Symptom structure in obsessive-compulsive disorder: a confirmatory factor-analytic study Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Although obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) has long been a unitary diagnosis, there is much recent interest in its potential heterogeneity, as manifested by symptom subgroups. This study evaluated existing models of symptom structure in a sample of 203 individuals with OCD. Using confirmatory factor analysis, we examined the ability of each model to account for two levels of data: a priori symptom groupings (second-order) and individual symptoms, identified by the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale symptom checklist. Four models were examined: a single-factor, a two-factor (i.e., obsessions and compulsions), and two multidimensional models, comprising three and four factors. Adequate fit was found solely for the four-factor model--specifying obsessions/checking, symmetry/ordering, contamination/cleaning, and hoarding--but only at the second-order level; it did not account for relationships among discrete symptoms. Parameter estimates showed within-factor heterogeneity, as well as overlap between factors, most notably the two representing checking and contamination-related symptoms. The implications of these findings are discussed. Results provide evidence for the multidimensionality of OCD symptoms, but suggest that a comprehensive model has yet to be identified. They also point to the inadequacy of groupings based solely upon overt behavioural similarities (e.g., 'checking'). Recommendations are made for future research.

publication date

  • April 1999