Do you feel like the fate of the world rests on your shoulders? As well as being stressful, that mindset may be affecting your mental health. A sense of over-responsibility is one trait that makes people vulnerable to developing obsessive-compulsive disorder or anxiety, according to a study published in the International Journal of Cognitive Therapy.
While it’s normal to feel anxious, and also to act in ways that one might casually describe as OCD – such as keeping your house spotlessly clean – it’s when these behaviors become persistent and intense that they develop from traits into disorders, researchers say.
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“For example, you’re using two audio recorders instead of one,” says researcher Yoshinori Sugiura Sugiura, associate professor at the University of Hiroshima, in a release. “It’s just in case one fails … having two recorders will enhance your work but if you prepare [too] many recorders … that will interfere with your work.”
There are many theories as to why someone might develop OCD or anxiety. The study sought to narrow them down as much as possible and settled on having a sense of “inflated responsibility,” defining it as 1.) feeling the responsibility to stop dangerous situations or to prevent harm from happening to yourself or others, 2.) a feeling of personal obligation and blame about any bad results when negative things happen, and 3.) the tendency to ruminate over a problem.
The researchers sent an online questionnaire to American college students and found that respondents who scored high on questions about responsibility were also more likely to show behaviors that were shared traits with OCD or anxiety.
Due to the skewed population of the sample studied – mainly female university students – the researchers stress that this preliminary study does not represent the wider population.
The elusive trick to soothe these disorders is to minimize feelings of personal over-obligation.
“[A] very quick or easy way is to realize that responsibility is working behind your worry,” Sugiura said.
And cut yourself some slack while you’re at it.
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