BACKGROUND: Although stereotypic behaviors have been well described in patients with mental retardation, there has been relatively little work on the prevalence and nature of these phenomena in intellectually normal subjects. Stereotypies may conceivably be related to obsessive-compulsive disorder, to perfectionism, or to impulse dyscontrol. METHODS: This study attempted to assess the prevalence of stereotypic behaviors in a college population and to determine their relationship to compulsive and impulsive symptoms and traits by means of self-rated questionnaires. Questionnaires assessed stereotypies as well as obsessive-compulsive symptoms, perfectionism, and impulsive-aggressive traits. RESULTS: Stereotypic behaviors were common in this population, and they were time-consuming or problematic in a subgroup of subjects. The total number of stereotypic behaviors was significantly associated with increased scores of obsessive-compulsive symptoms, of perfectionism, and of impulsive-aggressive traits. Other measures of the severity of stereotypic behavior were also associated with obsessive-compulsive symptoms and perfectionism. CONCLUSIONS: Although the nature of stereotypic behaviors is not well understood, these phenomena can be clinically important in intellectually normal subjects. Stereotypic behaviors deserve further attention from researchers and clinicians.
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