A new Canadian study finds that, in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a greater fear of guilt may evoke feelings of doubt in decision making. The findings reveal that a stronger fear of guilt is associated with greater self-reported difficulty making decisions, less satisfaction with the decisions made, and less confidence in those decisions.
This fear of being guilty for something that was done or wasn’t done also leads to the desire for more information before making a decision.
“People with OCD have generally been shown in research to have this inflated feeling of responsibility,” said lead researcher Brenda Chiang, a graduate student at the University of Waterloo.
“They often feel that they are going to be responsible for something bad that will happen or that if they fail to do something, they will be responsible for that harm too. So, they naturally have slightly higher levels of fear of guilt making them more susceptible to indecisiveness.”
“This indecisiveness leads to difficulty terminating an action as well as evokes doubt as to whether an action was done properly, which leads to repetition of that action,” said Chiang.
For the study, the researchers evaluated 63 undergraduate students from the University of Waterloo. All of the participants had been previously identified as having a wide range of fear of guilt levels, from low to high.
“The next step would be to examine this in people who have OCD,” said Professor Christine Purdon, co-author of the study. “The current gold standard for treating OCD is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which has about a 50 to 60 percent success rate if you include people who drop out because they can’t tolerate it or people who decline the treatment because they anticipate that they can’t do it.”
“We’re only getting about half of the people with OCD treated properly, so once we have a better understanding of factors that cause repetition and doubt, we can develop treatment that addresses a greater number of persons.”
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. According to the World Health Organization, it is estimated that one to three percent of the U.S. population suffers from OCD, and approximately one in 200 children has the disorder.
The new findings could help researchers develop more effective treatments for the debilitating disorder.
Source: University of Waterloo