People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) tend to fall back on maladaptive coping strategies such as rumination and thought suppression, according to new research; this even though adaptive coping skills such as acceptance and problem-solving could improve their quality of life .
Unfortunately, many OCD patients tend to lack those adaptive coping skills while in the throes of the disorder, according to a new German study published in the journal Cognitive Therapy and Research.
OCD is a complex psychological condition in which the patient suffers from persistent unwanted thoughts and high levels of anxiety. The disorder can lead to a severe reduction in one’s quality of life.
For the study, the researchers compared the behavior of 60 patients with OCD to a group of 110 people with depression as well as a control group of 1,050 adults. All participants completed anonymous online surveys in which they reported their medical and psychological histories, along with their levels of compulsivity and abilities to cope in specific situations.
Participants also answered a questionnaire that covered different adaptive and maladaptive coping styles that one might use to deal with difficult situations.
The participants also completed the Maladaptive and Adaptive Coping Styles Questionnaire (MAX) that had been recently developed by the researchers. This questionnaire measures coping styles using three dimensions: maladaptive coping (thought suppression, rumination), adaptive coping (problem-solving, acceptance), and avoidance.
Participants gave information about the coping strategies they use against their OCD symptoms such as problem-solving and rumination, as well as other coping styles that have recently been adopted in therapy, such as acceptance and suppression.
People with OCD were found to possess more maladaptive coping skills than all of the other participants, including those suffering from depression. They also possessed fewer functional skills to help them cope and adapt. Those who lacked adaptive coping skills were more likely to have poor insight into their condition and a resistance to symptoms.
“Patients with OCD are characterized by both more maladaptive coping and less adaptive coping relative to controls,” said study leader Dr. Steffen Moritz from the University Hospital Hamburg in Germany.
“Coping skills are important for many aspects of daily life beyond mental health,” he said. “Teaching children skills such as how to cope with bullying at school, poor performance or problems with their parents, for example, in the framework of general cognitive preventative treatment and resilience training in school, may help children to better deal with emotional turmoil and challenging situations during adolescence.”
“It may also prevent the progression of a vulnerability to later obsessive-compulsive disorder or depression as well as other disorders,” said Moritz.
Although the findings highlight some of the skills that patients with OCD lack, Moritz says further research is needed to find out to what extent improving such coping skills during childhood and adolescence through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or similar interventions may indeed improve an OCD patient’s quality of life.