Thought-action fusion as a mediator of religiosity and obsessive-compulsive symptoms

Alishia D. Williams*, Gloria Lau, Jessica R. Grisham

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background and Objectives: Thought-action fusion (TAF), or maladaptive cognitions regarding the relationship between mental events and behaviours, has been implicated in the development and maintenance of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). As some religions promote TAF-like appraisals, it has been proposed that religiosity may play a role in the transformation of normally occurring intrusive thoughts into clinically distressing obsessions. No research, however, has experimentally investigated the mediating role of TAF on the relationship between religiosity and OC symptoms. Methods: 85 Christian, Jewish, and Atheist/Agnostic participants were exposed to an experimental thought-induction protocol and reported on their associated levels of distress, guilt, feelings of responsibility, and urge to suppress target intrusions experienced during a 5-min monitoring period. Participants also completed measures of obsessive-compulsive symptomatology, TAF beliefs, and general psychopathology. Results: Using PROCESS and bootstrapping analyses, a test of the conditional indirect effects of religiosity on obsessive-compulsive symptoms revealed that Christianity moderated the effects of religiosity on moral TAF beliefs, which in turn mediated the relationship between religiosity and obsessive-compulsive symptoms. Furthermore, in the Christian group, moral TAF beliefs mediated the relationship between religiosity and ratings of guilt and responsibility following the experimental protocol. Limitations: The use of university students with moderate levels of religiosity. Conclusions: Collectively the results suggest that obsessional thinking is not attributable to religion per se, but that teachings underlying certain religious doctrines may fuel TAF beliefs that are implicated in the maintenance of OCD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-212
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
Volume44
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Moderated mediation
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Religiosity
  • Thought-action fusion

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