The relationship between sensory processing, childhood rituals and obsessive-compulsive symptoms

Reuven Dar, Dennis T. Kahn, Ran Carmeli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and objectives: Studies of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and research in occupational therapy suggest a link between sensory hypersensitivity and excessive use of rituals. The present research constitutes an initial attempt to examine this potential link. Methods: In Study 1, parents of 4-6-year old children (N = 61) completed the Childhood Routine Inventory, the Sensory Profile and the Screen for Child Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders. In Study 2 we administered an adapted version of the sensory profile to an internet sample of adult participants (N = 314) together with the Obsessive-Compulsive Inventory-Revised, the anxiety subscale of the International Personality Item Pool - NEO and items measuring participants' recollection of their childhood oral and tactile hypersensitivity. Results: Strong reactions to everyday sensory events were highly correlated with childhood ritualism, even after controlling for anxiety. In the adult sample, current and recollected oral and tactile hypersensitivity were significantly related to OCD symptoms. Limitations: In Study 1, children's sensory sensitivity was not tested directly, but rather through parental report. The scale was developed ad hoc based on face validity and relationship with ritualism. The studies were cross-sectional in design. Study 2 partially relied on recollection of childhood behavior. Conclusions: The results suggest a strong relationship between sensory sensitivity, childhood ritualism and adult OCD symptoms. Oral and tactile hypersensitivity in childhood may be one pathway to adult OCD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)679-684
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2012


  • Hypersensitivity
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Rituals
  • Sensory processing


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