OCD in Hispanic/Latinx Americans

Hispanic and Latinx Americans are two of the fastest-growing racial/ethnic groups in the United States. In the United States, about 50.5 million people (16% of the US population) are of Hispanic or Latinx origin. Since there are different types of Hispanic/Latinx communities and identities, not all of this information applies to every individual.

Characteristics of OCD in Hispanic/Latinx Americans

  • Symptom somatization, or feeling mental health symptoms as if they are taking place throughout the body (e.g., elevated heart rate, breathing issues, tension, etc.), is common for Hispanic/Latinx Americans. [1] [2]
    • Hispanic/Latinx Americans with OCD are more likely to seek general medical advice first for these somatic symptoms, rather than seeking mental health services. [3]
    • Research-based treatments (e.g., CBT/ERP, medication) for OCD might not help improve somatic symptoms, which might make them seem less effective. [4]
  • Hispanic/Latinx Americans are more likely to have contamination concerns as part of their OCD symptoms. [5]
  • Hispanic/Latinx communities are impacted greatly by their religious beliefs, and are more likely to turn to the religion they practice to find ways to cope. [6] [7]
    • Fifty-nine percent of Hispanics in the US identify as Catholic, which is almost triple the percentage of European Americans. [8]
    • Religious beliefs may also impact how Hispanic/Latinx individuals think about their OCD symptoms — they may be more likely to report more scrupulosity or religion-based obsessions and compulsions, as they are more distressed by them compared to other symptom subtypes. [9]


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  • [1] Chavira, D. A., Garrido, H., Bagnarello, M., Azzam, A., Reus, V. I., & Mathews, C. A. (2008). A comparative study of obsessive-compulsive disorder in Costa Rica and the United States. Depression and Anxiety, 25(7), 609-619.
  • [2] Fontenelle, L. F., Mendlowicz, M. V., Marques, C., & Versiani, M. (2004). Trans-cultural aspects of obsessive-compulsive disorder: A description of a Brazilian sample and a systematic review of international clinical studies. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 38(4), 403-411.
  • [3] Alegria, M., Mulvaney-Day, N., Woo, M., Torres, M., Gao, S., & Oddo, V. (2007). Correlates of past year mental health service use among Latinos: Results from the national Latino and Asian American study. American Journal of Public Health, 97(1), 76–83.
  • [4] Wetterneck, C. T., Little, T. E., Rinehart, K. L., Cervantes, M. E., Hyde, E., & Williams, M. (2012). Latinos with obsessive-compulsive disorder: Mental healthcare utilization and inclusion in clinical trials. Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders, 1(2), 85-97.
  • [5] Williams, M. T., Sawyer, B., Leonard, R. C., Ellsworth, M., Simms, J. V., & Riemann, B. C. (2015).  Minority participation in a major residential and intensive outpatient program for obsessive-compulsive disorder. Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders, 5, 67-75.
  • [6] Altarriba, J., & Bauer, L. M. (1998). Counseling the Hispanic Client: Cuban Americans, Mexican Americans, and Puerto Ricans. Journal of Counseling & Development, 76(4), 389).
  • [7] Moreno, O., & Cardemil, E. (2013). Religiosity and mental health services: An exploratory study of help seeking among Latinos. Journal of Latina/o Psychology, 1(1), 53-67.
  • [8] Kosmin, B. A., & Keysar, A. (2009). American Religious Identification Survey 2008: Summary report. Trinity College.
  • [9] Tellawi, G., Smith, A., Osegueda, A., Norton, P., Wetterneck, C. T., & Williams, M. (July, 2012). Investigating OCD symptom dimensions across African Americans, Asians, Caucasians, and Latinos: Results from a non-clinical sample.  Poster presented at the 19th Annual International Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Foundation Conference, Chicago, IL.