The impact of symptom dimensions on outcome for exposure and ritual prevention therapy in obsessive-compulsive disorder

Monnica T. Williams, Samantha G. Farris, Eric N. Turkheimer, Martin E. Franklin, H. Blair Simpson, Michael Liebowitz, Edna B. Foa

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46 Scopus citations


Objective: Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a severe condition with varied symptom presentations. The behavioral treatment with the most empirical support is exposure and ritual prevention (EX/RP). This study examined the impact of symptom dimensions on EX/RP outcomes in OCD patients. Method: The Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS) was used to determine primary symptoms for each participant. An exploratory factor analysis (EFA) of 238 patients identified five dimensions: contamination/cleaning, doubts about harm/checking, hoarding, symmetry/ordering, and unacceptable/taboo thoughts (including religious/moral and somatic obsessions among others). A linear regression was conducted on those who had received EX/RP (n= 87) to examine whether scores on the five symptom dimensions predicted post-treatment Y-BOCS scores, accounting for pre-treatment Y-BOCS scores. Results: The average reduction in Y-BOCS score was 43.0%, however the regression indicated that unacceptable/taboo thoughts (β = .27, p= .02) and hoarding dimensions (β= .23, p= .04) were associated with significantly poorer EX/RP treatment outcomes. Specifically, patients endorsing religious/moral obsessions, somatic concerns, and hoarding obsessions showed significantly smaller reductions in Y-BOCS severity scores. Conclusions: EX/RP was effective for all symptom dimensions, however it was less effective for unacceptable/taboo thoughts and hoarding than for other dimensions. Clinical implications and directions for research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)553-558
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Anxiety Disorders
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


  • Exposure and response prevention
  • Factor analysis
  • Hoarding
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Symptom dimensions
  • Treatment outcome


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