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Shared Cognitive Features of Posttraumatic Cognitions and Obsessive–Compulsive Symptoms

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Abstract

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.

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Notes

  1. Current sample: PTCI total median and SD = 81.00 (39.09) versus PTSD sample in Foa et al. (1999): PTCI total median and SD = 133 (44.17). Current sample: OCI Total Distress mean and SD = 22.46 (24.41) versus OCD sample in Foa et al. (1998): OCI total distress mean and SD = 66.33 (31.9). Current sample: OBQ-44 total mean and SD = 141.57 (38.03) versus OCD sample in OCCWG (2005): OBQ-44 total mean and SD = 174.3 (50.2).

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Correspondence to Dean McKay.

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

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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.

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No animals were used as part of this research.

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McKay, D., Ojserkis, R. & Elhai, J.D. Shared Cognitive Features of Posttraumatic Cognitions and Obsessive–Compulsive Symptoms. Cogn Ther Res 40, 173–178 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10608-015-9733-1

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