Disgust, mental contamination, and posttraumatic stress: Unique relations following sexual versus non-sexual assault

Christal L. Badour, Matthew T. Feldner, Kimberly A. Babson, Heidemarie Blumenthal, Courtney E. Dutton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations

Abstract

Disgust and mental contamination (or feelings of dirtiness and urges to wash in the absence of a physical contaminant) are increasingly being linked to traumatic event exposure and posttraumatic stress (PTS) symptomatology. Evidence suggests disgust and mental contamination are particularly relevant to sexual assault experiences; however, there has been relatively little direct examination of these relations. The primary aim of the current study was to assess disgust and mental contamination-based reactivity to an individualized interpersonal assault-related script-driven imagery procedure. Participants included 22 women with a history of traumatic sexual assault and 19 women with a history of traumatic non-sexual assault. Sexual assault and PTS symptom severity predicted greater increases in disgust, feelings of dirtiness, and urges to wash in response to the traumatic event script. Finally, assault type affected the association between PTS symptom severity and increases in feelings of dirtiness and urges to wash in response to the traumatic event script such that these associations were only significant among sexually assaulted individuals. These findings highlight the need for future research focused on elucidating the nature of the relation between disgust and mental contamination and PTS reactions following various traumatic events.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-162
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Anxiety Disorders
Volume27
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported, in part, by a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) National Research Service Award ( F31 MH092994-01 ) as well as a grant from the Marie Wilson Howells Foundation in the Department of Psychological Science at the University of Arkansas, both awarded to the first author. Additional support for this manuscript was provided by Health Services Research and Development (HSR&D) funds provided to Dr. Babson. The expressed views do not necessarily represent those of NIMH or the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Keywords

  • Disgust
  • Mental contamination
  • PTSD
  • Posttraumatic stress
  • Sexual assault

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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