Evidence for a genetic overlap between body dysmorphic concerns and obsessive–compulsive symptoms in an adult female community twin sample

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Abstract

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is thought to be etiologically related to obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) but the available evidence is incomplete. The current study examined the genetic and environmental sources of covariance between body dysmorphic and obsessive–compulsive symptoms in a community sample of adult twins. A total of 2,148 female twins (1,074 pairs) completed valid and reliable measures of body dysmorphic concerns and obsessive–compulsive symptoms. The data were analyzed using bivariate twin modeling methods and the statistical programme Mx. In the best-fitting model, the covariation between body dysmorphic and obsessive–compulsive traits was largely accounted for by genetic influences common to both phenotypes (64%; 95% CI: 0.50–0.80). This genetic overlap was even higher when specific obsessive–compulsive symptom dimensions were considered, with up to 82% of the phenotypic correlation between the obsessing and symmetry/ordering symptom dimensions and dysmorphic concerns being attributable to common genetic factors. Unique environmental factors, although influencing these traits individually, did not substantially contribute to their covariation. The results remained unchanged when excluding individuals reporting an objective medical condition/injury accounting for their concern in physical appearance. The association between body dysmorphic concerns and obsessive–compulsive symptoms is largely explained by shared genetic factors. Environmental risk factors were largely unique to each phenotype. These results support current recommendations to group BDD together with OCD in the same DSM-5 chapter, although comparison with other phenotypes such as somatoform disorders and social phobia is needed. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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