Implicit processes in pathological skin picking: Responses to skin irregularities predict symptom severity and treatment susceptibility
SourceJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 43, 1, (2012), pp. 685-691
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ BSI OGG
SW OZ BSI KLP
Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
SubjectDevelopmental Psychopathology; Experimental Psychopathology and Treatment
Background and objectives Implicit cognitive processes are relevant in understanding the development and maintenance of psychopathology and dysfunctional behaviours. The present study investigated the role of implicit processes in pathological skin picking (PSP). Methods Using an Approach–Avoidance Task (AAT), we examined automatic response tendencies towards skin picking-related photographs in a sample of 34 college students who suffered from PSP and participated in a randomized, waiting-list controlled treatment study. Results In comparison to a control sample (n = 49), PSP patients displayed significantly decelerated reaction times (distraction) in response to photographs of skin irregularities and a tendency to respond with avoidance to photographs of skin irregularities. Both distraction and avoidance in reaction to photographs of skin irregularities were significantly associated with current skin picking severity. Moreover, the strength of distraction in response to skin irregularities predicted unique variance in skin picking severity at post-measurement, over and above the effect of skin picking severity at pre-measurement and the effect of treatment condition. For the treatment condition, higher initial distraction predicted better treatment outcome (lower skin picking severity at post-measurement), whereas it predicted symptom deterioration at post-treatment for untreated participants. Limitations The specific characteristics of PSP patients (mainly female university students) and the relatively small sample size may compromise generalizability of findings. Conclusions In PSP, affective distraction in response to skin irregularities seems to characterize an important process related to symptom severity as well as treatment susceptibility.
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