A cognitive theory of obsessions

Behav Res Ther. 1997 Sep;35(9):793-802. doi: 10.1016/s0005-7967(97)00040-5.


It is proposed that obsessions are caused by catastrophic misinterpretations of the significance of one's thoughts (images, impulses). The obsessions persist as long as these misinterpretations continue and diminish when the misinterpretations are weakened. Evidence and arguments in support of the theory are presented, and the questions of vulnerability and the origins of the thoughts are addressed. A firmly focused treatment strategy is deduced from the theory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Humans
  • Obsessive Behavior* / etiology
  • Obsessive Behavior* / psychology
  • Obsessive Behavior* / therapy
  • Psychological Theory*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Thinking / physiology*