Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 36, Issue 6, pp 685–693 | Cite as

Initial Data Characterizing the Progression from Obsessions and Compulsions to Full-Blown Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

  • Meredith E. Coles
  • Ashley S. Hart
  • Casey A. Schofield
Original Article


Most individuals who develop obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) experience years of obsessions and/or compulsions preceding onset of the full-blown disorder (Angst in Current insights in obsessive compulsive disorder, Wiley, Chirchester, New York, Brisbane, 1994; Coles et al. in Behav Cogn Psychother 11:1–11, 2011; Pinto et al. in J Clin Psychiatry 67(5):703–711, 2006). However, little is known about experiences during this period and about factors that are involved in the generation of interference or distress that signals the onset of diagnosable OCD. Therefore, the current study was designed to provide data on the characteristics of the symptom phase of OCD and potential markers of the transition from symptoms to the full-blown disorder. Individuals that eventually developed full-blown OCD retrospectively reported that generalized anxiety, perfectionism, impaired work or school performance, social isolation, preoccupation with details and intolerance of uncertainty, frequently emerged after their initial OC symptoms but before full-criteria for OCD were met. Increases in stress level, the desire for things to feel ‘just right’, and the amount of attention paid to one’s thoughts were perceived as having played an important role in the transition to OCD. Additional data and theory development regarding the progression from symptoms to OCD is warranted.


OCD Etiology Prodrome Course Obsessions Compulsions 



The authors thank Barbara Cornblatt for her valuable input regarding the development of this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Meredith E. Coles
    • 1
  • Ashley S. Hart
    • 2
  • Casey A. Schofield
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyBinghamton UniversityBinghamtonUSA
  2. 2.Rhode Island HospitalBostonUSA
  3. 3.Brown UniversityProvidenceUSA

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