Past Projects

The causes and consequences of shame in obsessive-compulsive disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) has primarily been studied from an anxiety perspective. However, recent research suggests that some individuals with OCD may experience shame associated with their intrusive thoughts and may perform compulsions to alleviate these feelings of shame. An experimental study was conducted to explore if and how shame might fit in our understanding of OCD. We administered four scenarios mimicking harm, sexual, contamination, and symmetry obsessions to 55 participants experiencing either clinical or sub-clinical OCD symptoms. These participants also competed questionnaires related to their emotional states and urges to perform compulsions or engage in avoidance behaviours. We found that participants reported the most shame and anxiety for the harm and sexual scenarios compared to the contamination and symmetry scenarios. We also found that shame responses were associated with compulsion and avoidance behaviours, irrespective of anxiety. Given these findings, shame may play a role in OCD and treatment should be adapted to address shame.

A Mixed Methods Study of an Online Intervention to Reduce Perfectionism

Perfectionism involves setting high standards and critical evaluations of oneself and others. The Perfectionism Social Disconnection Model proposes that individuals with perfectionism are socially disconnected from others due to off-putting behaviours in their relationships with others. The current study developed and pilot tested the efficacy of an educational resource to help university students manage their perfectionism. Seventy participants completed the 'Intentional Imperfection Program'. Participants completed questionnaires related to perfectionism, behaviours towards others, and social isolation before and after the program. The findings showed small to moderate reductions in perfectionism, hostile behaviours towards others, sensitivity to rejection, depression, and anxiety symptoms, and a small increase in social connectedness. Participants also reported that the educational resource was feasible, enjoyable, and useful. As such, a randomised controlled trial is needed to further test the efficacy of the program in helping university students manage their perfectionism.