Very Early Writings
Early Firsthand Accounts
Early Writings by Clergy
Early Self-Help Literature
Writings of "Great Western Thinkers"Susannah Wesley objects to a scrupulosity sufferer being involuntarily committed (1746)
19th-Century Medical Writings
20th-Century Medical Writings (Before 1970)
20th-Century Advice from Clergy (Before 1970)
Other Materials (Through the 1980s)
An asterisk * marks
Adam, David, The Man Who Couldn't Stop Washing: OCD and the True Story of a Life Lost in Thought (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014). The science journalist's book about OCD contains some footnoted historical discussion.
Adams, Paul L., Obsessive Children: A Sociopsychiatric Study (New York: Brunner/Mazel, 1973). Adams, a psychiatry professor, included a detailed chronology of the history of OCD as an appendix to his book about OCD in children. Much of the 10-page chronology is devoted to the early 20th century.
Berrios, G.E., Our knowledge of anancasm (psychic compulsive states), History of Psychiatry, 2003, 14:113-128.
Berrios, G.E., The History of Mental Symptoms (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1996). Chapter 6 of this book is about obsessions and compulsions.
Berrios, G.E. & Porter, R., eds., The History of Clinical Psychiatry (New York: New York University Press, 1995). Chapter 22, written by Berrios, is about OCD.
Berrios, G.E., Obsessive-compulsive disorder: its conceptual history in France during the 19th century, Comprehensive Psychiatry, 1989, 30:283-295.
Berrios, G.E., "Obsessional disorders during the nineteenth century: terminological and classificatory issues," in W.F. Bynum et al., eds., The Anatomy of Madness: Essays in the History of Psychiatry (London: Tavistock Pubs., 1985), 167-87.
Bourke, Joanna, Divine madness: the dilemma of religious scruples in twentieth-century America and Britain, Journal of Social History, 2009, 42:581-603. A history professor traces how scrupulosity went from being considered a religious issue to a medical problem.
Bramwell, J. Milne, On imperative ideas, Brain: A Journal of Neurology, 1895, xviii: 331-351. In this 1895 article, the author surveys the history of ideas about obsessions and compulsions throughout the 19th century. The article is an excellent secondary source on the history of OCD.
Cefalu, Paul, The doubting disease: religious scrupulosity and obsessive-compulsive disorder in historical context, Journal of Medical Humanities, 2010, 31:111-25. This paper by an English professor argues that obsessive religiosity must be understood in historical context.
Collins, Eduardo F., "The Treatment of Scrupulosity in the Summa Moralis of St. Antoninus: A Historical-Theological Study" (dissertation, Pontificia Universitas Gregoriana, Rome, 1961). This theology dissertation surveys early Catholic ideas about the causes and treatment of scrupulosity, focusing on the writings of Archbishop Antoninus (1389-1459) but also discussing many other early theological writings on the subject of scrupulosity. Collins read the sources in their original Latin.
Dolnick, Edward, Madness on the Couch: Blaming the Victim in the Heyday of Psychoanalysis (Simon & Schuster, 1998). Chapters 15 and 16 critique the Freudian view of obsessional illness. The book quotes from many of Freud's writings on the subject.
Hunter, Richard & Ida Macalpine, Three Hundred Years of Psychiatry, 1535-1860: A History Presented in Selected English Texts (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1963). Look in the index under obsessional neurosis.
Jakes, Ian, Theoretical Approaches to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1996). This book discusses many 20th century theories of OCD, including those put forward by Pavlov, Reed, Pitman, Malan, Gray, Eyesenck, Rachman, Rapoport, Wise, Boyd, Lewis and others.
May-Tolzmann, Ulrike, "Obsessional neurosis": a nosographic innovation by Freud, History of Psychiatry, 1998, ix:335-353. The article, originally written in German, discusses Freud and also has a good treatment of 19th century theories of OCD.
McHenry, Lawrence C., Jr., Samuel Johnson's tics and gesticulations, Journal of the History of Medicine, April 1967, 22:152-168. This is one of several historical articles about Samuel Johnson's illness.
Numbers, Ronald L. & Janet S. Numbers, Religious insanity: history of a diagnosis, Second Opinion, 1986, 3:56-77.
Osborn, Ian, Tormenting Thoughts and Secret Rituals: The Hidden Epidemic of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (New York: Dell Publishing, 1998). The popular self-help book contains an extensive discussion of the history of OCD. Chapter 11 is a historical perspective on OCD treatment.
Osborn, Ian, Can Christianity Cure Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder? A Psychiatrist Explores the Role of Faith in Treatment (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Brazos Press, 2008). Includes detailed historical chapters about Martin Luther, John Bunyan, Therese of Lisieux and other religious figures and their struggles with obsessionality.
Pitman, Roger K., "Historical considerations," in The Psychobiology of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, J. Zohar et al., eds. (New York: Springer Publ. Co., 1991), 1-12. Pitman discusses early psychobiological conceptions of obsessional illness, and also has a good discussion of Freud's and Janet's theories.
Rachman, S.J., Psychological treatment of anxiety: the evolution of behavior therapy and cognitive behavior therapy, Annu. Rev. Clin. Psychol., 2009, 5:97-119. Describes the origin of behavior therapy and cognitive behavior therapy for OCD and other disorders.
Rachman, S.J. & R.J. Hodgson, Obsessions and Compulsions (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1980). Chapters 3 and 17 include a discussion of the history of OCD.
Salzman, Leon & Frank H. Thaler, Obsessive-compulsive disorders: a review of the literature, Am. J. Psychiatry, March 1981, 138(3):286-296. This review of studies on OCD from 1953 to 1978 provides an overview of this key period in OCD research.
Stein, D. J. & M.H. Stone, eds., Essential Papers on Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (New York: New York University Press, 1997). The introductory chapter (pp. 19-29) traces the history of OCD.
Steinberg, H., et al., Kraepelin's views on obsessive neurosis: a comparison with DSM-5 criteria for obsessive-compulsive disorder, Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry, 2017, 39:355-364. Discusses German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin's (1856-1926) ideas about OCD.
Strayer, M., What was it like to suffer from obsessional disorder in the United States, 1840–1950? Journal of Medical Biography, 2018, 26:125-131.
OCD History Home