Clinical reports document the existence of an intimate relationship between anger and compulsive checking in obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Particularly, studies show that elevated levels of anger are often reported among individuals with OCD symptoms; however, greater anger has been reported among OCD individuals with checking compulsions.
CAUSES OF ANGER AMONG OCD CHECKERS
It has been suggested that this pattern of negative emotions could be a consequence of frustration from inability to resolve doubts despite checking incessantly. Intolerance of uncertainty and perfectionism could indeed influence doubt, which in turn could provoke anger among compulsive checkers. In addition, excessive responsibility-taking could also contribute to the emotion of anger as compulsive checkers often feel highly responsible for the prevention of harm while the others are perceived as less accountable.
Anger expression, on the other hand, does not yield a clear picture. Notably, it has been suggested that OCD patients express their anger differently than individuals without OCD by demonstrating more anger suppression or control compared to non-OCD individuals. However, other studies claim that this relationship between anger expression and OCD could in fact be related to depression and not OCD, especially among compulsive checkers.
ANGER IS A COMMON CHARACTER TRAIT IN OCD
Addressing those conflicting results, the current study reports that compulsive checkers do display more trait anger (i.e., disposition to perceive a wide range of situations as annoying or frustrating and tendency to respond to them with anger) than non-OCD participants, which is consistent with previous studies. Furthermore, the inability to tolerate uncertainty and the need for perfectionism are two behaviors strongly associated with anger among compulsive checkers. However, contrary to expectations, greater checking was associated with less anger in this study, which could be explained as reflecting their difficulty with perceiving anger due to more frequent or intense obsessions.
Relatedly, elevated perfectionism and intolerance of uncertainty are consistently related to greater trait anger and anger expression. Interestingly inflated responsibility or intolerance of uncertainty and perfectionism predict lower control of anger among OCD checkers. Thus, it appears that OCD-related beliefs are more directly related to anger and anger expression than OCD symptoms.
Radomsky AS, Ashbaugh AR, Gelfand LA. Relationships between anger, symptoms, and cognitive factors in OCD checkers. Behav Res Ther. 2007 Nov;45(11):2712-25. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2007.07.009. Epub 2007 Jul 31. PMID: 17723225.