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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Recognition of facial expressions in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Corcoran, Kathleen Marie


The ability to recognize facial expressions of emotion appears to be a universal trait among humans. Accurate perception of facial expressions is important for interpersonal communication and social development. Clients with depression and schizophrenia exhibit abnormal recognition of facial expressions of emotions. Sprengelmeyer and colleagues (1997) demonstrated that clients with OCD are also impaired in their ability to recognize facial expressions of emotion. Specifically, clients with OCD were markedly impaired in their ability to recognize the facial expression of disgust. The current study questioned the robustness of this effect, while controlling for several potential limitations. Sixty participants (20 OCD outpatients, 20 panic disorder controls, and 20 normal controls) took part in the current investigation. Participants were tested on their ability to recognize facial expressions of anger, disgust, fear and sadness. Results revealed that compared to the panic disorder and normal comparison groups, individuals with OCD were impaired in their ability to recognize facial expressions of disgust and anger. Furthermore, OCD participants did not perform as a unitary sample. Rather, two-thirds of the sample achieved normal levels of accuracy for the recognition of disgust, whereas one-third showed marked impairment in the ability to recognize disgust. This study also provides preliminary evidence that OCD symptom severity and general functioning may be related to the accuracy of disgust facial expression recognition.

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