Recent Advances in Research on Cognition and Emotion in OCD: A Review

  • Amanda W. CalkinsEmail author
  • Noah C. Berman
  • Sabine Wilhelm
Anxiety Disorders (DJ Stein, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Anxiety Disorders


The cognitive model of OCD suggests that misinterpreting intrusive thoughts as unacceptable leads to increased anxiety and attempts to suppress or ignore the thoughts through avoidance or compulsive rituals. An insidious negative feedback loop develops as one’s attention focuses on these thoughts and in turn the unwanted thoughts do not respond to efforts to avoid or suppress. This article is a current review of the research on cognitive processes in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). We review research that has (1) empirically validated the theoretical underpinnings of the cognitive model, (2) altered maladaptive cognitive processes through state-of-the-art experimental procedures, (3) refined our understanding of the relationship between obsessive beliefs and OC symptoms and (4) examined how underlying traits (e.g., anxiety and disgust sensitivity) relate to the development and maintenance of OCD. We discuss the clinical implications of this research.


Obsessive-compulsive Disorder OCD Cognition Emotion Cognitive Processes Cognitive Model Anxiety Disgust sensitivity Psychiatry 


Conflict of Interest

A.W. Calkins declares that she has no conflict of interest.

N.C. Berman declares that he has no conflict of interest.

S. Wilhelm has received grants and research support from the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health and International OCD Foundation; has received payment for lectures including service on speakers bureaus from the Tourette Syndrome Association, Charlie Waller Institute, University of Reading, International OCD Foundation, Internationale Tagung in Prien am Chiemsee, North Shore University Hospital and Long Island Jewish Medical Center, and Massachusetts General Hospital Psychiatry Academy; has received payment for manuscript preparation from Guilford Press; has received royalties from Oxford University Press, New Harbinger Publications and Guilford Press; has received payment for serving on editorial boards from the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies; and has received payment for grant reviews from National Institutes of Health.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amanda W. Calkins
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Noah C. Berman
    • 1
  • Sabine Wilhelm
    • 1
  1. 1.Massachusetts General HospitalBostonUSA
  2. 2.Simches Research BuildingBostonUSA

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