Punishment Increases Impulsivity in OCD, Study Finds

When met with punishment or negative feedback for our actions, some of us may change the way we behave. Others may resent the feedback and still others may express increased impulsive actions. For those with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), the latter is most likely.

According to a recent Good Therapy report, a study conducted at the University of Cambridge found that individuals suffering from OCD are more compulsive when negative feedback or punishment is received as compared with those who do not have OCD.

The study was conducted in an effort to determine any deficiencies in cognitive control that may exist in individuals with OCD as compared with those who suffer from anxiety or depression. Negative bias exists in all of the aforementioned conditions and researchers wanted to determine whether  it was more pronounced in OCD individuals.

During the study, 20 individuals suffering from OCD were put through a punishment and reward test, compared with 32 individual without OCD taking the same test. All participants in both groups were also assessed for other mental health conditions. No history of anxiety or depression was found in any of the participants.

The tests included tasks that enabled participants to earn commissions. If the participant failed at an assigned task, commissions were decreased. Control participants responded to the punishment by slowing their pace, decreasing the amount of time used to complete the task or answer the question. OCD participants, however, did not.

In fact, these participants often increased their time to answer as a response to the punishment. As more punishments were received, more symptoms of OCD surfaced and symptom severity increased. When rewards were received, however, OCD individuals performed at the same pace as the participants in the control group.

Lead researchers on this study suggest that a cognitive control deficiency exists for those with OCD.

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