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Environmental stressors are considered to play an important role in the triggering of mental disorders such as obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD). Although there is extensive literature on traumatic life events, little is known about the role of nontraumatic but nonetheless stressful life events (SLEs) in OCD. The aim of this study was to establish whether OCD preceded by an SLE presents a different clinical pattern compared to non-SLE-preceded OCD.We interviewed 412 OCD patients to assess both SLEs at onset of OCD and other clinical variables, including OCD symptom dimensions. Logistic regression was then applied to explore the relationship between clinical variables and OCD preceded by an SLE.The SLE-preceded OCD group showed a later onset of the disorder (OR = 1.04, P = .015), a history of complicated birth (OR = 5.54, P<.001), less family history of OCD (OR = 0.42, P = .014), and the presence of contamination/cleaning symptoms (OR = 1.99, P = .01).Patients with OCD onset close to an SLE and those without an SLE close to OCD onset show a distinct clinical pattern. Depression and Anxiety, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.