Perseveration induces dissociative uncertainty in obsessive-compulsive disorder

Catharina L. Giele*, Marcel A. Van Den Hout, Iris M. Engelhard, Eliane C.P. Dek, Marieke B.J. Toffolo, Danielle C. Cath

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background and objectives Obsessive compulsive (OC)-like perseveration paradoxically increases feelings of uncertainty. We studied whether the underlying mechanism between perseveration and uncertainty is a reduced accessibility of meaning ('semantic satiation'). Methods OCD patients (n = 24) and matched non-clinical controls (n = 24) repeated words 2 (non-perseveration) or 20 times (perseveration). They decided whether this word was related to another target word. Speed of relatedness judgments and feelings of dissociative uncertainty were measured. The effects of real-life perseveration on dissociative uncertainty were tested in a smaller subsample of the OCD group (n = 9). Results Speed of relatedness judgments was not affected by perseveration. However, both groups reported more dissociative uncertainty after perseveration compared to non-perseveration, which was higher in OCD patients. Patients reported more dissociative uncertainty after 'clinical' perseveration compared to non-perseveration. Limitations Both parts of this study are limited by some methodological issues and a small sample size. Conclusions Although the mechanism behind 'perseveration → uncertainty' is still unclear, results suggest that the effects of perseveration are counterproductive.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Dissociation
  • OCD
  • Perseveration
  • Semantic satiation
  • Uncertainty


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