Is OCD Epistemically Irrational?

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It’s a common assumption in psychiatry and psychotherapy that mental health conditions are marked out by some form of epistemic irrationality. With respect to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), the mainstream view is that OCD causes irrational beliefs. Recently, however, this ‘doxastic view’ has been criticized from a theoretical and empirical perspective. Instead a more promising ‘zetetic view’ has been proposed which locates the epistemic irrationality of OCD not in irrational beliefs, but in the senseless inquiries it prompts. Yet, in this paper I present a special class of cases—sexual obsessive-compulsive disorder (S-OCD)—which cannot be explained by existing doxastic and zetetic accounts of the epistemic irrationality of OCD. In addition, some people with S-OCD appear to be adhering too well to a plausible set of norms for inquiry. Their suffering seems to be partially caused by an excess of rationality, and not a lack thereof. They seem, if anything, too rational. This shows firstly that it’s unlikely that there is one form of epistemic irrationality common to all persons living with OCD. Secondly, it should lead us to rethink the epistemic categories we use in classifying mental health conditions such as OCD.
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First archival date: 2022-08-02
Latest version: 2 (2022-08-12)
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