OBJECTIVE: Anxiety states induced experimentally or occurring naturally potentiate the startle reflex elicited by sudden sensory stimuli in both animals and human beings. The authors investigated whether patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) show exaggerated startle reactions to acoustic probes, especially during negative-affect-toned stimuli, compared with healthy subjects. METHOD: Ten patients with OCD and 10 age- and sex-matched comparison subjects were shown a series of film clips. Two of the film clips had positive valence, two had negative valence, and two had relatively neutral valence. The subjects’ eyeblink startle response was measured in reaction to startle-eliciting stimuli presented three times binaurally during each film clip. RESULTS: Patients with OCD produced larger startle reflexes and shorter latencies to onset of startle response than the comparison subjects over the entire session. CONCLUSIONS: Patients with OCD were excessively responsive to startle-eliciting stimuli. This effect may be associated with the development or maintenance of OCD.