Being Preoccupied with Imagination May Be a Warning Sign of OCD

By Jiri Hodan [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

According to a new research study from Canada, a person who confuses reality with imagination could be displaying signs of obsessive compulsive disorder or OCD. The findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, were introduced by researchers from the CIUSSS de l’Est-de-l Ile-de-Montreal and the University of Montreal.

What Was Found?

Generally, researchers seem to agree on the diagnostic criteria of obsessive compulsive disorder. However, there is no agreement or general consensus on the underlying mechanism that causes the disorder.

The findings of the latest study builds on the research done in 2011 by the Obsessive-Compulsive and Tic Disorder Studies Center or CETOCT. The team from CETOCT studied people who rely heavily on their imagination and have a strong likelihood of not being able to separate reality from fantasy. It was found these particular individuals have a higher tendency towards obsessive symptoms.

The goal of the new study was to confirm if these observations researchers witnessed in 2011, were in a population with OCD.

OCD theories stipulate it isn’t the content of one’s thoughts that are involved in the development of obsessions, but the way the thoughts are received and interpreted by the person. While most individuals will ignore an idea if they believe it has no merit, individuals with obsessive compulsive disorder will say if they think that way, there must be a reason why.

In the new study, the research team asked 75 people with OCD to complete a multitude of different questionnaires that assessed inferential confusion, dissociative experiences, depression and anxiety symptoms, schizotypal personality, and the strength of their obsessive beliefs.

Lead author of the study, Dr. Stella-Marie Paradisis stated, “First inferential confusion is a reasoning process in which obsessive doubt takes hold. Individuals make subjective connections between different elements.”

She went on the say, “For example, the person believes that the water in a municipal swimming pool is contaminated because choline has been put into it, so inevitably there are bacteria in the water.”
Schizotypal personality is characterized by a person having bizarre ideas, rigidly held beliefs, a lack of discernment and a tendency to dwell on things from their imagination. In these situations, people are convinced that what they’ve seen on TV or read in the newspaper effects them directly and on a personal level.

Lastly, dissociation is highlighted by a loss of the ability to accept reality and memory lapses are common-in certain situations. Some individuals feel they act so badly depending on a situation, they are two completely different people.

Findings of the Study

The results of the latest Canadian study mark how important the roles of inferential confusion and dissociative experiences play in the prediction of OCD symptoms.

To researchers it seems that people with OCD are so absorbed by their obsessions because of the inferential confusion that involves the break with reality. Additional factors like anxiety and depressive symptoms, obsessive beliefs and schizotypal personality also influence the severity of OCD.

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