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Behav Res Ther. 2008 Jan;46(1):71-83. Epub 2007 Oct 22.

Appraisals of obsessional thoughts in normal samples.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Canada.


Cognitive theories of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) posit that appraisals about the significance of thoughts are critical in the development and persistence of obsessions. Rachman [(1997). A cognitive theory of obsessions. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 35, 793-802.] proposes that appraisals of unwanted thoughts distinguish clinical obsessions from normal intrusive thoughts; thoughts appraised as important and personally significant are expected to be upsetting and recur. Appraisals are also expected to be related to symptoms of OCD. To explore the features of normal appraisals of obsession-like thoughts, nonclinical participants in two studies rated the personal significance of intrusive thoughts portrayed in vignettes containing prototypical themes associated with primary obsessions: aggressive, sexual, and blasphemous thoughts. Unwanted intrusive thoughts that were described as occurring more frequently were appraised as more personally significant, but participants appraised these socially unacceptable thoughts similarly whether they imagined having personally experienced them or a friend confiding about having experienced them. Appraisals in both studies were related to subclinical OC symptoms and OC beliefs.

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