Thought Content and Appraisals in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

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A premise for cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is that appraisal of obsessions maintains OCD symptoms whereas obsessive content is less important. The main aim of this study was therefore to explore this notion using the autogenous and reactive classification of obsessive content and by assessing changes in appraisals and symptoms following CBT for OCD. More specifically, the study investigates whether recovery from OCD is associated with changes in appraisal and explores how thought content relates to appraisal and symptoms both before and CBT. Data from 156 adults with OCD completing CBT for OCD were analyzed. Changes in appraisals were related to improvement in OCD symptoms. Slightly more participants reported reactive intrusions (47%) than autogenous (29%), but combinations of the two were common (24%). These classifications of thought content were not related to levels of appraisal or change in symptoms, with the exception of patients with autogenous thoughts who appraised their intrusions as more important than others. OCD is heterogeneous regarding thought content and strength of appraisals but can be quite homogeneous in terms of CBT treatment response. Also, and in line with cognitive theory, recovery from OCD is associated with changes in appraisals.

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