A new study has found that children with impaired thought processes are at a higher risk of developing obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) as adults.
The study, conducted by Dr Jessica Grisham from the University of New South Wales, suggests that people at risk of developing OCD could now be identified during childhood.
OCD is an anxiety disorder where sufferers have repetitive and intrusive thoughts or images. The thoughts are often combined with compulsions, such as cleaning, to reduce the anxiety.
For the study, researchers used data from a longitudinal study in Dunedin, New Zealand that has been following 1000 children from birth.
Of the 700 participants who continued with the study, 2 percent developed OCD by age 32.
Grisham says that the study reviewed how the OCD group performed in a series of cognitive tests conducted when they were aged 13.
She says that looking at the children's performance on these tests predicts whether they will have OCD in adulthood almost 20 years later.
"Children who struggled with certain tasks, particularly visuospatial skills like being able to manipulate in your mind the orientation of different figures, had a much higher risk of having OCD at age 32," ABC Science quoted her as saying.
In fact all 13 adults who developed OCD performed poorly in these tests as teenagers, the study found.
However, Grisham insists that it isn't given that any child who doesn't perform well in specific cognitive assessments will develop OCD.
"There are people who perform poorly on these tests and don't go onto develop OCD, so we like to think of it as an indicator of vulnerability. Things in the environment or stressful events might activate their vulnerability," she said.
The study has been published in The British Journal of Psychiatry.