Current Psychiatry Reports

, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 281–287

The psychobiology of obsessive-compulsive disorder: How important is the role of disgust?


  • Dan J. Stein
    • Medical Research Council Unit on Anxiety DisordersUniversity of Stellenbosch
  • Yijun Liu
  • Nathan A. Shapira
  • Wayne K. Goodman

DOI: 10.1007/s11920-001-0020-3

Cite this article as:
Stein, D.J., Liu, Y., Shapira, N.A. et al. Curr Psychiatry Rep (2001) 3: 281. doi:10.1007/s11920-001-0020-3


Psychobiologic models of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have focused on cortico-striatal-thalamic-cortical (CTSC) circuits, noting normal function in cognitive and motoric procedural strategies. Such models have relied on the classification of OCD as an anxiety disorder, seldom exploring other relevant emotions. Based on the hypothesis that a central emotion in OCD is disgust, the authors review the literature on its psychobiology and its relevance to current models of OCD. There are important parallels between the psychobiology of OCD and that of disgust. Obsessivecompulsive disorder may be conceptualized in terms of a false contamination alarm in which disgust plays a crucial organizing or embodying role, not only at a basic brain level, but also in terms of the psychosocial aspects of the disorder. Just as psychobiologic models of panic disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder have been strengthened by the inclusion of preclinical work on amygdala-mediated fear conditioning, so findings on disgust and its mediating CSTC circuits may generate useful hypotheses for OCD research.

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© Current Science Inc 2001