Capacity to delay reward differentiates obsessive-compulsive disorder and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder

Anthony Pinto, Joanna E. Steinglass, Ashley L. Greene, Elke U. Weber, H. Blair Simpson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


Background Although the relationship between obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) has long been debated, clinical samples of OCD (without OCPD) and OCPD (without OCD) have never been systematically compared. We studied whether individuals with OCD, OCPD, or both conditions differ on symptomatology, functioning, and a measure of self-control: the capacity to delay reward. Methods Twenty-five OCD, 25 OCPD, 25 comorbid OCD + OCPD, and 25 healthy control subjects completed clinical assessments and a validated intertemporal choice task that measures capacity to forego small immediate rewards for larger delayed rewards. Results OCD and OCPD subjects both showed impairment in psychosocial functioning and quality of life, as well as compulsive behavior, but only subjects with OCD reported obsessions. Individuals with OCPD, with or without comorbid OCD, discounted the value of delayed monetary rewards significantly less than OCD and healthy control subjects. This excessive capacity to delay reward discriminates OCPD from OCD and is associated with perfectionism and rigidity. Conclusions OCD and OCPD are both impairing disorders marked by compulsive behaviors, but they can be differentiated by the presence of obsessions in OCD and by excessive capacity to delay reward in OCPD. That individuals with OCPD show less temporal discounting (suggestive of excessive self-control), whereas prior studies have shown that individuals with substance use disorders show greater discounting (suggestive of impulsivity), supports the premise that this component of self-control lies on a continuum in which both extremes (impulsivity and overcontrol) contribute to psychopathology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)653-659
Number of pages7
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 15 2014
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biological Psychiatry


  • Delay discounting
  • impulsivity
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • obsessive-compulsive personality disorder
  • self-control
  • temporal discounting


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