we may feel, including our cognitive functioning. In this new paper Hadar and Eyal present findings that show that individuals with OCD tend to have worse symptoms during “nonoptimal” times of day based on their chronotype. In other words, Morning types will have worse symptoms at night and the opposite is true for Evening types. Using this knowledge, individuals can predict when their own symptoms may be easier or more challenging to manage. Clinicians can also use this knowledge to schedule sessions at optimal times for increasing the effectiveness of treatment and researchers use this to better understand the mechanisms behind these patterns to help improve current interventions. 

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