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Habits and Goals in OCD 

Habits and Goals in OCD
Chapter:
Habits and Goals in OCD
Author(s):

Claire M. Gillan

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780190228163.003.0016
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date: 26 June 2022

This chapter gives a broad overview of the “habit hypothesis” of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Most patients with OCD recognize that becoming trapped in seemingly never-ending streams of repetitive ritualistic behaviors defies reason. Importantly, this recognition is not enough to put a halt to these behaviors. It has been proposed that these compulsions are “bad habits”: that external cues trigger an urge to perform a familiar response, which the patient cannot resist. The chapter presents the basics of what habits are, and how they relate to what we call “goal-directed control” over action. Next, an in-depth analysis of a series of empirical investigations that tested this hypothesis will be presented. In the final section, the habit hypothesis of OCD will be put into the broader context of “compulsivity” as a putative trans-diagnostic trait that is relevant for many psychiatric disorders.

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