Psychological Explanations for OCD: Behavioural

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Behavioural explanations place a focus on classical and operant conditioning, with regards to OCD, the explanation is based on the two-process model designed by Mowrer [1947]:

1. Fear of specific stimuli is acquired through classical conditioning i.e. touching a doorknob in an unclean environment might become associated with contamination.

2. The fear is maintained through operant conditioning i.e. once doorknobs are associated with contamination, the fear is reinforced when an individual learns that washing their hands provides temporary relief. 

The anxiety of OCD is very difficult for an individual to overcome. Individuals try to subside their anxiety through ritualistic behaviour such as compulsively checking if a door is locked. These compulsions provide relief from their anxiety but only for a short period of time thus the long term anxiety remains since the individual cannot learn that a bad consequence will not result in the instance of them not carrying out their compulsion. 

Tracy [1999] found that OCD subjects show accelerated associative conditioning. In the eye-blink conditioning procedure, OCD patients…


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