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Is It Always Your Fault? Taking Too Much Responsibility Can Lead to OCD

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Yoshinori SUGIURA Ph.D.

Associate Professor
Hiroshima University
Graduate School of Integrated Arts and Sciences
Behavioural Sciences Section
Higashi-Hiroshima, Japan 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Lengthy worrying or repeated checking if the door is locked are common manifestations of anxiety in the general population. However, if their frequency, intensity, and interference become too much, they are diagnosed as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) respectively.

People with OCD are tortured by repeatedly occurring negative thinking and they take some strategy to prevent i. GAD is a very pervasive type of anxiety. GAD patients worry about everything.

Despite their burden, both are relatively difficult to treat. Furthermore complicated, as they are two different disorders, mental health professionals have to master separate strategies. To overcome such situation, transdiagnostic research, which seeks common causes for different disorders, is now eagerly pursued by psychologists/psychiatrists. As one of such endeavors, we predicted that inflated responsibility is the common predictor of both OCD and GAD symptoms.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings? 

Response: Our team identified 3 types of inflated responsibility:

1) Responsibility to prevent or avoid danger and/or  harm,

2) Sense of personal responsibility and blame for negative outcomes and

3) Responsibility to continue  thinking about a problem.

Respondents who scored higher in questions about responsibility were more likely to exhibit behaviors that  resemble those of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Generalized Anxiety Disorder patients.  More specifically, Personal Responsibility and Blame and the  Responsibility to Continue Thinking had the strongest link to the both disorders.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: When you feel distressed by finding yourself worrying or checking too much, we recommend you to closely  observe sequences of events in your mind. At first, it may be difficult. But with some practice, you may  notice yourself sending a message “I should continue thinking.” or “I am to blame for any bad consequences.”

Such noticing tell you that it is the messages you are sending yourself, not the possibility of real danger that drive Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or GAD symptoms.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Repeating negative thinking is seen in many psychological disorders. So this line of studies may extend to  other psychopathologies. Currently, pilot study for a new therapy for reducing responsibility is underway,  with promising outcomes.  

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: This study is the fruit of long collaborative work with Dr. Brian Fisak. We enjoyed turns of email across  oceans.  


Sugiura, Y. & Fisak, B. J Cogn Ther (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41811-019-00041-x

Inflated Responsibility in Worry and Obsessive Thinking


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Last Updated on April 26, 2019 by Marie Benz MD FAAD