ROCD and self-related processes:
Pre-existing self-vulnerabilities may also play a significant role in the development and maintenance of ROCD. Rachman (1997, 1998) has argued that intrusions challenging a person’s system of values are more likely to escalate into obsessions. Following this idea, several scholars have proposed that pre-existing self-vulnerabilities contribute to the specific theme of an individual’s obsession (e.g., Aardema & O’Connor, 2007; Aardema, Moulding, Radomsky, Doron & Allamby, in press; Bhar & Kyrios, 2007; Clark & Purdon, 1993; García-Soriano, Clark, Belloch, del Palacio, & Castañeiras, 2012). In this context, Doron and Kyrios (2005) have argued that thoughts or events that challenge highly valued self-domains (e.g., moral self-domain) may threaten a person’s sense of self-worth in this domain, and activate cognitions and behavioral tendencies aimed at counteracting the damage and compensating for the perceived deficits (e.g., Doron, Sar-El, & Mikulincer, 2012). For some individuals, such as OCD sufferers, these responses paradoxically increase the accessibility of negative self-cognitions (e.g., “I’m immoral and unworthy”) that together with the activation of other dysfunctional beliefs associated with obsessions (e.g., inflated responsibility, threat overestimation; OCCWG, 1997) can result in the development of OCD.
In our view, vulnerability in the relational self-domain may lead to the escalation of relationship-centered intrusions into obsession (Doron, Szepsenwol, Karp, & Gal, 2013). That is, sensitivity to intrusions challenging self-perceptions in the relationship domain (e.g., “I do not feel right with my partner at the moment”) may trigger catastrophic relationship appraisals (e.g., “being in a relationship I am not sure about will make me miserable forever”) and other maladaptive appraisals (e.g., “I shouldn’t have such doubts regarding my partner”), followed by neutralizing behaviors (e.g., constantly seeking reassurance that the relationship is going right). Similarly, when one’s self-worth is contingent on the perceived value of a relationship partner — partner contingent self-worth, every thought or event related to the partner’s flaws can intensify partner-focused OC symptoms. Individuals perceiving their partner’s failures or flaws as reflecting on their own self-worth would be more sensitive to thoughts or events pertaining to their partner’s qualities and characteristics. Such intrusions may trigger catastrophic appraisals (e.g., “He is not intelligent enough. We will never be able to support our family”) and neutralizing behaviors (e.g., increased monitoring of the partner’s grammatical errors).
Most individuals, however, manage to adaptively respond to such self-challenges and are therefore less likely to be flooded by negative self-evaluations following them. One psychological mechanism suggested to thwart such adaptive regulatory processes is attachment insecurity (Doron, Moulding, Kyrios, Nedeljkovic, & Mikulincer, 2009).