Which Came First: The Obsession or the Compulsion?

Image

A recent study provides insight into how obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) develops. Led by Claire Gillan and Trevor Robbins at the University of Cambridge and Sanne de Wit at the University of Amsterdam, the study suggests that compulsive behavior may not be a response to obsessive fears, but instead may be a precursor to those fears (American Journal of Psychiatry, July 2011). That is, compulsions such as repetitive hand-washing may lead to an obsessive fear of germs—rather than the other way around.

“It has long been established that humans have a tendency to ‘fill in the gaps’ when it comes to behavior that cannot otherwise be logically explained,” said Gillan in a recent issue of Cambridge’s Research News. “In the case of OCD, the overwhelming urge to senselessly repeat a behavior might be enough to instill a very real obsessive fear in order to explain it.”

The study, which involved 20 patients suffering from OCD and 20 control subjects, measured patients’ tendency to develop habit-like behavior. Participants were required to learn simple associations among stimuli, behaviors, and outcomes in order to win points on a task. The researchers found that patients suffering from OCD were much more likely to continue to respond with a learned behavior, even when that behavior did not produce the desired outcome; that is, they quickly formed habits, or irresistible urges, to perform a task. These behaviors, initiated and observed in a laboratory setting and in the absence of any related obsessions, suggest that the compulsions themselves may be the critical feature of OCD.

This finding seems to support the approach of exposure and response prevention (ERP) as a treatment for OCD. ERP is a therapy that challenges patients to discontinue compulsive responding and learn that the feared consequence does not occur. Proponents of ERP say that once the compulsion is stopped, the obsession tends to diminish or disappear.

What do you think? What therapies have you found most effective for your clients with OCD? PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!

Advertisements

6 Responses

  1. This is interesting to me because I’ve been thinking recently that although I have OCD, a lot of times my actions are compulsions without a true fear. I have been wondering if they were more tic-like behaviors that just seemed like an unusually mental or complex tic.

  2. Well I was raised in a military family. My father used to keep everything SUPER organized; during my teens years i developed being super organized without stress, but wanted everything as my way. That is something that in my country is knowing as a very organized person having great organizational skills. In fact I raised my girls less disciplinary than I was, but still those habits works great in their lives as adults, but when I decided to live in USA married with a wonderful husband, I was impressed that my habits is very well know as OCD. My actions are compulsions as well without FEARS, just because I push myself. Is this a bad thing? I do not have any mental disorders at all. Peruvian .

  3. Also a thing to mention is that an online business administration diploma is designed for college students to be
    able to without problems proceed to bachelors degree courses.

    The Ninety credit education meets the other bachelor college degree requirements so when you earn your current associate of arts in BA online, you may have access to the newest technologies
    within this field. Some reasons why students need to get their
    associate degree in business is because they
    are interested in this area and want to find the general education necessary ahead of jumping in
    to a bachelor education program. Many thanks for the tips you really provide as part of your blog.

  4. Compulsions are probably kindled behaviors out of the dorsal striatum.

  5. Excellent blogg here! Also your web site loads up very fast!
    What hst are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host?
    I wish my website loaded up as quickly as yours lol

  6. We are a gaggle of volunteers and starting a brand
    new scheme in our community. Your website offered us with helpful
    information to work on. You have performed an impressive job aand our entire community can be thankful to you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: