Background: Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a heterogeneous condition that consists of distinct subtypes, and identification of its core symptoms may inform how to best conceptualize the heterogeneity. Accordingly, we used network analysis to evaluate which symptoms (and associations between symptoms) are most central to OCD symptoms and beliefs.
Methods: Participants consisted of a combined sample of adults with a primary diagnosis of OCD (N = 150), those with other primary diagnoses (N = 114), and an unselected nonclinical sample (N = 310). Network analysis was used to identify the most central symptoms (nodes) and associations between symptoms (edges) assessed by the Obsessive-Compulsive Inventory-Revised and the Obsessional Beliefs Questionnaire-44.
Results: The most central symptoms in the network were negative appraisals of intrusive thoughts (i.e., Having intrusive thoughts means I'm out of control). Some of the strongest associations between symptoms were also observed for those pertaining to intrusive thoughts and their negative appraisal. Furthermore, central symptoms in the network predicted depression and anxiety (over and above peripheral symptoms) among those with a primary diagnosis of OCD, but not the severity of OCD symptoms.
Limitations: The approach was exploratory rather than experimental and relied solely on self-report measures of OCD symptoms and beliefs.
Conclusions: Negative appraisals of intrusive thoughts were the most central symptoms in the OCD network, and they uniquely predict co-occurring symptoms of anxiety and depression, suggesting that these symptoms should be prioritized in theoretical and treatment models of OCD.
Keywords: Anxiety; Depression; Intrusive thoughts; Network analysis; OCD.
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