The results of a person’s decisions are psychologically dependent on the circumstances surrounding them. Richard L. Blanton considers people responsible for the results of their decisions, either to society or to themselves. The Impact of Responsibilities has a significant influence on Mental Health. While carrying out tasks can give one a sense of purpose and success, taking on too many or being overburdened with them can result in stress, burnout, and mental health issues. For example, a university student may have to choose between completing the assignment due in a few hours and helping their roommate fix the electrical issues at their apartment.
What is responsibility?
In essence, responsibility is the state of being accountable, according to the Oxford Dictionary. Which defines it as the state or reality of having an obligation to deal with something or have authority over someone. It is the trait that helps you choose between alternatives. To put it in simpler terms responsibility is the ability to accept the consequences of your choices. For example, should you clean your house before you go on a vacation? Should your close friends come earlier than the start of your birthday party? Responsibility actively addresses these conundrums.
From a psychological perspective, the person actively chooses the outcomes of their decisions based on their surroundings. From a psychological perspective, a person actively chooses how their decisions will turn out based on their situation. For example, a university student may have to choose between completing the assignment due in a few hours and helping their roommate fix the electrical issues at their apartment.
Responsibility can be of various forms depending on intensity of behavior and situation. These include responsibilities such as collective responsibility, corporate social responsibility, legal obligation, family responsibility, commitments, media responsibility, moral responsibility, professional responsibility, and social responsibility.
How Responsibility affects Mental Health conditions?
Responsibility impacts various mental health conditions differently. For instance, in schizophrenia due to psychotic symptoms, the individual face difficulties with responsibility. Such being able to distinguish between the reality of the choices present. Individuals with antisocial personality disorder may face difficulty taking responsibility. Core features of the disorder, such as lack of remorse or guilt and loss of consideration of consequence for their actions often result in facing legal issues in future.
Individuals with dementia also struggle with responsibility due to progressive decline in cognitive functioning that accompanies their condition. In depression, taking responsibilities is often difficulties and produces negative consequences for their well-being. For example, individuals with depression may feel fatigue or overwhelmed and encounter negative thoughts upon making responsible decisions. In contrast, individuals with anxiety may feel motivated to fulfill their responsibility depending on the intensity of their anxiety.
An interesting study conducted to determine the effect of responsibility on obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It provided a new perspective on responsibility which is discussed further in this article.
Hyper-Responsibility and OCD
A particular form of responsibility called hyper-responsibility describes the inflated sense of responsibility felt by people and is said to affect the mental health of individuals. Responsibility, in general, can be helpful in building trust from others and even gaining favor. For example, borrowing a phone by saying, “I am so sorry about rain! Can I borrow your phone?” is more likely to work than just saying, “Can I borrow your phone?” according to the Harvard Business School and Wharton’s study. One may see duty as a demonstration of empathy. As shown in the study, the said apology for bad weather shows recognition and concern for someone else’s experience rather than feeling remorseful about oneself.
Responsibility may not always be good. When responsibility becomes enhanced it can result in damaging effects on the functioning of the individual. Hiroshima University researchers surveyed American college students to learn their opinions on three different types of duty: the obligation to prevent harm or avoid it, the responsibility for unfavourable results, and the responsibility to solve a problem. The researchers discovered that people with high levels of responsibility were more likely to exhibit OCD or anxiety-related behaviors. The strongest associations with these conditions were between responsibility for unfavorable outcomes and obligation to fix a problem.
To give a practical example of hyper-responsibility, suppose your family laundry is lying in the basket unfinished. You decide to do the laundry even though you are sick. Make the choice to do the laundry not only for yourself but also for all your family members. You may have felt it was your responsibility to do the laundry for everyone as a sign of you caring for them. If you hadn’t done the washing, your parents would have thought you were useless and lazy.
OCD sufferers frequently engage in this behaviour, however their motivations may differ. OCD patients have these heightened feelings and thoughts, often known as obsessions. Such individuals are likely to make worst case scenarios of what will happen if they didn’t act on their obsessions, though such scenarios have low probability of ever occurring. OCD-based hyper-responsibility is the constant feeling of being responsible for other situations. A person with OCD must pursue their obsessions (also known as compulsions) in order to stop the fear of consequences from creeping into their thoughts.
This calming effect lasts only for a few seconds as they are exposed to further triggers of OCD. Thus, in this manner people with OCD end up in cycle of obsessions and compulsions due to their hyper-responsibility feelings. But there is a loophole at the end of these cycles. Researchers claim that by acknowledging the source of their worries—this excessive sense of responsibility—and actively working to lessen them. Patients might lessen anxiety or obsessive behaviors. Let’s see how this can happen.
How to manage Hyper-Responsibility?
If you ever worried and felt the extreme need to find a solution to these worries, you might know how hard it is to manage these feelings. Exposure and Response Prevention therapy (ERP) is considered the go-to solution for OCD, especially OCD-based hyper-responsibility. Statistics have shown that around 80% people with OCD experience positive results of treatment in 12 to 20 sessions. The basis of ERP is formed on the premise. As exposure to obsessive thoughts and discomfort experienced over resisting compulsions is the key to overcoming the symptoms of OCD. It’s not easy to control one’s thoughts. However, by resisting their compulsions, we may be able to reduce the hold of it on the individual.
In ERP, the therapist actively assists the client in tracking their compulsions and obsessions and compiling a list of coping mechanisms. The client works slowly with the therapist to help the client put themselves in undesirable situations. Which stimulate their obsessions while working on the prevention of giving into anxiety-reducing compulsions. The techniques taught in the ERP are carefully constructed by the therapist to gradually lead their clients toward their goals rather than moving too quickly causing them to feel overwhelmed.
The main key to managing and overcoming hyper-responsibility is recognizing the thought pattern and understanding the situation. According to Dr. Ellen Hendriksen, people can manage feelings of excessive responsibility by actively responding to the stimulus of responsibility. accepting positive stimulus and assistance, and letting others take care of their own responsibilities because they can either develop the competence to handle their own baggage or already do so.