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Behav Res Ther. 2009 Jun;47(6):494-503. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2009.02.015. Epub 2009 Mar 4.

Managing unwanted intrusive thoughts in obsessive-compulsive disorder: relative effectiveness of suppression, focused distraction, and acceptance.

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San Diego State University/University of California, San Diego, CA 92120, USA.


Suppression is one of various mental control techniques that people may use to manage unwanted thoughts. Evidence suggests that it is at best unsustainable and at worst counterproductive. This leads to the question: If suppression is a futile way to respond to unwanted, intrusive thoughts, what is a more effective alternative? In the current study, we evaluated the relative effectiveness of suppression and two alternative mental control techniques-focused distraction and acceptance-on the frequency of intrusions and distress associated with them. Results support the claim that suppression is a counterproductive technique for dealing with unwanted, intrusive thoughts in OCD. However, the harmfulness of suppression was reflected primarily in the magnitude of distress and not in intrusion frequency. Focused distraction and acceptance were the more effective techniques for managing clinically significant intrusive thoughts. We discuss implications for the cognitive treatment for OCD.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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