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Aetiological overlap between obsessive–compulsive related and anxiety disorder symptoms: Multivariate twin study

  • Clara López-Solà (a1), Leonardo F. Fontenelle (a2), Minh Bui (a3), John L. Hopper (a3), Christos Pantelis (a4), Murat Yücel (a5), José M. Menchón (a1), Pino Alonso (a1) and Ben J. Harrison (a6)...

The aetiological boundary between obsessive–compulsive related disorders (OCRDs) including obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) and anxiety disorders is unclear and continues to generate debate.


To determine the genetic overlap and the pattern of causal relationships among OCRDs and anxiety disorders.


Multivariate twin modelling methods and a new regression analysis to infer causation were used, involving 2495 male and female twins.


The amount of common genetic liability observed for OCD symptoms was higher when considering anxiety disorders and OCRDs in the model v. modelling OCRD symptoms alone. OCD symptoms emerged as risk factors for the presence of generalised anxiety, panic and hoarding symptoms, whereas social phobia appeared as a risk factor for OCD symptoms.


OCD represents a complex phenotype that includes important shared features with anxiety disorders and OCRDs. The novel patterns of risk identified between OCD and anxiety disorder may help to explain their frequent co-occurrence.

Corresponding author
Ben J. Harrison, PhD, Melbourne Neuropsychiatry Centre, The University of Melbourne. Level 3, 161 Barry Street, Carlton, 3053, Melbourne, Australia. Email:
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This study was funded by an Early Career Researcher Grant from The University of Melbourne to B.J.H. B.J.H. is supported by a National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (NHMRC) Clinical Career Development Fellowship (I.D. 628509). C.L.-S. is supported by the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport (FPU12/01636). C.P. was supported by a NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellowship (ID: 628386) and NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Award. M.Y. was supported by a NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship (ID: 1021973). This research was facilitated through access to the Australian Twin Registry, a national resource supported by an Enabling Grant (ID 628911) from the National Health and Medical Research Council. None of these funding bodies had any role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; or decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

Declaration of interest


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Aetiological overlap between obsessive–compulsive related and anxiety disorder symptoms: Multivariate twin study

  • Clara López-Solà (a1), Leonardo F. Fontenelle (a2), Minh Bui (a3), John L. Hopper (a3), Christos Pantelis (a4), Murat Yücel (a5), José M. Menchón (a1), Pino Alonso (a1) and Ben J. Harrison (a6)...
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