Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, is an anxiety disorder characterized by obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are recurring and persistent thoughts, images, or impulses that are intrusive, distressing, and, at least at time, unreasonable. Compulsions are attempts to neutralize the impact of obsessions. Typically they involve repeated behaviors or mental acts that are done to counteract the effect of the obsessions, that is, to restore safety or prevent a dreaded event. The experience of having an intrusive and unwanted thought and engaging in behaviors designed to neutralize these thoughts is quite common. Most people experience unwanted intrusive thoughts, but are able to simply not pay attention to them.
My interest in OCD concerns the nature and reaction to these unwanted intrusive thoughts. Much of the experience of OCD can be described as a “Not Just Right Experience”. This is a vague and difficult to articulate sense that an experience is incomplete or not just right. Most of us have this kind of experience, but habituate to it quickly. Some of the research I do is on "Not Just Right Experiences."
Perfectionism involves setting excessively high standards for performance, accompanied by overly critical self-evaluations. My research on perfectionism has covered a variety of issues related to several important dimensions:
- Concern over mistakes
- Doubts about everyday actions
- High personal standards, and
- Perceived parental expectations and criticism
The importance of perfectionism, its relationship to psychopathology, especially OCD, and mediators of the relationship between perfectionism and psychopathology are some of my research interests in this area.
Compulsive hoarding is the acquisition of and failure to discard possessions that appear to be either useless or of limited value. This behavior is quite common, and only becomes a clinical disorder when the behavior or resulting clutter presents problems in living.
Compulsive hoarding has commonly been thought of as a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder, though it is also associated with other disorders like dementia, schizophrenia, and eating disorders. My research on hoarding has focused on the phenomenology, cognitive behavioral theorizing, and the development of treatments for the disorder.
Recently I have joined several colleagues from Boston University and the Institute of Living in Hartford to create the New England Hoarding Consortium, an organization of clinicians and researchers dedicated to studying hoarding. The NEHC's newsletters can be found by going to the NEHC link on the right-hand side of this page. Other information about hoarding can be found at the International Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Foundation website, which is listed in the “links” section of this site.