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Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder is Characterized by a Lack of Adaptive Coping Rather than an Excess of Maladaptive Coping


The present study aimed to elucidate the profile of coping in patients with obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) in order to discern whether the disorder is characterized by an excess of maladaptive coping skills and/or a lack of adaptive coping skills. Sixty individuals with OCD were compared with 110 individuals with depression and 1050 nonclinical controls on the Maladaptive and Adaptive Coping Styles Questionnaire (MAX). Psychopathology was assessed with the Obsessive–Compulsive Inventory-Revised (OCI-R), the Yale-Brown Obsessive–Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS), and the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 for depression (PHQ-9). Individuals with OCD and depression displayed more maladaptive coping and avoidance as well as less adaptive coping than nonclinical controls. Importantly, adaptive coping was significantly lower in individuals with OCD than in those with depression at a medium effect size, whereas the clinical groups were indistinguishable on maladaptive coping and avoidance. Lack of adaptive coping was strongly correlated with resistance to symptoms and poor insight in OCD (Y-BOCS), even after controlling for depression. Lack of adaptive coping skills may represent a specific pathogenetic factor in OCD. Longitudinal studies need to clarify whether strengthening adaptive skills during childhood and adolescence may help to prevent the progression from subclinical to manifest OCD.

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  1. Coping and emotion regulation are closely linked constructs and are often examined with the same instruments (Moritz et al. 2016a; Zimmer-Gembeck et al. 2014).


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Correspondence to Steffen Moritz.

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All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Research Involving Human and Animal Participants

This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

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Moritz, S., Fink, J., Miegel, F. et al. Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder is Characterized by a Lack of Adaptive Coping Rather than an Excess of Maladaptive Coping. Cogn Ther Res 42, 650–660 (2018).

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  • Obsessive–compulsive disorder
  • Coping
  • Emotion regulation
  • Suppression
  • Depression