Study shows that compulsions lead to obsessions, and not the other way around
New scientific evidence challenges a popular conception that behaviours such as repetitive hand-washing, characteristic of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), are carried out in response to disturbing obsessive fears.
The study, conducted at the University of Cambridge in collaboration with the University of Amsterdam, found that in the case of OCD the behaviours themselves (the compulsions) might be the precursors to the disorder, and that obsessions may simply be the brain's way of justifying these behaviours. The research provides important insight into how the debilitating repetitive behaviour of OCD develops and could lead to more effective treatments and preventative measures for the disorder.
The research, funded by the Wellcome Trust and published in the renowned American Journal of Psychiatry, tested 20 patients suffering from the disorder and 20 control subjects (without OCD) on a task which looked at the tendency to develop habit-like behaviour. Subjects were required to learn simple associations between stimuli, behaviours and outcomes in order to win points on a task...." More
University of Cambridge