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Study: What Causes That ‘Checking’ Habit

We all do it at one point or another when we leave the house. As soon as you get in the car to go, you start to wonder: did I lock the door? Did I turn off the stove? Are the burners on? You get out of your car to go check and make sure you’ve done all the things that are weighing on your mind before you leave the house.

This ‘checking’ habit might be the result of feeling scatterbrained for the moment for some, while for others, especially when done excessively, can lie within the anxiety spectrum. A new study reveals this ‘checking’ habit stems from the fear of losing control and this may be the core to a variety of anxiety disorders, including obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

Study co-author, Adam Radomsky, from Montreal, Canada’s Concordia University stated that the new research reveals that individuals who think they are going to lose control tend to be more likely to exhibit the checking behavior, more frequently.

Medical News Today revealed that the team worked with just over 130 individuals who were within the undergraduate student cohort.

Participants were given fake electroencephalograms, as a way to measure electrical activity within their brains. They were given random assignments of false feedback where they believed there would be a high or low risk of losing control over actions and thoughts. Once the individuals were convinced that they may lose control or were at risk of it, the team asked them to participate in a computer task where they needed to ‘control the pace’ of images by making them disappear prior to them fading off the screen on their own.

What they didn’t tell individuals was that they actually did not have any control over the images; the photos were already programmed to fade in and out at determined times.

Individuals were asked to use differing combinations of keys to control the photos and hit the space button to confirm the command.

What was revealed was that those individuals that thought they were at a higher risk of losing control engaged in the ‘checking’ habit versus those who were told they had control over the situation.

The researchers hope that understanding that excessive checking does stem from the fear of losing control over a situation might be able to help create more effective cognitive behavioral therapy treatments when it comes to the vast range of anxiety disorders.

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