2022-01-27Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.18452/25809
Mechanisms of exposure and response prevention in obsessive-compulsive disorder: effects of habituation and expectancy violation on short-term outcome in cognitive behavioral therapy
Background: Exposure and response prevention is effective and recommended as the first choice for treating obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD). Its mechanisms of action are rarely studied, but two major theories make distinct assumptions: while the emotional processing theory assumes that treatment effects are associated with habituation within and between exposure sessions, the inhibitory learning approach highlights the acquisition of additional associations, implying alternative mechanisms like expectancy violation. The present study aimed to investigate whether process variables derived from both theories predict short-term outcome. Method: In a university outpatient unit, 110 patients (63 female) with OCD received manual-based cognitive-behavioral therapy with high standardization of the first two exposure sessions. Specifically, therapists repeated the first exposure session identically and assessed subjective units of distress as well as expectancy ratings in the course of exposure sessions. Based on these data, individual scores for habituation and distress-related expectancy violation were calculated and used for prediction of both percentage change on the Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS) and remission status after 20 therapy sessions. Results: In a multiple regression model for percentage change, within-session habituation during the first exposure was a significant predictor, while in a logistic regression predicting remission status, distress-related expectancy violation during the first exposure revealed significance. A path model further supported these findings. Conclusions: The results represent first evidence for distress-related expectancy violation and confirm preliminary findings for habituation, suggesting that both processes contribute to treatment benefits of exposure in OCD, and both mechanisms appear to be independent.
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This article was supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Open Access Publication Fund of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.