Childhood trauma and obsessive-compulsive symptoms

Depress Anxiety. 2008;25(9):742-51. doi: 10.1002/da.20316.


Childhood trauma is known to predispose to a variety of psychiatric disorders, including mood, anxiety, eating, and personality disorders. However, the relationship between childhood trauma and obsessive-compulsive symptoms has not been well studied. This study examines the relationship between childhood trauma, personality facets, and obsessive-compulsive symptoms in 938 college students using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire, the Leyton Obsessional Inventory, and the NEO Personality Inventory-Revised. Between 13 and 30% of subjects met criteria for childhood trauma, with emotional neglect the most commonly reported experience. There was a small but significant association between obsessive-compulsive symptoms and childhood trauma, specifically emotional abuse and physical neglect, all of which was accounted for by co-occurring anxiety symptoms. An independent association was also seen between emotional abuse, physical abuse, and high levels of obsessive-compulsive symptoms ("probable obsessive-compulsive disorder"), which remained significant in the context of co-occurring anxiety symptoms. A similar association was seen between obsessive-compulsive symptoms and conscientiousness, and between emotional neglect and sexual abuse and conscientiousness, suggesting that an indirect role for childhood trauma in the development of obsessive-compulsive symptoms may also exist.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology
  • Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / psychology*
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / psychology*
  • Psychometrics
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult