Individual obsessive-compulsive traits are associated with poorer adjustment to the easing of COVID-19 restrictions

Naomi A. Fineberg, Luca Pellegrini, Julius Burkauskas, Aaron Clarke, Keith R. Laws

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Background: As COVID-19 restrictions ease, the public are expected to relinquish previously enforced safety behaviors and resume a more normal lifestyle. Despite these aims, our recent survey of 438 adults from the general population, during a temporary release of lockdown in the United Kingdom (July–November 2020), showed that 25% of the public find re-adjustment problematic. This was especially the case in those with a history of mental disorder and obsessive-compulsive (OC) traits and symptoms, including rigidity as measured by a neurocognitive test of attentional flexibility. To aid in identifying those most at risk, we performed a secondary analysis on the data to determine which specific OC traits were related to specific aspects of behavioral adjustment.

Methods: Correlational and multiple regression analyses were performed to determine associations between the eight individual personality traits constituting DSM-5 Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD), as measured by the self-rated Compulsive Personality Assessment Scale (CPAS) and a range of self-rated Post-Pandemic Adjustment Questionnaire items.

Results: Three items on the Post-Pandemic Adjustment Questionnaire correlated with individual CPAS items: ‘General difficulties adjusting’ correlated with perfectionism, preoccupation with details, over-conscientiousness and need for control; ‘social avoidance’ correlated with perfectionism and preoccupation with details; and ‘disinfecting behaviors’ correlated with preoccupation with details and miserliness (Pearson's r - all p < .001). Intriguingly, none of the adjustment items correlated significantly with self-rated rigidity.

Conclusions: Several OCPD traits predict post-pandemic adjustment difficulties, but perfectionism and preoccupation-with-details showed the most robust correlations. These traits constitute a platform for the development of new screening and interventional strategies aimed at restoring public mental health and wellbeing. Cognitive rigidity may be more reliably evaluated using an objective form of assessment.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
Early online date18 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2022


  • COVID-19
  • Lockdown release
  • Mental-health
  • Obsessive-compulsive personality traits
  • Pandemic
  • Compulsive Personality Disorder/psychology
  • Humans
  • Adult
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder/psychology
  • Communicable Disease Control
  • Compulsive Behavior


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