Complex computer modeling demonstrates that obsessive-compulsive disorder patients learn about their environments but don’t use that information to guide their actions
About 10 years ago David Adam scratched his finger on a barbed wire fence. The cut was shallow, but drew blood. As a science journalist and author of The Man Who Couldn’t Stop: OCD and the True Story of a Life Lost in Thought, a book about his own struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder, Adam had a good idea of what was in store. His OCD involved an obsessive fear of contracting HIV and produced a set of compulsive behaviors revolving around blood.
In this instance he hurried home to get some tissue and returned to check there was not already any blood on the barbed-wire. “I looked and saw there was no blood on the tissue, looked underneath the fence, saw there was no blood, turned to walk away, and had to do it all again, and again and again,” he says. “You get stuck in this horrific cycle, where all the evidence you use to form judgments in everyday life tells you there’s no blood. And if anyone asked, you’d say ‘no.’ Yet, when you ask yourself, you say ‘maybe.’” more