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Outline and evaluate psychological explanations of OCD

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Introduction

´╗┐Outline and evaluate psychological explanations for OCD The cognitive approach assumes that OCD is a consequence of faulty and irrational ways of thinking taken to an extreme. Patients with OCD have different thinking patterns and more intrusive thoughts. The cognitive explanation stresses that everyone has unwanted thoughts from time to time, but OCD sufferers cannot ignore these thoughts and they are often misinterpreted, leading to self-blame and the obsessive symptoms of OCD. So that the negative thoughts and concerns associated with a particular anxiety do not come to pass, compulsions arise in an attempt to ?neutralise? the anxiety. The sufferer becomes more wary of having intrusive thoughts and their fear of them increases. As these ideas are constantly thought about, they become obsessive and a pattern of ritualistic, repetitive behaviour begins. A strength of this theory is that there is supporting evidence. For example, Wegner found that a group of students asked not to think of a white bear were more likely to do so than a group allowed to think about it. ...read more.

Middle

We therefore cannot prove cause and effect to show that suppressing thoughts lead to symptoms in OCD, so there are other factors the cognitive approach needs to consider in order to offer a causal explanation. However, although there are issues with self-report methodologies, they can provide a greater insight into the participant?s thoughts and a greater level of detail. They are allowing the participants to describe their own experiences rather than inferring this from observing participants. It therefore provides access to a high level of quantitative data. The behavioural approach assumes OCD is a result of a learnt association between a stimulus and anxiety. Firstly, a neutral stimulus becomes associated with a particular learned response and whenever the stimulus is present, the individual carries out the response. For example, dirty objects became associated with anxiety and this is called classical conditioning. This response is furthered by avoidance of the stimulus, so positive outcomes are achieved. The anxiety is maintained over time by negative reinforcement which leads to the obsessions and the compulsive behaviours are then developed as the person believes that by performing them, the anxiety will decrease. ...read more.

Conclusion

Despite this, the fact that the study used participants who haven?t been diagnosed OCD means that ethical guidelines haven?t been breached, particularly protection of psychological harm. Causing such participants to suppress thoughts could worsen their symptoms of OCD, whereas participants without the disorder will be less affected. These approaches sit on the reductionist side of the debate. For example, the behavioural approach only focuses on environmental factors and doesn?t take into account cognitions, biological factors such as biochemistry, genetics and brain dysfunction and psychodynamic factors. The cognitive approach draws attention to cognitions, ignoring behavioural, psychodynamic and biological factors. This is a strength because the reductionist nature of the approach means a higher level of detail is given because only one idea is taken into consideration. These approaches also only focus on one variable in an attempt to establish causal relationships, as opposed to looking at a variety of variables. However, this could also be seen as a weakness of the approach, because it leads to a limited theory overall and therefore, any treatments developed from the assumptions of these approaches solely may not treat the whole of the OCD sufferer, and there may not be a correct diagnosis. ...read more.

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