Obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders

Andrea Allen, Audrey King, Eric Hollander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The obsessive-compulsive spectrum is an important concept referring to a number of disorders drawn from several diagnostic categories that share core obsessive-compulsive features. These disorders can be grouped by the focus of their symptoms: bodily preoccupation, impulse control, or neurological disorders. Although the disorders are clearly distinct from one another, they have intriguing similarities in phenomenology, etiology, pathophysiology, patient characteristics, and treatment response. In combination with the knowledge gained through many years of research on obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), the concept of a spectrum has generated much fruitful research on the spectrum disorders. It has become apparent that these disorders can also be viewed as being on a continuum of compulsivity to impulsivity, characterized by harm avoidance at the compulsive end and risk seeking at the impulsive end. The compulsive and impulsive disorders differ in systematic ways that are just beginning to be understood. Here, we review these concepts and several representative obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders including both compulsive and impulsive disorders, as well as the three different symptom clusters: OCD, body dysmorphic disorder, pathological gambling, sexual compulsivity, and autism spectrum disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)259-271
Number of pages13
JournalDialogues in Clinical Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 9 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Asperger's disorder
  • Autism
  • Body dysmorphic disorder
  • Impulsivity
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Pathological gambling
  • Sexual compulsivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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