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Harm avoidance (HA) and “not just right experience” (NJRE) have been proposed to be 2 core motivational processes underlying obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The objective of this study was to explore whether NJRE demarcates a neurodevelopmental OCD subgroup distinct from HA related to autistic traits and/or to a broader phenotype of cognitive rigidity and sensory processing difficulties associated with an earlier age of OCD onset.
A correlational design investigated whether NJRE and HA are distinct entities in OCD and explored their relationship to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) traits measured by the Autism Quotient (AQ), sensory processing, set-shifting, and age of OCD onset in an OCD sample (N=25).
NJRE was only moderately (r=.34) correlated to HA and not significant in this study. Consistent with predictions, NJRE was associated with sensory processing difficulties and an earlier age of OCD onset. No significant relationships were found between NJRE and ASD traits as measured by the AQ or set-shifting difficulties.
These preliminary findings suggest a lack of evidence demonstrating NJRE as a manifestation of core autistic traits as measured by the AQ. However, NJRE was associated with sensory abnormalities and an earlier age of OCD onset. The role of NJRE as a developmental, and possibly neurodevelopmental, risk factor for OCD possibly warrants further investigation.
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