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Responsibility in obsessive compulsive disorder: is it worth checking? Lopatka, Cindy Lee


The purpose of this investigation was to test the hypothesis that perceived responsibility is a major determinant of compulsive checking. Thirty participants recruited from the community through the local media, who met criteria for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, received four conditions. In the low responsibility condition, perceived responsibility for an anticipated negative eventt was transferred to the experimenter. In contrast, in the high responsibility condition, perceived responsibility for an anticipated negative event was given to the participant. The remaining two conditions served as control conditions. Subjects were assessed before and after each experimental manipulation. Results suggest a causal connection between decreases in perceived responsibility and compulsive checking. Decreases in perceived responsibility produced decreases in several measures critical to compulsive checking. Results from increases in perceived responsibility were less clear. However, increases in perceived responsibility lead to increases in panic and likelihood of anticipated criticism. There were trends for increases in perceived responsibility to lead to increases in perceptions of discomfort experienced, urge to check, and severity of anticipated criticism. There was no relationship between variations in perceived responsibility and perceived extent of controllability over an anticipated negative event. Theoretical implications of the results and, in particular, the value of a cognitive analysis of compulsive checking, are discussed.

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