Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Kiara R. Timpano

Second Committee Member

Charles S. Carver

Third Committee Member

Daniel E. Jimenez


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a condition marked by recurrent and distressing thoughts, images, and impulses that are typically accompanied by repetitive physical or mental rituals. Previous research has explored impulsivity as a potential risk factor for OCD using a variety of self-report and behavioral measures; however, these studies have yielded inconsistent results. An emerging line of work suggests that emotional precipitation may be an important consideration when looking at the role of impulsivity across the spectrum of psychopathology, including OCD. The current study examined the relationship between symptoms of OCD and emotion-based impulsivity using the Three Factor Impulsivity Index, a self-report measure developed by Carver et al. (2011), which allows for the separate assessment of emotion- and non-emotion-based impulsive responding. Within a large-community based sample supplemented with at-risk young adults, we found that emotion-based impulsivity was associated with greater severity of self-reported OCD symptoms both overall and across symptom subtypes. Non-emotion-based impulsivity (Lack of Follow Through) was negatively associated with OCD symptoms, when any significant relationship emerged. Within our at-risk young adult sample, we further investigated these relationships using interview-based and behavioral measures of OCD symptoms. In both cases, factors reflecting emotion-based impulsivity, but not their non-emotion-based counterpart, predicted greater symptom severity. Finally, interaction analyses showed that the positive relationship between emotion-based impulsivity and OCD symptoms was moderated by a belief in the importance and control of thoughts (ICT). Those who were elevated on ICT had the strongest relationship between emotion-based impulsivity and severity of symptoms as assessed by self-report and interview. This interaction was not present for our behavioral outcomes. Overall, these findings suggest that it is important to consider the role of emotion when studying the relationship between OCD and impulsivity.


OCD; impulsivity; emotion; multi-modal symptom assessment; risk factors