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Access to Information About Harm and Safety in Contamination-Related Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

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The present study examined the accessibility of harm and safety information regarding threat-relevant and threat-irrelevant stimuli in analogue contamination-related obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) participants. High OCD participants (N = 24) and low OCD participants (N = 27) generated lists of reasons why four specific situations (using a public restroom, going cliff diving, reading at the library, going to the museum) might be harmful and why they might be safe. Results revealed that, in comparison to the low OCD participants, high OCD participants were able to generate significantly more items on why using a public restroom might be harmful and significantly fewer items on why using a public restroom might be safe. However, no significant differences were found between the two groups in their ability to generate items regarding harm and safety for other situations. Furthermore, number of safety items predicted contamination group status independent of harm items. Content analysis of the harm items generated for using a public restroom revealed concerns primarily related to contagion and disease. Accordingly, the number of items generated for using a public restroom showed a marginal association with disgust levels. The implications of these findings for understanding cognitive biases underlying contamination-related OCD are discussed.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2008

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