Why People With OCD Score Lower On Intelligence Tests

People with OCD score lower on IQ tests, but this may not reflect their actual intelligence.

People with OCD score lower on IQ tests, but this may not reflect their actual intelligence.

People with OCD may have lower than average IQs, despite the popular myth that they have higher IQs, research reveals.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is more than just being fastidious about cleaning or checking the oven is off.

People with OCD normally have unreasonable fears (called obsessions) which they try to reduce by performing certain behaviours (called compulsions).

OCD is a type of anxiety disorder and is frequently mixed up with having an obsessive personality, which is something different.

Myth of high IQ and OCD

Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, popularised the myth that OCD is linked to higher IQ over a century ago.

Today, TV shows such as “Monk” help to keep the myth alive by showing a highly intelligent person with OCD solving mysteries.

However, a review of almost 100 studies on the topic has found that people with OCD have slightly lower IQs than average.

Dr. Gideon Anholt, study co-author, said:

“Although this myth was never studied empirically until now, it is still a widely held belief among mental-health professionals, OCD sufferers and the general public.”

Why people with OCD have lower IQ scores

People with OCD may not have lower IQs, though, but simply be slower at the test.

Checking the answers and wanting to get everything correct could contribute to lower scores on the test but not reflect reduced cognitive ability.

The researchers write:

“Future IQ assessments of individuals with OCD should focus on verbal and not performance IQ — a score heavily influenced by slowness.”

The study was published in the journal Neuropsychology (Abramovitch et al., 2017).

Author: Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book "Making Habits, Breaking Habits" (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks.

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