Western Undergraduate Psychology Journal

Article Title

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as Stress and Coping: Cognitive Models and Associated Treatments


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a debilitating mental illness, may be exacerbated and maintained by stress. Furthermore, the disorder may be conceptualized as maladaptive coping in relation to an absent or exaggerated perceived threat due to faulty appraisals of potentially distressing intrusive thoughts. Thus, using cognitive models, OCD is conceptualized using Lazarus and Folkman’s (1984) Transactional Stress Model. Distress caused by obsessions, misinterpretations (primary appraisal) of these initial thoughts based on a set of misguided beliefs held by individuals with OCD, leads to engagement in largely ineffective and/or unnecessary compulsive strategies (coping) after learning previously that these strategies are briefly effective in reducing distress (secondary appraisal). This creates a cycle broken only through reappraisal of the initial thoughts, which is the goal of treatment. This conceptualization provides an understanding of how stress and coping are integral influences on the formation, persistence, and treatment of this disorder.

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