Mindfulness, obsessive-compulsive symptoms, and executive dysfunction: An exploratory study

Katherine Bassell Crowe, Fordham University


Mindfulness is a construct that has been increasingly studied in psychopathology but has not been extensively explored in an OCD population. Many of the core psychological phenomena of OCD suggest that the disorder may be characterized by deficits in mindfulness. Research to examine this proposal is scant, but if such deficits were present, this may provide grounds for more efforts at mindfulness-based intervention development for individuals suffering from OCD. Additionally, a limited body of research has explored possible neuropsychological functions that may serve as mechanisms to explain different levels of inherent mindfulness across individuals. The neuropsychological research in OCD highlights visual and spatial working memory as possible unique deficits, and these functions, as well as other components of executive functioning such as cognitive inhibition, may be important to understanding inherent mindfulness. A sample of 103 participants who exceeded clinical cutoffs on a self-report measure of OCD, depressive, or generalized anxiety symptoms or were healthy controls completed a self-report measure of mindfulness (FFMQ), and four measures of executive functioning, testing visual, spatial, and verbal working memory as well as cognitive inhibition. Results demonstrated that the OCD group scored significantly lower than the anxiety and control groups on some facets of mindfulness but did not differ from the depression group. Further, the OCD group performed significantly worse on visual working memory than other types of working memory, and their performance on all aspects of working memory were significantly worse than the control group but not the depression or anxiety groups. Finally, linear regression models examining visual and spatial working memory and cognitive inhibition as predictors of mindfulness found support for two facets of mindfulness, though the neuropsychological measures were not independently statistically significant. The implications of these findings are discussed in the context of our understanding of mindfulness and executive functioning in OCD and what this may imply for future research and treatment.

Subject Area

Behavioral psychology|Clinical psychology|Cognitive psychology

Recommended Citation

Crowe, Katherine Bassell, "Mindfulness, obsessive-compulsive symptoms, and executive dysfunction: An exploratory study" (2014). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI1584868.