Ritualizing As a Coping Strategy

Oct 06, 08 Ritualizing As a Coping Strategy

Posted by in Anxiety, OCD

Ritualizing As a Coping Strategy by Gelman, I. A review of: Boyer, P. & Lienard, P. (2008). Ritual Behavior in Obsessive and Normal Individuals. Moderating Anxiety and Reorganizing the Flow of Action. Psychological Science, (17) 4, 291-294. Checking the door 200 times before bed, cleaning a table in counterclockwise circles, plugging and unplugging the toaster 24 times before leaving the house – these are all behaviors of obsessive-compulsive disorder. These various ritualized behaviors are characterized by compulsions (the person feels they must perform these actions), goal-demotion (no connection between goal and action), redundancy (actions repeated a certain number of times), and rigidity (actions must be accomplished in a certain sequence). In their article, Pascal Boyer and Pierre Lienard, from University of Washington in St. Louis, write that OCD behaviors can be observed in nonclinical populations, especially children and cultural ceremonies. They go on to explain that the behaviors are probably linked to our inherent precaution system, which is necessary to detect potential danger and protect ourselves. In their article, Ritual Behavior in Obsessive and Normal Individuals. Moderating Anxiety and Reorganizing the Flow of Action, published in 2008, Boyer and Lienard explain their theory. They state that intrusive thoughts (and their responses) are not exclusive to OCD. Previous studies show that the pathological aspect of OCD behaviors stems from wrongly appraising threats in the environment and how much control one has over it. If one perceives himself to have little control, he is more likely to ritualize pathologically. Children engage in ritualized behaviors, with their rituals specifically linked to anxiety states, such as fear of strangers and risk of inflicting harm to self or someone else. On the other hand, cultural rituals are centered on collective ritualized behaviors that work because people believe in them, and people believe in them precisely because they are ritualized. Authors site several studies describing the fact that, from an evolutionary perspective, human beings need to be vigilant to ensure their survival. For example, higher attentional load of parents’ preoccupation...

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Understanding Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Oct 03, 08 Understanding Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Posted by in Anxiety, OCD

Understanding Obsessive-Compulsive Disorderby Cohen, G. E. A review of: Abramowitz, J.S., Lackey, G. R., & Wheaton, M. G. (In-press). Obsessive-compulsive symptoms: The contribution of obsessional beliefs and experiential avoidance. Journal of Anxiety Disorders. In their current study, Abramowitz, Lackey and Wheaton seek to compare a new theory for the primary mechanism underlying the symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) with the currently prevailing model. OCD includes symptoms of unwanted anxiety-evoking thoughts, images, and impulses (obsessions), and urges to perform behavioral or mental acts in an effort to reduce the anxiety felt (compulsions). Prevailing models of OCD state that obsessions result from maladaptive, negative interpretations of normal intrusive thoughts. 90% of the population experience some form of unwanted thought (Rachman & deSilva, 1978) but people with OCD treat these unwanted thoughts as highly significant and threatening, and so they feel these thoughts must be highly controlled. The misinterpretation of these thoughts leads to obsessional anxiety and rituals designed to control or minimize that anxiety. Abramowitz, Lackey and Wheaton sought to determine if another mechanism, known as experiential avoidance (EA) better explain the symptoms and underlying beliefs associated with OCD. EA is characterized by an “unwillingness to endure upsetting emotions, thoughts, memories and other private experiences.” This unwillingness then leads to significant efforts to avoid or escape these experiences, resulting in compulsions (Hayes, Wilson, Gifford, Follette & Stroahl, 1996). In order to explore the relationship between EA and OCD, Abramowitz, et al. recruited a sample of 353 undergraduate students who scored high on a self-report measure of obsessive compulsive symptoms. These undergraduate students then took 4 different self-report measures through an online system and these measures were analyzed to determine the extent to which they evidenced experiential avoidance versus maladaptive cognitions. It was found that participants that scored higher on symptoms of OCD also scored higher on measures of EA. However, it was unable to be determined if EA was specific to obsessive compulsive symptoms or if it is a characteristic of anxiety symptoms in general. Additionally,...

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