Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 173–178 | Cite as

Shared Cognitive Features of Posttraumatic Cognitions and Obsessive–Compulsive Symptoms

  • Dean McKay
  • Rachel Ojserkis
  • Jon D. Elhai
Brief Report


Obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) frequently co-occur. However, the shared features of these conditions have been under-examined. Evaluation of the common aspects of posttraumatic and obsessive–compulsive (OC) symptoms could improve treatment responsivity for individuals with comorbid PTSD and OCD, for whom outcome is typically poorer than for those with either disorder alone. This study examined intolerance of uncertainty, inflated responsibility, and a global measure of posttraumatic cognitions as potential shared cognitive constructs that moderate distress associated with OC symptoms. A total of 211 undergraduate students reporting significant trauma histories participated. All participants completed measures of obsessive–compulsive symptoms and beliefs, as well as posttraumatic cognitions. Results indicated that posttraumatic cognitions moderated the relationship between inflated responsibility and intolerance of uncertainty, which in turn predicted all domains of obsessive–compulsive symptom distress (all βs > 0.41, all zs > 3.44). Further, posttraumatic cognitions alone significantly predicting OC symptoms related to doubting, obsessions, and neutralizing. These findings suggest that shared cognitive constructs play a role in co-occurring posttraumatic stress and OC symptoms, and thus may be a relevant treatment target when these disorders present simultaneously.


Obsessive–compulsive OCD Posttraumatic stress PTSD Intolerance of uncertainty Inflated responsibility Posttraumatic cognitions Moderator 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Dean McKay, Rachel Ojserkis, and Jon D. Elhai declare that they have no conflicts of interest in the conduct of this work.

Informed Consent

We adhered to the ethical standards for treatment of human research participants as detailed in the Declaration of Helsinki. The Institutional Review Board of Fordham University approved this research, for the larger survey battery, in September 2011. Consent from participants was obtained between November 2011 and December 2013, during the period of data collection at Fordham University.

Animal Rights

No animals were used as part of this research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyFordham UniversityBronxUSA
  2. 2.University of ToledoToledoUSA

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