Obsessive-compulsive symptoms, perceived burdensomeness, and thwarted belongingness: Associations and implications among US veterans

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Journal of Clinical Psychology


Objective: Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is among the most debilitating psychiatric disorders worldwide, but has gone relatively unnoticed within the US veteran population. Simultaneously, suicide rates continue to remain high within this population despite the high volume of veterans who receive psychiatric care. With recent research demonstrating OCD's unique relationship with suicidality, it is imperative to explore this association and factors that may explain this association within veterans. Methods: The present study investigated OCD symptoms and their relationship with two known risk factors of suicide, perceived burdensomeness (PB) and thwarted belongingness (TB), in two samples of veterans. Results: In the first study (N = 100), OCD symptoms were found to be uniquely related to both PB and TB even after covarying for demographics, trauma exposure, and probable depression. In the second study (N = 99), these relationships were replicated longitudinally. OCD symptoms at baseline were found to be indirectly related to suicidal ideation severity at a 1-month follow-up via PB and TB at post-treatment. Conclusion: This study highlights the importance of assessing and addressing OCD symptoms within veterans due to the unique relationship these symptoms have with suicidal constructs. A deeper understanding of the impact of OCD within the veteran population will inform future prevention and intervention efforts.

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