Responding to intrusions in obsessive-compulsive disorder: the roles of neuropsychological functioning and beliefs about thoughts

J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry. 2013 Sep;44(3):343-50. doi: 10.1016/j.jbtep.2013.01.005. Epub 2013 Feb 8.


Background and objectives: The aim of the current study was to examine cognitive and psychological factors hypothesized to affect responding to intrusions in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Methods: A group of individuals diagnosed with OCD (N = 22) was compared to a social phobia (SP) group (N = 25) and a nonclinical control group (N = 24). Participants performed a battery of neuropsychological tasks, completed self-report measures, and engaged in a self-relevant thought suppression task.

Results: Participants in the OCD group demonstrated worse working memory and response inhibition on the neuropsychological tasks and had increased intrusions during the suppression task relative to comparison groups. They also reported more distress during the task relative to the nonclinical group, but not the SP group. Regression analyses revealed that beliefs about thought control failures, but not working memory or response inhibition, was associated with increased frequency of intrusions and greater distress during suppression.

Limitations: Future studies may include a more comprehensive battery of cognitive tests and have a larger sample size.

Conclusions: Findings support cognitive-behavioural models of OCD that emphasize the role of meta-beliefs in explaining the struggle with obsessional thoughts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / psychology*
  • Phobic Disorders / psychology*
  • Repression, Psychology*
  • Thinking*