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. 2011 Aug;25(6):801-5.
doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2011.03.019. Epub 2011 Apr 7.

Termination of Washing Compulsions: A Problem of Internal Reference Criteria or 'Not Just Right' Experience?

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Termination of Washing Compulsions: A Problem of Internal Reference Criteria or 'Not Just Right' Experience?

Jesse R Cougle et al. J Anxiety Disord. .

Abstract

Recent research suggests that obsessive-compulsive washers are more likely than individuals without washing compulsions to use conscious, internal reference criteria when deciding when to terminate compulsions (Wahl, Salkovskis, & Cotter, 2008). An alternative view is that they possess tendencies towards non-cognitive, automatic 'not just right' experiences (NJREs) that influence compulsion duration. The current study sought to investigate the latter explanation using valid behavioral tasks. Non-clinical participants (N=133) completed self-report measures, immersed their hands in a dirt mixture, and afterwards were allowed to wash their hands. Additionally, a subset of participants completed an in vivo assessment of NJRE using a pile of clutter. Total number and intensity of NJREs were predictive of hand-washing duration. Additionally, affective response to the clutter was uniquely predictive of hand-washing duration when controlling for pre-wash anxiety. These results suggest that internal reference criteria as well as NJREs may influence compulsive washing, though the former may be a consequence of the latter.

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