Doctors at the University of Utah are looking for volunteers to participate in two different studies - one on obsessive-compulsive disorder and the other on bulimia.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is marked by irrational thoughts and ritualistic behavior. Bulimia is an eating disorder characterized by binging and purging.The U. is one of eight academic medical centers nationwide involved in testing new medication to treat the problem.

"Obsessions are recurrent thoughts, ideas or images, and compulsions are repetitive senseless rituals," said Joanne Brown, clinic program coordinator in the U. Mood Disorders Clinic in the department of psychiatry. "These images or acts are very intrusive, and are disruptive to the lives of the victims and their families.

Brown estimates that about 2 percent of Americans - from 4 million to 6 million people - suffer from the disorder. It runs in families and is frequently accompanied by depression.

Volunteers for the study must be at least 18 years old. They will receive a free physical and psychological examination, laboratory tests and medication and will be expected to come to the university every other week for 13 weeks to have their progress on the drug monitored. Pregnant women are ineligible for the study.

Bulimics are binge-eaters who rapidly consume large quantities of food every two hours or less, then induce themselves to vomit, use laxatives, or feel compelled to diet or fast to counteract the binging.

For the bulimia study, the U. needs volunteers who feel they can't control their eating behavior. The participants in this FDA-approved project will be given a new medication.

Volunteers must have no serious medical problems. Women cannot be nursing, be pregnant and must use an adequate form of birth control. Those who qualify will visit the hospital weekly on an outpatient basis.

Brown said those who don't qualify for the research may still receive free evaluation and be referred to a physician for any treatment they require.

According to Brown, nearly 3,500 people have been helped by the Mood Disorders Clinic since it was established eight years ago to evaluate new medications not yet available to the public.

For more information about the studies, call 581-8806.