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OCD Caused By Maladaptive Coping Skills, study finds

OCD Caused By Maladaptive Coping Skills

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can severely reduce the quality of life. It’s long been thought that OCD was caused by a biological, chemical, or genetic problem, which rendered sufferers to a life of struggle. We’ve disagreed with this theory because we’ve helped sufferers overcome OCD by identifying and addressing the unhealthy behaviors that cause OCD.

Fortunately, research is catching up to the latest trends in anxiety disorder treatment. The research below demonstrates OCD is caused by maladaptive coping strategies (unhealthy behavior) rather than anything biological, chemical, or genetic. This means that no one has to suffer with OCD needlessly. Through learning and applying healthy coping strategies, sufferers can return to a life free of OCD and problematic anxiety.

It’s our experience that the most effective way to achieve success over anxiety disorder, including OCD, is with the help of an experienced anxiety disorder therapist. While self-help information can be helpful, it seldom produces the depth of information and support required for meaningful and lasting results. Working with an experienced therapist, however, does provide that level of help and support.

If you are struggling with OCD, know that it can be overcome with the right help and support. Again, no one needs to suffer needlessly.


Which skills will help patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder?

New research shows sufferers of obsessive-compulsive disorder lack adaptive coping skills

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a complex psychological condition, and those who suffer from it experience severe reduction in their quality of life. A new study in Springer's journal Cognitive Therapy and Research now shows that OCD sufferers need to adopt adaptive coping skills rather than the maladaptive strategies often used such as repetitive, compulsive actions or creating emotional distance from a situation, in order to effectively manage their condition. The research was led by Steffen Moritz of the University Hospital Hamburg in Germany.

Moritz and his colleagues compared the behaviour of 60 patients suffering from OCD with 110 people with depression and 1050 adults in a control group. All participants completed anonymous online surveys in which their medical and psychological history was ascertained, along with their levels of compulsivity and ability to cope in specific situations. They answered a questionnaire that covered different adaptive and maladaptive coping styles that someone might use to deal with problematic situations.

The participants also responded to the Maladaptive and Adaptive Coping Styles Questionnaire (MAX) that Moritz and his colleagues recently developed. This questionnaire measures coping styles using three dimensions: maladaptive coping (such as thought suppression, rumination), adaptive coping (e.g. problem-solving, acceptance), and avoidance. Participants gave information about coping strategies they adopt against their OCD symptoms such as problem-solving and rumination, as well as other coping styles that have only recently been adopted in therapy, such as acceptance and suppression.

Participants with OCD were found to possess more maladaptive coping skills than all others, including those suffering from depression. They also possessed fewer functional skills to help them cope and adapt. Those who lacked adaptive coping were also likely to have a resistance to symptoms, and poor insight about their condition.

"Patients with OCD are characterized by both more maladaptive coping and less adaptive coping relative to controls," Moritz explains.

"Coping skills are important for many aspects of daily life beyond mental health. Teaching children skills such as how to cope with bullying at school, poor performance or problems with their parents, for example, in the framework of general cognitive preventative treatment and resilience training in school, may help children to better deal with emotional turmoil and challenging situations during adolescence. It may also prevent the progression of a vulnerability to later obsessive-compulsive disorder or depression as well as other disorders," says Moritz.

Although the study explains some of the skills that patients with OCD lack, Moritz says further research is needed to find out to what extent improving such coping skills during childhood and adolescence through cognitive behavioural therapy or similar interventions may indeed improve a sufferer's life.


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The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder coach, counselor, or therapist is the most effective way to address anxiety disorder and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - the underlying factors that motivate apprehensive behavior - a struggle with anxiety disorder can return again and again. Identifying and successfully addressing anxiety's underlying factors is the best way to overcome problematic anxiety.


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Authors: Jim Folk, Marilyn Folk, BScN. Last updated April 30, 2018.

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