Mental contamination, PTSD symptoms, and coping following sexual trauma: Results from a daily monitoring study

Jordyn M. Tipsword, C. Alex Brake, Jesse McCann, Matthew W. Southward, Christal L. Badour

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Mental contamination (MC) – dirtiness experienced in the absence of contact with a physical contaminant – has been linked to PTSD symptoms following sexual trauma. However, there is limited understanding regarding the temporal nature of this association. The present study utilized experience sampling to examine associations between baseline and daily experiences of MC and PTSD symptoms and the mediating role of avoidance and approach coping among a sample of 41 adult women with a history of sexual trauma and current MC. Participants completed baseline measures and 14 days of twice-daily assessments. Results indicated that daily MC and PTSD symptoms were bidirectionally related. The tendency to engage in avoidance coping positively mediated relations between 1) baseline MC and daily PTSD symptoms and 2) baseline PTSD symptoms and daily MC. Further, daily avoidance coping (T-1) positively mediated associations between daily MC (T-2) and subsequent daily PTSD symptoms (T). Approach coping was not a mediator (between- or within-) in any models. Findings lend support to a mutual maintenance model of PTSD symptoms and trauma-related MC mediated by avoidance coping. Future research over a more extended period is warranted to clarify whether PTSD symptoms and MC indeed mutually maintain or exacerbate one another over time.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102517
JournalJournal of Anxiety Disorders
StatePublished - Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This work was supported by the Office for Policy Studies on Violence Against Women at the University of Kentucky . This project was also supported by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences through Grant no. UL1TR001998 at the National Institute of Health ( NIH ). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH or the Office for Policy Studies on Violence Against Women.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd


  • Approach
  • Avoidance
  • Coping
  • Mental contamination
  • PTSD symptoms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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