Contamination aversion and posttraumatic stress symptom severity following sexual trauma

Thomas G. Adams, Christal L. Badour, Joshua M. Cisler, Matthew T. Feldner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Contamination concerns have been linked to increased posttraumatic stress symptoms. The present study offered a preliminary test of the roles of domain-specific contamination aversions in posttraumatic stress. Fifty women with a history of sexual or physical assault were recruited from the community and assessed for posttraumatic stress symptom severity and individual differences in mental contamination, direct contamination aversion [aversion to normative contaminants (e.g., garbage)], indirect contamination aversion [aversion to perceived contaminants (e.g., handrails)], and symptoms of contamination-based obsessive-compulsive disorder. We observed large and significant relations between posttraumatic stress symptoms and all forms of contamination fears and aversions among participants reporting sexual trauma, but minimal and non-significant relations among victims of physical assault. Exploratory tests revealed that the effects of basic contamination aversions on posttraumatic stress symptom severity were largely mediated by mental contamination. The present study suggests that contamination fears and aversions (i.e., normal or perceived) are highly related to posttraumatic stress symptoms among sexual trauma victims and highlights the importance of assessing and targeting feelings and evaluations related to contamination when treating posttraumatic stress symptoms among sexual trauma victims.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-457
Number of pages9
JournalCognitive Therapy and Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2014


  • Aversion
  • Contamination
  • OCD
  • PTSD
  • Sexual assault

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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