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      Behavioral Impulsivity in Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder

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          Grassi et al. (2015) collected data to examine impulsivity in individuals with obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) compared to nonpsychiatric controls. Their aim was to examine whether OCD may be fully captured by the behavioral addiction model, using the prototypical mechanism underlying drug addiction as their framework. Based on their findings, Grassi et al. concluded that OCD shares behavioral components with addictions, particularly behavioral impulsivity and risky decision making. Furthermore, the authors suggested that this model may be superior to the prevailing psychological model of OCD.


          We argue that based on the nature of their data as well as the current dominant conceptualization of OCD in the literature, this conclusion is untenable. The authors inferred behavioral impulsivity, whereas their main finding was concerning cognitive impulsivity or difficulties in planning. Such items on the Barratt impulsiveness scale have been shown in other research to overpredict behavioral impulsive tendencies in OCD, where the nature of the condition involves doubting of action and a conservative estimate of how one’s cognitions may impact behavior.


          We conclude that similar to drug addiction, compulsive rituals in OCD may be governed by a negative reinforcement mechanism; the available data indicate that OCD does not share the two main components seen in addiction, namely, behavioral impulsivity and risky decision making.

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          Most cited references 26

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          Probing compulsive and impulsive behaviors, from animal models to endophenotypes: a narrative review.

          Failures in cortical control of fronto-striatal neural circuits may underpin impulsive and compulsive acts. In this narrative review, we explore these behaviors from the perspective of neural processes and consider how these behaviors and neural processes contribute to mental disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, and impulse-control disorders such as trichotillomania and pathological gambling. We present findings from a broad range of data, comprising translational and human endophenotypes research and clinical treatment trials, focussing on the parallel, functionally segregated, cortico-striatal neural projections, from orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) to medial striatum (caudate nucleus), proposed to drive compulsive activity, and from the anterior cingulate/ventromedial prefrontal cortex to the ventral striatum (nucleus accumbens shell), proposed to drive impulsive activity, and the interaction between them. We suggest that impulsivity and compulsivity each seem to be multidimensional. Impulsive or compulsive behaviors are mediated by overlapping as well as distinct neural substrates. Trichotillomania may stand apart as a disorder of motor-impulse control, whereas pathological gambling involves abnormal ventral reward circuitry that identifies it more closely with substance addiction. OCD shows motor impulsivity and compulsivity, probably mediated through disruption of OFC-caudate circuitry, as well as other frontal, cingulate, and parietal connections. Serotonin and dopamine interact across these circuits to modulate aspects of both impulsive and compulsive responding and as yet unidentified brain-based systems may also have important functions. Targeted application of neurocognitive tasks, receptor-specific neurochemical probes, and brain systems neuroimaging techniques have potential for future research in this field.
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            'Behavioral' addictions: do they exist?

             Alan Holden (2001)
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              Comparative neuropsychology of adult obsessive-compulsive disorder and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder: implications for a novel executive overload model of OCD.

              Research implicates frontostriatal pathophysiology in both attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Nevertheless, ADHD is characterized with frontostriatal hypoactivity and OCD with hyperactivity. Furthermore, both disorders seem to lie on opposite ends of a clinical impulsive-compulsive continuum. While never having directly been compared, and despite these differences, OCD and ADHD appear to share similar neuropsychological impairments especially in executive functions. This study aimed at comparing adults with OCD and adults with ADHD on neuropsychological measures and behavioural impulsivity and OC measures. Thirty OCD, 30 ADHD, and 30 matched healthy control (HC) participants were administered a comprehensive neuropsychological battery and completed several questionnaires. The groups were compared on all neuropsychological and clinical measures and correlations between neuropsychological and clinical symptoms were computed. The ADHD and OCD groups performed more poorly than HC on all neuropsychological domains and most domain subtests. The ADHD group reported significantly higher impulsivity than the OCD group. OCD patients did not differ from HC on behavioural impulsivity. A unique dissociation was found between impulsivity and response inhibition where both clinical groups showed similar response inhibition deficit, but differed significantly on impulsivity. Moreover, a negative association between OC symptoms and response inhibition and a bias in self-perception of impulsivity was found only in the OCD group. We propose an executive overload model of OCD that views neuropsychological impairments in OCD as an epiphenomenon, according to which continuous attempts to control automatic processes are associated with obsessive thoughts overflow that causes an overload on the executive system. ©2011 The British Psychological Society.

                Author and article information

                Journal of Behavioral Addictions
                J Behav Addict
                Akadémiai Kiadó (Budapest )
                09 May 2016
                September 2016
                : 5
                : 3
                : 395-397
                [ 1 ] Texas State University , San Marcos, Texas, USA
                [ 2 ] Fordham University , Bronx, New York, USA
                Author notes
                [* ]Corresponding author: Amitai Abramovitch; Department of Psychology, Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas 78666, USA; Phone: +1 512 245 2526; Fax: +1 512 245 3153; E-mail: abramovitch@
                © 2016 The Author(s)

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium for non-commercial purposes, provided the original author and source are credited.

                Page count
                Figures: 0, Tables: 0, Equations: 0, References: 26, Pages: 9
                Funding sources: No financial support was received for this study.


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