A multi-modal investigation of the roles of distress tolerance and emotional reactivity in obsessive-compulsive symptoms

  • Cougle J
  • Timpano K
  • Sarawgi S
 et al. 
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Emerging evidence implicates important roles of poor distress tolerance and heightened emotional reactivity in obsessive-compulsive disorder. To date, investigations have relied mostly on self-report measures, and we sought to extend the literature by examining the relationship between OC symptoms and distress tolerance, as well as emotional reactivity, using three laboratory assessments. Nonclinical participants (N=167) viewed emotional films associated with four different negative emotions and also completed mirror tracing and handgrip persistence tasks. Greater obsessions scores were predictive of poorer emotional tolerance for a sad film and shorter persistence on the mirror tracing task. Among men only, obsessions were negatively correlated with persistence on the handgrip task. Associations between increased emotional reactivity and washing symptoms also emerged. These findings provide further evidence for the role of poor distress tolerance in obsessions and suggest heightened emotional reactivity may play a role in compulsive washing.

Author-supplied keywords

  • behavioral assessment
  • distress tolerance
  • emotion regulation
  • obsessions
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • washing

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