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.