Obsessions and compulsions in Asperger syndrome and high-functioning autism

Ailsa J Russell, D Mataix-Cols, M Anson, D G M Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

165 Citations (SciVal)


Background: Obsessive-compulsive behaviours are common and disabling in autistic-spectrum disorders (ASD) but little is known about how they compare with those experienced by people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Aim: To make such a comparison.

Method: A group of adults with high-functioning ASD (n=40) were administered the Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale and Symptom Checklist and their symptoms compared with a gender-matched group of adults with a primary diagnosis of OCD (n=45). OCD symptoms were carefully distinguished from stereotypic behaviours and interests usually displayed by those with ASD.

Results: The two groups had similar frequencies of obsessive-compulsive symptoms, with only somatic obsessions and repeating rituals being more common in the OCD group. The OCD group had higher obsessive-compulsive symptom severity ratings but up to 50% of the ASD group reported at least moderate levels of interference from their symptoms.

Conclusions: Obsessions and compulsions are both common in adults with high-functioning ASD and are associated with significant levels of distress.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)525-528
Number of pages4
JournalThe British Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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