Mental contamination and trauma: Understanding posttraumatic stress, risky behaviors, and help-seeking attitudes

C. Alex Brake, Alyssa C. Jones, Joshua R. Wakefield, Christal L. Badour

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations

Abstract

Research has linked mental contamination to symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, less research has examined how mental contamination relates to other factors observed among individuals with these symptoms. This study examined relationships among mental contamination, posttraumatic stress (PTS) symptoms, mood-dependent risky behaviors, and help-seeking attitudes among 232 trauma-exposed undergraduates. Participants completed self-report measures of mental contamination, contact contamination, PTS symptoms, mood-dependent risky behaviors, and help-seeking attitudes. While accounting for effects of contact contamination, biological sex, and unwanted sexual contact, results indicated mental contamination was positively linked to PTS symptoms. When accounting for PTS symptoms, mental contamination demonstrated a significant positive relationship with negative mood-dependent risky behaviors, and a trend-level positive relationship with positive mood-dependent risky behaviors. Mental contamination was indirectly linked to greater risky behaviors (negative and positive) through increased PTS symptoms. Mental contamination also demonstrated a positive indirect effect on help-seeking attitudes through increased PTS symptoms. Mental contamination exhibited a negative direct effect on help-seeking attitudes, suggesting mental contamination was associated with reduced help-seeking attitudes even after accounting for a positive association between PTS symptoms and help-seeking attitudes. These findings underscore the importance of understanding mental contamination in relation to trauma exposure and associated pathology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-38
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders
Volume17
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Inc.

Keywords

  • Help seeking
  • Mental contamination
  • Posttraumatic stress
  • Risky behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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