Compulsive checking and anxiety in a nonclinical sample: Differences in cognition, behavior, personality, and affect

  • Beth S. Gershuny
  • Kenneth J. Sher


This study addresses the question of why some highly anxious individuals exhibit excessive levels of compulsive checking behavior while other do not. To this end, nonclinical samples of compulsive checkers (n=19), (nonchecking) anxious controls (n=16), and (nonchecking) nonanxious controls (n=12) were compared on a variety of cognitive, behavioral, personality, and affective measures hypothesized to differentiate checkers from anxious controls. Results indicated that checkers exhibited higher levels of perfectionism and worry, and demonstrated greater cognitive impairment on the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test. Furthermore, performance and subjective experiences of performance appeared to be mediated by perfectionism and worry. Findings suggest that both personality and cognitive variables are important correlates of the form of anxiety-related symptomatology.

Key words

checking anxiety obsessive-compulsive worry perfectionism 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. American Psychiatric Association. (1987).Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (3rd ed., rev.). Washington, DC: Author.Google Scholar
  2. Beck, A. T., Ward, C. H., Mendelson, M., Mock, J., & Erbaugh, J. (1961). An inventory for measuring depression.Archives of General Psychiatry, 4, 561–571.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Berg, E. A. (1948). A simple objective technique for measuring flexibility in thinking.Journal of General Psychology, 39, 15–22.Google Scholar
  4. Borkovec, T. D., Metzger, R. L., & Pruzinsky, T. (1986). Anxiety, worry and the self. In H. Hartman & K. R. Blankstein (Eds.),Perception of self in emotional disorder and psychotherapy. New York: Plenum Press.Google Scholar
  5. Broadbent, D., Cooper, P., Fitzgerald, P., & Parkes, K. (1982). The cognitive failures questionnaire (CFQ) and its correlates.British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 21, 1–16.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Brown, T. A., Moras, K., Zinbarg, R. E., & Barlow, D. H. (1993). Diagnostic and symptom distinguishability of generalized anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.Behavior Therapy, 24, 227–240.Google Scholar
  7. Foa, E. B., Ilai, D., McCarthy, P., Shoyer, B. G., & Murdock, T. (1993). Informational processing in obsessive-compulsive disorder.Cognitive Therapy and Research, 17, 173–189.Google Scholar
  8. Foa, E. B., & McNally, R. J. (1986). Sensitivity to feared stimuli in obsessive-compulsives: A dichotic listening analysis.Cognitive Therapy and Research, 10, 477–485.Google Scholar
  9. Foa, E. B., Steketee, G., Grayson, J. B., Turner, R. M., & Latimer, P. R. (1984). Deliberate exposure and blocking of obsessive-compulsive rituals: Immediate and long-term effects.Behavior Therapy, 15, 450–472.Google Scholar
  10. Freeston, M. H., Ladouceur, R., Rheaume, J., Letarte, H., Gagnon, F., & Thibodeau, N. (1994). Self-report of obsessions and worry.Behaviour Research and Therapy, 32, 29–36.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Frost, R. O., Marten, P., Lahart, C., & Rosenblate, R. (1990). The dimensions of perfectionism.Cognitive Therapy and Research, 14, 449–468.Google Scholar
  12. Frost, R. O., Sher, K. J., & Geen, T. (1986). Psychopathology and personality characteristics of nonclinical compulsive checkers.Behaviour Research and Therapy, 24, 133–143.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Frost, R. O., Steketee, G., Cohn, L., & Griess, K. (1994). Personality traits in subclinical and non-obsessive-compulsive volunteers and their parents.Behaviour Research and Therapy, 32, 47–56.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Goodwin, A. H., & Sher, K. J. (1992). Deficits in set-shifting ability in nonclinical compulsive checkers.Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 14, 81–92.Google Scholar
  15. Gotlib, I. H. (1984). Depression and general psychopathology in university students.Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 93, 19–30.Google Scholar
  16. Harris, M. E. (1990).Wisconsin Card Sorting Test: Computerized version. Version 1.0 (Computer program and manual, Item No. D-1600-CP). Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.Google Scholar
  17. Hodgson, R., & Rachman, S. (1977). Obsessive-compulsive complaints.Behaviour Research and Therapy, 15, 389–395.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Hollon, S. D., & Kendall, P. C. (1980). Cognitive self-statements in depression: Development of an automatic thoughts questionnaire.Cognitive Therapy and Research, 4, 383–395.Google Scholar
  19. Meyer, T. J., Miller, M. L., Metzger, R. L., & Borkovec, T. D. (1990). Development and validation of the penn state worry questionnaire.Behaviour Research and Therapy, 28, 487–495.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Rachman, S., & deSilva, P. (1978). Abnormal and normal obsessions.Behaviour Research and Therapy, 16, 233–238.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Rachman, S., & Hodgson, R. (1980).Obsessions and compulsions. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  22. Rasmussen, S. A., & Eisen, J. L. (1990). Epidemiology and clinical features of obsessive-compulsive disorder. In M. A. Jenike, L. Baer, & W. E. Minichiello (Eds.),Obsessive-compulsive disorders: Theory and management (2nd ed., pp. 10–27). Chicago: Year Book Medical Publishers.Google Scholar
  23. Rotter, J. B. (1966). Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement.Psychological Monographs, 80, 1–28.Google Scholar
  24. Rubenstein, C. S., Peynircioglu, Z. F., Chambless, D. L., & Pigott, T. A. (1993). Memory in sub-clinical obsessive-compulsive checkers.Behaviour Research and Therapy, 31, 759–765.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Salkovskis, P. M., & Harrison, J. (1984). Abnormal and normal obsessions—a replication.Behaviour Research and Therapy, 22, 549–552.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Sher, K. J., Frost, R. O., Kushner, M., Crews, T. M., & Alexander, J. E. (1989). Memory deficits in compulsive checkers: Replication and extension in a clinical sample.Behaviour Research and Therapy, 27, 65–69.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Sher, K. J., Frost, R. O., & Otto, R. (1983). Cognitive deficits in compulsive checkers: An exploratory study.Behaviour Research and Therapy, 21, 357–363.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Sher, K. J., Mann, B., & Frost, R. O. (1984). Cognitive dysfunction in compulsive checkers: Further explorations.Behaviour Research and Therapy, 22, 493–502.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Sher, K. J., Martin, E. D., Raskin, G., & Perrigo, R. (1991). Prevalence of DSM-III-R disorders among nonclinical compulsive checkers and noncheckers in a college student sample.Behaviour Research and Therapy, 29, 479–483.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Spielberger, C., Gorsuch, R., & Lushene, R. (1970).STAI manual. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.Google Scholar
  31. Tallis, F., & DeSilva, P. (1992). Worry and obsessional symptoms: A correlational analysis.Behaviour Research and Therapy, 30, 103–105.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Beth S. Gershuny
    • 1
  • Kenneth J. Sher
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MissouriColumbia

Personalised recommendations