An experimental investigation of obsessive compulsive disorder
The thesis is divided into four parts. In Part A, what are termed the "standard
diagnostic criteria" for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder" (OCD) are reviewed, and argued to
be implausible. The beginnings of an alternative approach to the definition of the disorder are
presented. Empirical investigations of the characteristics of obsessive-compulsive experience
among OCD sufferers are also reported. The results of these investigations both confirm the
critique of the "standard diagnostic criteria", and are consistent with previous
phenomenological investigations of OCD patients. Judgment is suspended as to the full
importance of these diagnostic and phenomenological considerations to the understanding of
In Part B, a number of theoretical approaches to OCD are discussed, including
behavioural/learning accounts, "Pavlovian" personality theories, Janet's account, a "cybernetic"
approach, an account from a psychodynamic perspective, and the "cognitive-structural" theory.
It is argued that none of these approaches is able fully to explain the phenomena associated
In Part C, the "cognitive-structural" theory of OCD is tested empirically. Three
investigations are reported, none of which provide strong support for this theory.
In Part D, an attempt is made to pick out, from the approaches considered earlier, any
ideas which may offer some hope of progress in the understanding and/or treatment of OCD.
The suggestion which is examined to this end, made by several of the accounts considered
above, is that the unassertive behaviour of some OCD patients may be an important precipitant
of their symptoms. Evidence relevant to this claim, and its implications for treatment, are
reviewed. It is suggested that this approach may offer some insights and useful suggestions
for some cases of OCD. Some suggestions are offered as to further work which might be
conducted along these lines.