Induction of compulsive-like washing by blocking the feeling of knowing: an experimental test of the security-motivation hypothesis of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
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BACKGROUND: H. Szechtman and E. Woody (2004) hypothesized that obsessive-compulsive disorder results from a deficit in the feeling of knowing that normally terminates thoughts or actions elicited by security motivation. To test the plausibility of this proposed mechanism, an experiment was conducted to produce an analog of washing in obsessive-compulsive disorder by eliciting a scenario of potential harm and using hypnosis to block changes in internally generated feelings that would normally occur during washing. RESULTS: Participants reacted with increased disgust, anxiety, and heart rate to their mental images of contamination and potential danger. As predicted, high but not low hypnotizable participants showed a significant prolongation of washing when change in feelings during washing was blocked hypnotically. CONCLUSION: Results show that blocking the affective signal that is normally generated during security-related behaviors, such as washing, leads to prolonged performance of these behaviors. This finding lends support to the plausibility of the proposed model of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
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