People who report intense feelings of responsibility are susceptible to developing Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), recent findings suggest.
"People with OCD [are] tortured by repeatedly occurring negative thinking and they take some strategy to prevent it... GAD is a very pervasive type of anxiety. [Patients] worry about everything," said Yoshinori Sugiura, lead author of the study.
Anxiety and OCD-like behaviours, such as checking if the door is locked, are common in the general population. However, it is the frequency and intensity of these behaviours or feelings that mark the difference between a character trait and a disorder.
"For example, you're using two audio recorders instead of one. It's just in case one fails ... having two recorders will enhance your work but if you prepare many recorders ... that will interfere with your work," Sugiura explained.
A problem Sugiura identifies in psychology is that each disorder that sufferers experience has several competing theories regarding their cause.
"There are too many theories and therapies for mental disorders for one expert to master them all," elaborates Sugiura.
The goal of this research team was to find a common cause for these disorders and simplify the theories behind them.
The research team identified 3 types of inflated responsibility: 1) Responsibility to prevent or avoid danger and/or harm 2) Sense of personal responsibility and blame for negative outcomes and 3) Responsibility to continue thinking about a problem.
The research group combined tests used to study OCD and GAD as there had been no previous work that compared these tests in the same study.
To establish whether inflated responsibility was a predictor of OCD or GAD, Sugiura and Fisak sent an online questionnaire to American university students. Through this survey, they found that respondents who scored higher in questions about responsibility were more likely to exhibit behaviours that resemble those of OCD or GAD patients.
The researchers would like to clarify that this preliminary study is not representative of the general population due to the small scale and skewed population. However, the promising findings suggest that this format can be applied to a larger population and yield similar results.