Category: Cognitive Science / Cognitive Processes

Symposium

Obsessive-Compulsive Symptoms and Inhibitory Functioning in Individuals With Repetitive Negative Thinking

Saturday, November 18
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Location: Aqua Salon C & D, Level 3, Aqua Level

Keywords: Cognitive Processes | OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) | Worry
Presentation Type: Symposium

Background: Repetitive negative thinking (RNT), including worry and rumination, is distinct from obsessive thinking, though the two cognitive styles are often related. Studies that elucidate the shared and unique aspects of RNT and obsessive thinking may inform etiological models of obsessive compulsive (OC) and related disorders. For instance, given the perseverative nature of these cognitive styles, it is possible that each arise from difficulties inhibiting irrelevant information from working memory. It is also important to better understand the associations between RNT or obsessive thinking and other OC symptom domains.

Method: Pilot data for a larger ongoing study were collected from N = 32 individuals reporting elevated RNT. At a laboratory session, participants completed the Flanker Task. The difference in reaction time between congruent and incongruent trials on this task was used as a measure of inhibitory functioning. Participants also completed the Obsessive Compulsive Inventory-Revised (OCIR) to assess current OC symptoms, including obsessions, hoarding, checking, ordering, neutralizing, and washing. Depression symptom severity and verbal intelligence were assessed and included as covariates in analyses.

Results: RNT and obsessive thinking were correlated (r = .57, p = .001), and this association remained significant after controlling for comorbid depression (b = .32, p = .04). Both RNT (b = -.44, p = .05) and obsessive thinking (b = -.50, p = .04) were associated with impaired inhibitory functioning, after controlling for depression and verbal intelligence. Obsessive thoughts were associated with other obsessive compulsive symptoms including checking, ordering, and washing (rs .42 -.56, ps < .05), whereas RNT was not (rs .04 - .21, ps > .25).

Discussion: As hypothesized, RNT and obsessive thoughts were moderately correlated and both cognitive styles were related to difficulties with inhibitory functioning. Despite this, it was possible to differentiate between these cognitive processes; RNT was not associated with other OC symptoms, whereas obsessive thinking was. Clinical implications will be discussed.

Kimberly A. Arditte Hall

Advanced Research Fellow in Women's Mental Health
National Center for PTSD/VA Boston Healthcare System; Boston University School of Medicine

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