The role of responsibility and threat appraisals in contamination fear and obsessive-compulsive tendencies at the implicit level

Emma Nicholson, Kimberley Dempsey, Dermot Barnes-Holmes

Contamination-related obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is one of the most common clinical expressions of the disorder. Irrational beliefs regarding excessive responsibility and the overestimation of threat are common components of OCD; however, there is little research on the relationship between responsibility/threat appraisals and contamination fear. The current study aimed to assess responsibility/threat-type appraisals in relation to contamination and clean stimuli at the implicit level using the Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure (IRAP). A Behavioral Approach Task and a series of self-report measures assessing general OC tendencies, disgust, psychological inflexibility and general psychopathology were implemented to validate the IRAP. The high OC group produced a significantly greater responsibility/threat bias toward the contamination-related trial-types compared to the low OC group. The contamination-related trial-types were predictive of both self-reported OC tendencies and contamination fear along with avoidance behavior, with the latter two effects being independent of anxiety.

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