Background: Social phobia and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) share several similarities: both are categorized as anxiety disorders, avoidant personality disorder and depression are common in both, they have a similar age of onset and course, and both disorders respond to treatments with serotonin reuptake inhibitors and cognitive behavioural therapy. However, OCD and social phobia differ in respect to their relation to autism spectrum disorders (ASD; i.e. Asperger’s syndrome, autism, pervasive disorder not otherwise specified). Findings that suggest a link between OCD and ASD have no parallel in social phobia. Moreover, obsessive-compulsive, paranoid and schizotypal personality disorders are prevalent in OCD and in ASD, but not in social phobia. Individuals with ASD are known to be frequent targets of bullying. We hypothesised that individuals with autistic traits would have been frequent targets for bullies during their childhood, as opposed to people without such traits. Methods: Adult patients with social phobia (n = 63) or OCD (n = 65) were assessed regarding autistic traits, and interviewed about being bullied at school. A reference group (n = 551) responded to questions about being bullied. Results: There was a significant difference in the prevalence of being bullied between OCD (50%), social phobia patients (20%) and the reference group (27%). Autistic traits were more common in OCD than in social phobia. A history of being bullied was related to autistic traits among patients. Conclusions: Falling victim to bullying is not a random event. Autistic traits, i.e. low social skills, may be a predictor of being bullied in school. The high rate of bullying victims in persons who later develop OCD is suggested to be related to the overlap between OCD and ASD.

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