Often, the human brain can overcome worries and fears by casting the mind back to past experiences that have worked out just fine. A new study suggests that people with OCD have difficulty with this process not because they are inflexible, but because of an extreme difficulty trusting acquired experience.
Some of the behaviors and habits that accompany the disorder can be explained by one of its hallmark symptoms: indecisiveness. People with OCD often exhibit pathological doubt — picking out an outfit in the morning or choosing between two brands of laundry detergent at the store can be frustrating back-and-forths.
This is because sufferers of OCD, which is thought to affect up to 2.3 percent of the world’s population at one point in their lives, have a strong tendency to worry about the uncertainty of the future. This can take the form of constantly seeking reassurance from others, checking and rechecking facts, or weighing up every available option, multiple times.
Going forward, these new findings could have the potential to be used to design novel treatments for OCD. “Future direction may involve reconsidering habitual and ritual behaviors in OCD in the context of difficulties with resolving transitional uncertainties,” [researcher Helen] Pushkarskaya says.