compulsive behavior


Summary: The behavior of performing an act persistently and repetitively without it leading to reward or pleasure. The act is usually a small, circumscribed behavior, almost ritualistic, yet not pathologically disturbing. Examples of compulsive behavior include twirling of hair, checking something constantly, not wanting pennies in change, straightening tilted pictures, etc.

Top Publications

  1. Hoffman K, Rueda Morales R. D1 and D2 dopamine receptor antagonists decrease behavioral bout duration, without altering the bout's repeated behavioral components, in a naturalistic model of repetitive and compulsive behavior. Behav Brain Res. 2012;230:1-10 pubmed publisher
    Nest building behavior in the pregnant female rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) is a model for compulsive behavior in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)...
  2. Robbins T, Gillan C, Smith D, de Wit S, Ersche K. Neurocognitive endophenotypes of impulsivity and compulsivity: towards dimensional psychiatry. Trends Cogn Sci. 2012;16:81-91 pubmed publisher
    ..We argue that this approach has important implications for the future classification of psychiatric disorders, genetics and therapeutics. ..
  3. Izquierdo A, Jentsch J. Reversal learning as a measure of impulsive and compulsive behavior in addictions. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2012;219:607-20 pubmed publisher
    ..These data suggest new approaches to targeting inhibitory control mechanisms in addictions. ..
  4. Pietrefesa A, Coles M. Moving beyond an exclusive focus on harm avoidance in obsessive-compulsive disorder: behavioral validation for the separability of harm avoidance and incompleteness. Behav Ther. 2009;40:251-9 pubmed publisher
    ..Theoretical and clinical implications are discussed. ..
  5. van der Aa N, Overbeek G, Engels R, Scholte R, Meerkerk G, van den Eijnden R. Daily and compulsive internet use and well-being in adolescence: a diathesis-stress model based on big five personality traits. J Youth Adolesc. 2009;38:765-76 pubmed publisher
    ..In turn, again, CIU was more strongly linked to loneliness in introverted, emotionally less-stable, and less agreeable adolescents. ..
  6. Vendruscolo L, Barbier E, Schlosburg J, Misra K, Whitfield T, Logrip M, et al. Corticosteroid-dependent plasticity mediates compulsive alcohol drinking in rats. J Neurosci. 2012;32:7563-71 pubmed publisher
    ..Thus, the GR system appears to be involved in the development of alcohol dependence and may represent a potential pharmacological target for the treatment of alcoholism. ..
  7. Angoa Perez M, Kane M, Briggs D, Sykes C, Shah M, Francescutti D, et al. Genetic depletion of brain 5HT reveals a common molecular pathway mediating compulsivity and impulsivity. J Neurochem. 2012;121:974-84 pubmed publisher
    ..Surprisingly, in Tph2-/- mice, the lack of 5HT was not associated with anxiety-like behaviors. The results indicate that 5HT mediates behavioral disinhibition in the mammalian brain independent of anxiogenesis. ..
  8. Johnston O, Reilly J, Kremer J. Excessive exercise: from quantitative categorisation to a qualitative continuum approach. Eur Eat Disord Rev. 2011;19:237-48 pubmed publisher
    ..The results provide support for a continuum approach to the understanding of excessive exercise, and highlight the utility of qualitative methods in this area. ..
  9. Dalley J, Everitt B, Robbins T. Impulsivity, compulsivity, and top-down cognitive control. Neuron. 2011;69:680-94 pubmed publisher
    ..These results indicate that the vulnerability to stimulant addiction may depend on an impulsivity endophenotype. Implications of these findings for the etiology, development, and treatment of drug addiction are considered. ..

More Information


  1. Denys D. Obsessionality & compulsivity: a phenomenology of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Philos Ethics Humanit Med. 2011;6:3 pubmed publisher
    ..TRANSLATION: This article is translated from Dutch, originally published in [Handbook Obsessive-compulsive disorders, Damiaan Denys, Femke de Geus (Eds.), (2007). De Tijdstroom uitgeverij BV, Utrecht. ISBN13: 9789058980878.]. ..
  2. Taylor S, Jang K. Biopsychosocial etiology of obsessions and compulsions: an integrated behavioral-genetic and cognitive-behavioral analysis. J Abnorm Psychol. 2011;120:174-86 pubmed publisher
    ..The results suggest that further biopsychosocial investigations may be fruitful for unraveling the etiology of obsessions and compulsions. ..
  3. Fukui T, Lee E, Hosoda H, Okita K. Obsessive-compulsive behavior as a symptom of dementia in progressive supranuclear palsy. Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord. 2010;30:179-88 pubmed publisher
    ..OCS are frequent but under-recognized behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia in PSP. Dysfunction of the fronto-caudate-thalamus-cerebellum circuit may be involved. ..
  4. Villella C, Martinotti G, Di Nicola M, Cassano M, La Torre G, Gliubizzi M, et al. Behavioural addictions in adolescents and young adults: results from a prevalence study. J Gambl Stud. 2011;27:203-14 pubmed publisher
    ..Further studies are needed to assess personality traits and other clinical disorders associated with these problems behaviours. ..
  5. Radomsky A, Alcolado G. Don't even think about checking: mental checking causes memory distrust. J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry. 2010;41:345-51 pubmed publisher
    ..Findings are discussed in terms of cognitive-behavioural models of and treatments for compulsive checking in OCD. ..
  6. Schilman E, Klavir O, Winter C, Sohr R, Joel D. The role of the striatum in compulsive behavior in intact and orbitofrontal-cortex-lesioned rats: possible involvement of the serotonergic system. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2010;35:1026-39 pubmed publisher
    ..pathology of the OFC leads to a dysregulation of the striatal serotonergic system, which is manifested in compulsive behavior, and that antiobsessional/anticompulsive drugs exerts their effects, in these patients, by normalizing the ..
  7. Cottone P, Sabino V, Roberto M, Bajo M, Pockros L, Frihauf J, et al. CRF system recruitment mediates dark side of compulsive eating. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009;106:20016-20 pubmed publisher
  8. Storholm E, Fisher D, Napper L, Reynolds G, Halkitis P. Proposing a tentative cut point for the Compulsive Sexual Behavior Inventory. Arch Sex Behav. 2011;40:1301-8 pubmed publisher
  9. Djamshidian A, O Sullivan S, Wittmann B, Lees A, Averbeck B. Novelty seeking behaviour in Parkinson's disease. Neuropsychologia. 2011;49:2483-8 pubmed publisher
    ..Our findings suggest that attraction to novelty is a personality trait in all PD patients with ICBs which is independent of medication status. ..
  10. Peca J, Feliciano C, Ting J, Wang W, Wells M, Venkatraman T, et al. Shank3 mutant mice display autistic-like behaviours and striatal dysfunction. Nature. 2011;472:437-42 pubmed publisher
    ..Our findings demonstrate a critical role for SHANK3 in the normal development of neuronal connectivity and establish causality between a disruption in the Shank3 gene and the genesis of autistic-like behaviours in mice. ..
  11. Housden C, O Sullivan S, Joyce E, Lees A, Roiser J. Intact reward learning but elevated delay discounting in Parkinson's disease patients with impulsive-compulsive spectrum behaviors. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2010;35:2155-64 pubmed publisher
    ..Instead, our data are more consistent with a model in which excessive dopaminergic transmission induces a strong preference for immediate over future rewards, driving maladaptive behavior in PD patients with ICBs. ..
  12. Shmelkov S, Hormigo A, Jing D, Proenca C, Bath K, Milde T, et al. Slitrk5 deficiency impairs corticostriatal circuitry and leads to obsessive-compulsive-like behaviors in mice. Nat Med. 2010;16:598-602, 1p following 602 pubmed publisher
    ..Thus, our studies identify Slitrk5 as an essential molecule at corticostriatal synapses and provide a new mouse model of OCD-like behaviors. ..
  13. Muroff J, Steketee G, Himle J, Frost R. Delivery of internet treatment for compulsive hoarding (D.I.T.C.H.). Behav Res Ther. 2010;48:79-85 pubmed publisher
    ..Evaluating the benefits of internet self-help groups is critical given growing popularity of and demand for web-based interventions. ..
  14. Moon Fanelli A, Dodman N, Famula T, Cottam N. Characteristics of compulsive tail chasing and associated risk factors in Bull Terriers. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2011;238:883-9 pubmed publisher
    ..A close association of tail chasing with trance-like behavior and episodic aggression was identified. ..
  15. Harkin B, Kessler K. The role of working memory in compulsive checking and OCD: a systematic classification of 58 experimental findings. Clin Psychol Rev. 2011;31:1004-21 pubmed publisher
    ..We conclude by discussing the relationship between our account and others', which in most cases is complementary rather than contradictory. ..
  16. Ruta L, Mugno D, D Arrigo V, Vitiello B, Mazzone L. Obsessive-compulsive traits in children and adolescents with Asperger syndrome. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2010;19:17-24 pubmed publisher
    ..Further research should be conducted to better understand the characteristics of repetitive thoughts and behaviours in autism spectrum disorders, and to clarify the underlying neurobiological basis of these symptoms. ..
  17. Fineberg N, Potenza M, Chamberlain S, Berlin H, Menzies L, Bechara A, et al. Probing compulsive and impulsive behaviors, from animal models to endophenotypes: a narrative review. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2010;35:591-604 pubmed publisher
    ..Targeted application of neurocognitive tasks, receptor-specific neurochemical probes, and brain systems neuroimaging techniques have potential for future research in this field. ..
  18. Meyer C, Taranis L, Goodwin H, Haycraft E. Compulsive exercise and eating disorders. Eur Eat Disord Rev. 2011;19:174-89 pubmed publisher
    ..These were subsequently validated by a second review, incorporating both the clinical and non-clinical as well as the exercise science literatures. A proposed model is presented which is both evidence-based and testable. ..
  19. Cook B, Hausenblas H, Tuccitto D, Giacobbi P. Eating disorders and exercise: a structural equation modelling analysis of a conceptual model. Eur Eat Disord Rev. 2011;19:216-25 pubmed publisher
    ..Our results provided initial support for the conceptual model by showing that the psychological benefits, but not the physical benefits, conveyed by exercise were associated with reduced ED risk. ..
  20. Vengeliene V, Celerier E, Chaskiel L, Penzo F, Spanagel R. Compulsive alcohol drinking in rodents. Addict Biol. 2009;14:384-96 pubmed publisher
    ..In particular, hypofunctioning of monoaminergic systems and hyperfunctioning of glutamatergic systems may play a role in compulsive alcohol drinking. ..
  21. De Carolis L, Schepisi C, Milella M, Nencini P. Clomipramine, but not haloperidol or aripiprazole, inhibits quinpirole-induced water contrafreeloading, a putative animal model of compulsive behavior. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2011;218:749-59 pubmed publisher
    ..As far as CIM is considered a first line treatment in OCD, these results further strengthen the notion that QNP-induced CFL belongs to the realm of dopaminergic drug-induced compulsive behaviors. ..
  22. Voon V, Pessiglione M, Brezing C, Gallea C, Fernandez H, Dolan R, et al. Mechanisms underlying dopamine-mediated reward bias in compulsive behaviors. Neuron. 2010;65:135-42 pubmed publisher
    ..Thus, our findings are consistent with a model whereby a distorted estimation of the gain cue underpins a choice bias toward gains. ..
  23. Chao H, Chen H, Samaco R, Xue M, Chahrour M, Yoo J, et al. Dysfunction in GABA signalling mediates autism-like stereotypies and Rett syndrome phenotypes. Nature. 2010;468:263-9 pubmed publisher
    ..These data demonstrate that MeCP2 is critical for normal function of GABA-releasing neurons and that subtle dysfunction of GABAergic neurons contributes to numerous neuropsychiatric phenotypes. ..
  24. Eilam D, Zor R, Szechtman H, Hermesh H. Rituals, stereotypy and compulsive behavior in animals and humans. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2006;30:456-71 pubmed
    ..Such similarity in form may reflect a similarity in the mechanisms that control motor rituals in both animals and humans. ..
  25. Miguel E, Baer L, Coffey B, Rauch S, Savage C, O Sullivan R, et al. Phenomenological differences appearing with repetitive behaviours in obsessive-compulsive disorder and Gilles de la Tourette's syndrome. Br J Psychiatry. 1997;170:140-5 pubmed
    ..These subjective experiences may be useful in subtyping OCD and may represent valid predictors of prognosis and treatment response. ..
  26. Hahm D, Kang Y, Cheong S, Na D. A compulsive collecting behavior following an A-com aneurysmal rupture. Neurology. 2001;56:398-400 pubmed
    ..His hoarding, an impulse control disorder or an ego-syntonic compulsion, was restricted to one specific item (toy bullet). Treatments with sertraline or fluoxetine were not effective for the hoarding. ..
  27. Hollander E, Allen A. Is compulsive buying a real disorder, and is it really compulsive?. Am J Psychiatry. 2006;163:1670-2 pubmed
  28. Meerkerk G, van den Eijnden R, Vermulst A, Garretsen H. The Compulsive Internet Use Scale (CIUS): some psychometric properties. Cyberpsychol Behav. 2009;12:1-6 pubmed publisher
    ..The instrument showed good factorial stability across time and across different samples and subsamples. The internal consistency is high, and high correlations with concurrent and criterion variables demonstrate good validity. ..
  29. Saxena S, Maidment K, Vapnik T, Golden G, Rishwain T, Rosen R, et al. Obsessive-compulsive hoarding: symptom severity and response to multimodal treatment. J Clin Psychiatry. 2002;63:21-7 pubmed
  30. Marroni S, Nakano F, Gati C, Oliveira J, Antunes Rodrigues J, Garcia Cairasco N. Neuroanatomical and cellular substrates of hypergrooming induced by microinjection of oxytocin in central nucleus of amygdala, an experimental model of compulsive behavior. Mol Psychiatry. 2007;12:1103-17 pubmed
    ..In this context, this hypergrooming is considered as a model of compulsive behavior. Our data suggest a link between the CeA and the hypothalamic grooming area (HGA)...
  31. Chamberlain S, Fineberg N, Blackwell A, Robbins T, Sahakian B. Motor inhibition and cognitive flexibility in obsessive-compulsive disorder and trichotillomania. Am J Psychiatry. 2006;163:1282-4 pubmed
    ..This assessment will advance the characterization and classification of obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders and aid the development of novel treatments. ..
  32. Tolin D, Frost R, Steketee G. An open trial of cognitive-behavioral therapy for compulsive hoarding. Behav Res Ther. 2007;45:1461-70 pubmed
  33. Grisham J, Frost R, Steketee G, Kim H, Hood S. Age of onset of compulsive hoarding. J Anxiety Disord. 2006;20:675-86 pubmed
    ..Perhaps for some individuals compulsive hoarding is a lifelong characterological phenomenon, whereas for others hoarding behavior develops later as a reaction to stress or loss. ..
  34. Mataix Cols D, Wooderson S, Lawrence N, Brammer M, Speckens A, Phillips M. Distinct neural correlates of washing, checking, and hoarding symptom dimensions in obsessive-compulsive disorder. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2004;61:564-76 pubmed
    ..Obsessive-compulsive disorder may be best conceptualized as a spectrum of multiple, potentially overlapping syndromes rather than a unitary nosologic entity. ..
  35. Engel S, Corneliussen S, Wonderlich S, Crosby R, le Grange D, Crow S, et al. Impulsivity and compulsivity in bulimia nervosa. Int J Eat Disord. 2005;38:244-51 pubmed
    ..These findings suggest that impulsivity and compulsivity can coexist in BN patients and that both traits may provide useful information about comorbid problems in women with BN. ..
  36. Rosso S, Roks G, Stevens M, de Koning I, Tanghe HLJ -, Kamphorst W, et al. Complex compulsive behaviour in the temporal variant of frontotemporal dementia. J Neurol. 2001;248:965-70 pubmed
    ..Future studies with quantitative and volumetric measurements of the cortical and subcortical structures may further clarify the aetiology of CCB in FTD. ..
  37. Cath D, Spinhoven P, Hoogduin C, Landman A, van Woerkom T, van de Wetering B, et al. Repetitive behaviors in Tourette's syndrome and OCD with and without tics: what are the differences?. Psychiatry Res. 2001;101:171-85 pubmed
    ..The distinction between obsessions, compulsions and impulsions is of importance in identifying Tourette-related vs. non-Tourette-related repetitions. ..
  38. Summerfeldt L, Richter M, Antony M, Swinson R. Symptom structure in obsessive-compulsive disorder: a confirmatory factor-analytic study. Behav Res Ther. 1999;37:297-311 pubmed
    ..They also point to the inadequacy of groupings based solely upon overt behavioural similarities (e.g., 'checking'). Recommendations are made for future research. ..
  39. Everitt B, Robbins T. Neural systems of reinforcement for drug addiction: from actions to habits to compulsion. Nat Neurosci. 2005;8:1481-9 pubmed
    ..These neural transitions may themselves depend on the neuroplasticity in both cortical and striatal structures that is induced by chronic self-administration of drugs. ..
  40. Hoffman K, Rueda Morales R. Toward an understanding of the neurobiology of "just right" perceptions: nest building in the female rabbit as a possible model for compulsive behavior and the perception of task completion. Behav Brain Res. 2009;204:182-91 pubmed publisher
  41. Chamberlain S, Fineberg N, Menzies L, Blackwell A, Bullmore E, Robbins T, et al. Impaired cognitive flexibility and motor inhibition in unaffected first-degree relatives of patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Am J Psychiatry. 2007;164:335-8 pubmed
    ..Deficits in cognitive flexibility and motor inhibition may represent cognitive endophenotypes for OCD. Such measures will play a key role in understanding genotype/phenotype associations for OCD and related spectrum conditions. ..
  42. Chassin L, Presson C, Rose J, Sherman S. What is addiction? Age-related differences in the meaning of addiction. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2007;87:30-8 pubmed
  43. Dykens E. Maladaptive and compulsive behavior in Prader-Willi syndrome: new insights from older adults. Am J Ment Retard. 2004;109:142-53 pubmed
    ..Gender and BMI were significant predictors of skin-picking and other symptoms. Possible reasons are discussed for sweeping declines in problems among older adults. ..
  44. Spinella M. Compulsive behavior in tobacco users. Addict Behav. 2005;30:183-6 pubmed
    ..The results are consistent with tobacco use as a form of self-medicating compulsive symptoms, likely through monoamine modulation of orbitofrontal-subcortical circuits. ..
  45. Nargeot R, Le Bon Jego M, Simmers J. Cellular and network mechanisms of operant learning-induced compulsive behavior in Aplysia. Curr Biol. 2009;19:975-84 pubmed publisher
  46. Belin D, Mar A, Dalley J, Robbins T, Everitt B. High impulsivity predicts the switch to compulsive cocaine-taking. Science. 2008;320:1352-5 pubmed publisher
    ..This study shows experimental evidence that a shift from impulsivity to compulsivity occurs during the development of addictive behavior, which provides insights into the genesis and neural mechanisms of drug addiction...
  47. Wheaton M, Timpano K, Lasalle Ricci V, Murphy D. Characterizing the hoarding phenotype in individuals with OCD: associations with comorbidity, severity and gender. J Anxiety Disord. 2008;22:243-52 pubmed
    ..Male hoarders had an increased prevalence of social phobia compared to non-hoarding males. These results suggest that there are gender-specific differences in the hoarding sub-phenotype of OCD. ..
  48. McGrath M, Campbell K, Veldman M, Burton F. Anxiety in a transgenic mouse model of cortical-limbic neuro-potentiated compulsive behavior. Behav Pharmacol. 1999;10:435-43 pubmed
    ..These data suggest that chronic potentiation of D1+ neurons in the amygdalar ICN increases anxiety and facilitates particular compulsive behaviors. ..
  49. Lee S, Mysyk A. The medicalization of compulsive buying. Soc Sci Med. 2004;58:1709-18 pubmed
  50. Hill R, McInnes K, Gong E, Jones M, Simpson E, Boon W. Estrogen deficient male mice develop compulsive behavior. Biol Psychiatry. 2007;61:359-66 pubmed
    ..This study describes the novel observation of a possible link between estrogen, COMT and development of compulsive behaviors in male animals which may have therapeutic implications in obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) patients. ..
  51. van den Eijnden R, Meerkerk G, Vermulst A, Spijkerman R, Engels R. Online communication, compulsive Internet use, and psychosocial well-being among adolescents: a longitudinal study. Dev Psychol. 2008;44:655-65 pubmed publisher
    ..Kraut et al., 1998), instant messenger use was positively associated with depression 6 months later. Finally, loneliness was negatively related to instant messenger use 6 months later. ..
  52. Grados M, Mathews C. Latent class analysis of gilles de la tourette syndrome using comorbidities: clinical and genetic implications. Biol Psychiatry. 2008;64:219-25 pubmed publisher
    ..Our data suggest that GTS classes may represent distinct entities, with both shared and unique etiologies. In particular, GTS + OCD + ADHD may represent a separate, heritable phenotype that can be used to further inform genetic studies. ..
  53. Koran L, Faber R, Aboujaoude E, Large M, Serpe R. Estimated prevalence of compulsive buying behavior in the United States. Am J Psychiatry. 2006;163:1806-12 pubmed
    ..The emotional and functional toll of compulsive buying and the frequency of comorbid psychiatric disorders suggests that studies of treatments and social interventions are warranted. ..