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The Relative Contributions of Experiential Avoidance and Distress Tolerance to OC Symptoms

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 December 2015

Shannon M. Blakey
Affiliation:
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA
Ryan J. Jacoby
Affiliation:
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA
Lillian Reuman
Affiliation:
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA
Jonathan S. Abramowitz*
Affiliation:
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA
*
Reprint requests to Jonathan Abramowitz, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, C.B. # 3270 (Davie Hall), Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA. E-mail: jabramowitz@unc.edu

Abstract

Background: Obsessive beliefs account for substantial (but not all) obsessive-compulsive (OC) symptoms. Intolerance of internal experiences (IIE), which encompasses the constructs of experiential avoidance (EA) and distress tolerance (DT), refers to difficulty managing unwanted thoughts, emotions, and other internal states, and might add to current explanatory models. Although IIE appears to be conceptually relevant to obsessive-compulsive (OC) symptoms, scant research has examined this relationship empirically. Aim: The present study examined the relative contributions of EA and DT as predictors of OC symptom dimensions. Method: A nonclinical sample (n = 496) completed self-report questionnaires measuring general distress, EA, DT and OC symptom dimensions. Results: All variables of interest were significantly (all ps ≤ .001) correlated with one another, such that higher general distress, higher EA, and lower DT were associated with greater OC symptom severity for all symptom dimensions; however, only EA independently predicted obsessional symptoms, but not other OC symptom dimensions. Conclusions: One's willingness to endure (i.e. EA), rather than their ability to tolerate (i.e. DT) unpleasant internal experiences best predicts obsessional symptoms (i.e. obsessing) above and beyond general distress. Potential implications for understanding, assessing, and treating OC symptoms are discussed.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies 2015 

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