Date of Award

January 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

F. Richard Ferraro


Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) are often severe and disabling psychiatric conditions. Many similarities have been noted between the two disorders, and it has been suggested that BDD may best be understood as existing along the OCD spectrum. Limited empirical evidence exists to suggest that childhood trauma history may be associated with both OCD and BDD symptomatology, but few studies have compared the two disorders directly in this regard. In addition, some research has indicated that OCD symptom dimensions are differentially related to specific types of trauma exposure. The goal of this study was to examine trauma history and its associations with symptoms of BDD and subclinical OCD subtypes, in order to better understand the potential relationship between BDD and OCD. A series of multiple regression analyses and post-hoc contrasts were used to analyze these relationships in two separate samples. The first sample consisted of 474 university participants, while the second consisted of 137 participants from Mechanical Turk, which is an online labor market. In Sample 1, BDD symptoms and OCD checking and obsessing subtype symptoms were found to be significant predictors of physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, and total abuse. Washing symptoms were significant predictors of sexual abuse, neglect, and total abuse, while ordering symptoms were significant predictors of neglect, emotional abuse, and total trauma. Further, BDD symptoms were significantly more predictive of all OCD symptoms across sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, and total trauma, while they were as equally predictive of physical abuse as were checking and obsessing symptoms. The results of Sample 2 did not replicate the majority of these findings, although BDD symptoms were found to be predictive of neglect, emotional abuse, and total abuse, while obsessing symptoms were found to be predictive of emotional abuse. Possible explanations for these discrepancies are discussed. Although results were not conclusive in establishing clear relationships between BDD symptoms and OCD symptom dimensions across samples, the significant and consistent findings of Sample 1 suggest that trauma exposure may be a causal factor in the etiology of both OCD and BDD. Physical abuse may contribute equally to the development of BDD and OCD obsessing and checking subtypes, while sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect may play a larger contributory role to the development of BDD than to that of all OCD subtypes. Although a relationship between the two disorders may exist, the inconsistent results across samples suggest that this relationship is complex and requires further research to conceptualize.