The Role of Reassurance Seeking in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Güvence Arayışının Obsesif Kompulsif Bozukluktaki Rolü

In a study, the correlation between reassurance seeking and obsessive-compulsive symptoms, dysfunctional beliefs, and negative emotions was researched.

In Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), reassurance seeking is conceptualized as a form of a neutralization behavior.  The individual’s concern is reduced through reassurance seeking due to the fact that it reduces the threats perceived, the probability of an incident occurring, as well as the responsibility perceived for adverse results.  The fact that Salkovskis described reassurance seeking as an attempt to “fix things” points out how reassurance seeking is processed.

Reassurance seeking not only provides the individual with a confirmation that he has taken the measures required to prevent the damage, it also transfers a portion of the responsibility to the person that offers assurance.  That being said, the fact that the individual reduces the anxiety by acquiring reassurance through reassurance seeking (e.g. controlling, washing, suppressing one’s thoughts, distraction, mental and behavioral ritualization), is a temporary situation.

In the long run, it prevents the disapproval of the dreaded results, and contributes to the continuation of the symptoms.  It was seen that individuals using reassurance seeking have more severe obsessions compared to those who don’t, and that it could make individuals tend to use coping strategies, such as getting assurance from others, in addition to other compulsions.

Getting reassurance from others

In OCD, the individual has reassurance seeking and control behaviors, whereas the reassurance seeking behaviors have an interpersonal aspect.   In order to comprehend the concept of reassurance seeking, it would be beneficial to distinguish “self-reassurance” from “getting reassurance from others” within this scope.

In case there is no one present that would particularly serve as a source of reassurance, of if they feel ashamed to do so, patients with OCD employ mental control or talk to themselves (e.g. continuing to tell themselves that “the door is locked”) in order to reassure themselves.

Unlike other neutralization strategies, not only an OCD patient seeking reassurance repetitively checks several times to make sure that the door is locked, he also has a trusted or loved one involved in his ritual by asking them to support him in various ways, as a security strategy.

By doing so, the person reassuring, intentionally or unintentionally, supports the measures taken to prevent the adverse outcomes of the probable danger causing apprehension.  Furthermore, through repetition, such situations manifest themselves as emotional distress both in the OCD patient and in the person providing reassurance, while causing problems in interpersonal relations in general.

– Haciomeroglu, B. (2020). The role of reassurance seeking in obsessive compulsive disorder: the associations between reassurance seeking, dysfunctional beliefs, negative emotions, and obsessive- compulsive symptoms. BMC Psychiatry, 20(1). doi:10.1186/s12888-020-02766-y

Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder