Studies indicate that individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD) have an inflated sense of responsibility for the safety of others. Notably, they feel responsible for potential negative outcomes associated with their obsessions, which in turn triggers compulsive checking. By contrast, compulsive checkers placed under conditions of low or reduced responsibility experience less distress and have decreased urges to check.
Thus, it has been proposed that inflated responsibility occurs in all individuals with OCD, including those with washing and other compulsions, and in turn it plays a key factor in eliciting distress and discomfort in this group. The present study further supports that proposal by showing that compared to non-anxious individuals, obsessive compulsive checkers report a greater urge to rectify a situation and greater subsequent relief upon rectifying it.
Interestingly, obsessive compulsive non-checkers did not differ from the non-anxious participants in terms of perceived inflated responsibility and urges to rectify the situation, which suggests that those behaviors are not common features of OCD as a whole, but rather key characteristics of a subgroup, namely obsessive compulsive checkers.
Foa EB, Sacks MB, Tolin DF, Prezworski A, Amir N. Inflated perception of responsibility for harm in OCD patients with and without checking compulsions: a replication and extension. J Anxiety Disord. 2002;16(4):443-53. doi: 10.1016/s0887-6185(02)00128-7. PMID: 12213038.