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, 40 (2), 98-110

The Appraisal of Intrusive Thoughts in Relation to Obsessional-Compulsive Symptoms


The Appraisal of Intrusive Thoughts in Relation to Obsessional-Compulsive Symptoms

Terri L Barrera et al. Cogn Behav Ther.


Research has shown that although intrusive thoughts occur universally, the majority of individuals do not view intrusive thoughts as being problematic (Freeston, Ladouceur, Thibodeau, & Gagnon, 1991; Rachman & de Silva, 1978; Salkovskis & Harrison, 1984). Thus, it is not the presence of intrusive thoughts that leads to obsessional problems but rather some other factor that plays a role in the development of abnormal obsessions. According to the cognitive model of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) put forth by Salkovskis (1985), the crucial factor that differentiates between individuals with OCD and those without is the individual's appraisal of the naturally occurring intrusive thoughts. This study aimed to test Salkovskis's model by examining the role of cognitive biases (responsibility, thought-action fusion, and thought control) as well as distress in the relationship between intrusive thoughts and obsessive-compulsive symptoms in an undergraduate sample of 326 students. An existing measure of intrusive thoughts (the Revised Obsessional Intrusions Inventory) was modified for this study to include a scale of distress associated with each intrusive thought in addition to the current frequency scale. When the Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale was used as the measure of OCD symptoms, a significant interaction effect of frequency and distress of intrusive thoughts resulted. Additionally, a significant three-way interaction of Frequency × Distress × Responsibility was found when the Obsessive Compulsive Inventory-Revised was used as the measure of OCD symptoms. These results indicate that the appraisal of intrusive thoughts is important in predicting OCD symptoms, thus providing support for Salkovskis's model of OCD.

Keywords: cognitive intrusions; cognitive model; obsessions; obsessive–compulsive disorder; responsibility beliefs.

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