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A Phenomenological Investigation of the Role of Guilt in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

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The current work takes a phenomenological approach to investigating the role of guilt in a sample of persons diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). The role of guilt in OCD has been frequently noted in the literature, although infrequently studied as a factor in its own right. Typically, those studying OCD have found positive correlations between questionnaire measures of guilt and self-reported symptoms of OCD. Those working with sufferers have also found that OC clients in therapy report feelings of guilt with respect to their symptoms. The present work investigates, in a qualitative way, the meaning of guilt for those with OCD. The presumed role of guilt is examined descriptively, with an eye to developing a more complete understanding of the relationship between feelings of guilt and OC symptoms in a sample of sufferers. Nine participants (N=9) were recruited, and were interviewed using an unstructured approach. In terms of analysis, emphasis was placed on understanding the experience of guilt and OC symptoms as both were lived by sufferers, with a focus on the personal significance of guilt for study participants. Fifteen descriptive guilt/OCD themes were derived from interviews across the nine participants. Themes revealed a variety of connections that sufferers made between feelings of guilt and symptoms of OCD. A common description of the experience was also derived. The results suggest that the role of guilt in OCD is highly interpersonal in nature, and that feelings of guilt may precede, motivate, as well as be a consequence of, OC symptoms. The role of guilt for any given sufferer may also be highly idiosyncratic.


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Affiliations: 1: University of Saskatchewan


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