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  • Key Cognitive Errors in OCD

    CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) involves actively challenging and confronting the distorted thinking and beliefs that drive and maintain obsessions and compulsions. Below are the key cognitive errors of people with OCD.

    Black-and-White or All-or Nothing Thinking
    Example: "If Iím not completely safe, then Iím in overwhelming danger."

    Magical Thinking
    Example: "If I think bad thoughts, bad things will happen."

    Overestimating Risk and Danger
    Example: "If I take even a slight risk, I will come to great harm."

    Perfectionism
    Example: "Iíve got to do everything perfectly."

    Hypermorality
    Example: "Iíll be punished for every mistake."

    Overresponsibility for Others
    Example: "I must always guard against making mistakes that even remotely harm an innocent person."

    Thought-Action Fusion (similar to Magical Thinking)
    Example: "If I have a bad, even horrible thought about harming someone, it feels just as if I've actually done it or that it is highly likely to happen in the future."

    Overimportance of Thought
    Example: "If I think about a terrible event occurring, it is much more likely to happen."

    Exclusivity Error
    Example: "Bad things are much more likely to happen to me than to other people."

    Martyr Complex
    Example: "Suffering and sacrificing my life by doing endless rituals is a small price to pay to protect those I love. Since no harm has come to them, I must be doing something right."

    ďWhat IfĒ Thinking
    Example: "In the future, what if I...

    do it wrong?"
    make a mistake?"
    get AIDS?"
    am responsible for causing harm to someone?"

    Intolerance of uncertainty
    Example: "I canít relax until I am 100% certain of everything and know everything will be OK."

    Adapted from: The OCD Workbook: Your guide to breaking free from obsessive-compulsive disorder

    Preview at: The OCD Workbook: Your guide to breaking free from obsessive-compulsive disorder
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Key Cognitive Errors in OCD started by Daniel View original post
    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Daniel's Avatar
      Daniel -
      Albert Ellis, 1994:

      OCDers, because of their somewhat bizarre behavior, engender many more frustrations and criticisms than the rest of us "nice neurotics" do. They therefore easily develop great low frustration tolerance (LFT) by irrationally believing, "I absolutely should not, must not be so severely frustrated by my OCD and the disadvantages to which it leads. Such great frustration and such severe handicaps must not afflict me! It's awful [completely or more than bad] when they do. I can't stand it and will never be able to conquer it. How horrible!"

      At the same time, because of social disapproval of their dysfunctional behavior, and of themselves for having it, OCDers frequently put themselves down, depress themselves; and make themselves anxious about other failures and disapproval. This self-denigration and feelings of worthlessness stem from irrational Beliefs (iB's), such as "I must not be as disapproved as I am being! I'm no good for bringing on this disapproval! If I can't function better than I do function, I'm a worthless person."

      OCDers, like normal neurotics, often then construct secondary disturbances about their cognitive distortions and about the poor emotional and behavioral results which accompany such irrational Beliefs. Thus, they may think, "I must not be anxious about my OCD! I must not demand that I be free of OCD! I must not have low frustration tolerance about my OCD!" In this manner OCDers can easily create self-downing about their self-downing and LFT [low frustration tolerance] about their LFT--all related to their OCD.

      In addition, OCDers can have regular self-denigration and regular LFT about other aspects of their lives. Thus, they can put themselves down for any failures or inability to achieve their ideal goals; and they can define as "unbearable" any hassles, mild or serious. Their tendency to castigate themselves for their "poor" performances and their tendency to make "utter horrors" out of normal hassles may, once again, be partly innate. I suspect this but have no hard evidence to back it up. An alternate hypothesis is that they have so many and so profound difficulties and failures because of their OCD, that they easily develop self-downing and LFT when non-OCD-related problems are added to their OCD-related difficulties.

      OCDers, then, frequently have ego anxiety and depression (self-downing) and discomfort anxiety and depression (LFT) about (a) their OCD difficulties, about (b) their other regular life problems, and about (c) their self-downing and their LFT that often--probably, usually!--accompany their OCD and their non-OCD difficulties.

      Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy
    1. Daniel's Avatar
      Daniel -
      Mindless Traps
      excerpted from MBCT for OCD

      1. Relying rigidly on information from the past

      • Overestimation of harm, responsibility and risk -- relying heavy on assumptions from the past and not taking the present moment into account.
      • Past rules are imposed as the ‘right or proper’ thing to do and not taking into account a possibility of change in the environment or circumstances.
      • Unable to attend to new information due to reliance on past rules.


      2. Automatic behaviour

      • Doubting, ‘what if...’, magical thinking, thought/action fusion becomes very automatic.
      • Reacting to obsessions, feared consequences, negative emotions and physical reactions -- performing rituals, compulsions habitually.
      • The inability to inhibit automatic responses to the above.
      • Being mindful helps you to catch thoughts and rituals before you engage in them and enable you to respond differently.


      3. Acting from single perspective

      • Lots of attention biases in OCD -- by focussing on threat relevant cues they are unable to attend to information that will disconfirm their fears.
      • Usually we are attached to a single perspective and trying to control it -- instead of allowing life to unfold. (Watching the closed door instead of seeing the one that opened).
      • Bound to thinking by rules, should’s, have to.
      • Being mindful is to question these rules, break the rules and doing things differently.
      • Changing the way we perceive OCD and anxiety, questioning the importance of thoughts -- thoughts are not facts but mind events.


      (Didonna:2009) (Langer:1990)