Attenuated Access to Emotions in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Amit Lazarov*, Ela Oren, Nira Liberman, Shay Gur, Haggai Hermesh, Reuven Dar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Seeking Proxies for Internal States (SPIS) model of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) posits that OCD is associated with attenuated access to internal states. Here we explored the implications of this model in the realm of emotions. Participants with OCD, anxiety disorders, and nonclinical control participants completed the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT), assessing two domains of emotional intelligence: Experiential emotional intelligence (EI), reflecting the ability to perceive and feel emotions accurately, and Strategic EI, reflecting the ability to understand and manage emotions correctly. As only Experiential EI requires accurate perception of one's emotions for adequate performance, we predicted an interaction between group and EI area. Specifically, we predicted that compared to both anxiety disorders and healthy control participants, OCD participants would show a larger deficit in Experiential area of the MSCEIT relative to the Strategic area. Results were fully in line with this prediction. Moreover, supporting the specificity of the hypothesized deficit to OCD, participants with anxiety disorders did not differ from nonclinical control participants in their performance, and findings were not attributable to anxiety or depression levels. These results replicate and extend previous findings obtained with analogue samples and suggest that OCD is associated with attenuated access to emotional states, which may be partially compensated for by reliance on semantic knowledge of emotion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalBehavior Therapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • emotional intelligence
  • emotions
  • internal states
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder


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