Different cognitive behavioural processes underpinning reassurance seeking in depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder

Emma Smith, Neil Carrigan, Paul M. Salkovskis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (SciVal)


Background and objectives: It has been suggested that reassurance seeking may play an important role in the development and maintenance of common mental health problems such as OCD and depression. We considered the extent of reassurance seeking in depression and OCD relative to a healthy comparison group and tested the hypothesis that reassurance seeking is primarily motivated by threat in those suffering from OCD and by interpersonal concerns in those suffering from depression. Methods: The frequency and intensity of reassurance seeking and the motivation for seeking reassurance was measured using the reassurance seeking questionnaire in 28 people with OCD, 18 people with depression and 29 healthy controls. Results: The OCD group sought reassurance more and at a higher intensity than both the depression group and healthy controls. For the OCD group, reassurance seeking was found to be linked to threat concern motivation. The depression group were not motivated by threat or interpersonal concerns. Limitations: The OCD group did not significantly differ from the depression group on the measure of depression, most likely due to secondary depression in the OCD group. Conclusions: For people suffering from OCD, reassurance is motivated by threat concern. For the depression group, levels of reassurance seeking were not substantially increased relative to controls, and the motivation to seek reassurance is less clear but interpersonal concern may not be a distinct motivational factor.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101774
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
Early online date9 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2022


  • Depression
  • Interpersonal motivation
  • Obsessive-Compulsive disorder
  • Reassurance seeking
  • Reassurance seeking questionnaire
  • Threat motivation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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