Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is condition marked by persistent and intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and the repetition of relatively stereotyped behaviors despite the recognition that they are irrational (compulsions) (Szechtman & Woody, 2004). Individuals with OCD experience a high need for certainty coupled with a crippling sense of doubt in their own efficacy. For example, someone may find it impossible to suppress the thought that their hands might still be dirty, despite their memories of standing at the sink and using a full bottle of soap. However, it is not within the scope of this essay to attempt to address every possible theory of how OCD should be conceptualized and treated. Rather, the primary focus of this essay is to examine the validity of Szechtman and Woody's security motivation model of obsessive-compulsive behavior (2004). This theory frames obsessive-compulsive behavior as being rooted in an inability to generate an internal ?feeling of knowing? that is experienced differently from objective knowledge and normally serves as a terminator signal for security-driven actions such as washing oneself and checking the surroundings.
[...] The next major shortfall of the security motivation theory is that it fails to account for the heterogeneity of obsessive-compulsive symptoms. good model of OCD should be able to explain why one person has hoarding obsessions while another person has cleaning rituals and still another has a multitude of different types of rituals” (Taylor, McKay, & Abramowitz, 2005). To them, the security-motivation model does not adequately address the observed domain-specificity of many obsessives' safety concerns. Further, it does not account for the bizarre symptoms of OCD that seem unrelated to any type of security obsession, such as the individual who is plagued by The Flintstones theme song constantly playing in their mind (Taylor, McKay, & Abramowitz, 2005). [...]
[...] The resulting recurrence of these concerns about personal responsibility for safety could activate the security motivation system, causing the individual to participate in a bout of compulsive risk- alleviation motor behaviors. To continue the previous example, the individual whose security-motivation system is activated by obsessive thoughts of an airplane engine fire would be compelled to check out the window to make sure there were no visible problems with the wings. However, whereas most people, even including nervous fliers, would be sufficiently assuaged by an occasional glance out the window, the OCD individual is unable to generate an internal feeling of knowing based on this limited input. [...]
[...] Negative Feedback Loop of Repetitive Actions A series of experiments conducted by van den Hout and Kindt (2003a) examined the mechanism through which obsessional checkers continue to distrust their own memories of properly checking something. The authors begin by citing evidence in opposition to the theory that OCD checkers' behavior is due to a general memory deficit which causes them to repeat actions because they do not remember performing them moments earlier. For example, OCD checkers showed a positive memory bias under conditions where they felt themselves to be in a position of high responsibility. [...]
[...] I can't risk To test this distinction, the researchers had participants in the post-test condition indicate whether their confidence in the outcome of the last check was based more on remembering or knowing. Additionally, participants in pre- and post-test stages were asked to rate their levels of agreement with quotes from OCD patients (e.g. as though the memory is there, but it isn't definite enough”). For semantic specificity, these quotes were counterbalanced with inverted versions that emphasized subjective certainty paired with lack of objective knowledge (van den Hout & Kindt, 2003b). [...]
[...] Although it has its shortcomings in terms of comprehensive empirical support, the security- motivation model seems to mesh nicely with the propositions put forth by evolutionary psychologists, neuroanatomical researchers, clinicians and motivational researchers. Hopefully there will come a day when everybody can at least feel safe in their own homes. References Coles, M. E., Mennin, D. S., & Heimberg, R. G. (2001). Distinguishing obsessive features and worries: the role of thought-action fusion. Behaviour Research and Therapy 947-959. Kruglanski, A. W. [...]
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