Reassuringly Calm? Self-reported patterns of responses to reassurance seeking in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Paul M. Salkovskis, Osamu Kobori

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Background and Objectives: The perception of threat and associated feelings of anxiety typically prompt people to seek safety; reassurance seeking is an interpersonal strategy almost universally used to reduce the immediate perception of risk. Excessive Reassurance Seeking (ERS) is considered to be particularly prominent and unequivocally counter-productive in people suffering from anxiety disorders in general and OCD in particular, producing short term relief but a longer term return and worsening of the original anxiety. We evaluated the extent and specificity of the effects of ERS in OCD and mechanisms involved in both anxiety relief and the hypothesized later return of anxiety.
Method: Self rated effects of reassurance seeking were investigated in 153 individuals with OCD, 50 with panic disorder, and 52 healthy controls, evaluating reactions to the provision and non-provision of reassurance.
Results: Reassurance is associated with short term relief then longer term return of both discomfort and the urge to seek further reassurance in both anxious groups; healthy controls do not experience significant resurgence. Greater return of anxiety and urge to seek more reassurance were associated with higher levels of overall reassurance seeking.
Limitations: The findings were based on retrospective self-report of naturally occurring episodes of ERS; prospective studies and induced behaviours are now needed.
Conclusions: Not only is reassurance a quick fix for people experiencing OCD, but in the absence of treatment the only fix! The findings explain why reassurance seeking continues despite advice that it will worsen anxiety problems. Such advice is potentially harmful to patients and their loved ones.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-208
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
Issue numberPart B
Early online date10 Sept 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015


  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Cognitive Theory of OCD, Reassurance Seeking, Excessive Reassurance Seeking, Reassurance Seeking Questionnaire (ReSQ)


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