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The relationship between obsessive-compulsive personality disorder traits, obsessive-compulsive disorder and excessive exercise in patients with anorexia nervosa: a systematic review

Sarah Young1*, Paul Rhodes1, Stephen Touyz1 and Phillipa Hay23

Author Affiliations

1 Clinical Psychology Unit, Mackie Building K01, School of Psychology, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, 2006, Australia

2 School of Medicine, University of Western Sydney, Locked Bag 1797, Penrith, NSW, 2751, Australia

3 School of Medicine, James Cook University, Townsville, North Queensland, Australia

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Journal of Eating Disorders 2013, 1:16  doi:10.1186/2050-2974-1-16

Published: 2 May 2013



Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) traits and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are commonly associated with patients with Anorexia Nervosa (AN). The aim of this review was to systematically search the literature to examine whether OCPD and OCD are positively associated with excessive exercise in patients with AN.


A systematic electronic search of the literature (using PsycInfo, Medline and Web of Knowledge) was undertaken to identify relevant publications until May 2012.


A total of ten studies met criteria for inclusion in the review. The design of the studies varied from cross-sectional to retrospective and quasi-experimental. Seven out of the ten studies reviewed demonstrated a positive relationship between OCPD and/or OCD in AN patients who exercise excessively, whilst three studies found a lack of relationship, or a negative relationship, between these constructs.


There is evidence from the literature to suggest that there is a positive relationship between OCPD and excessive exercise in patients with AN. However, the relationship between OCD and excessive exercise is less clear and further research is required to qualify the strength of such relationships. Future research should utilise the most comprehensive and reliable clinical assessment tools, and address prognostic factors, treatment factors and specific interventions for patients with OCPD and/or OCD and excessive exercise.

Anorexia nervosa; Exercise; Obsessive-compulsive disorder; Obsessive-compulsive personality; Excessive