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J Psychiatr Res. 2011 Sep;45(9):1236-42. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2011.01.018. Epub 2011 Feb 24.

Specificity of disgust vulnerability in the distinction and treatment of OCD.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Nashville, TN 37203, USA.


A growing body of research has implicated disgust as a potential risk factor for the development and maintenance of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The first aim of the present study was to determine whether related, yet distinct, disgust vulnerabilities are endorsed more strongly by individuals with OCD than by those with another anxiety disorder. The second aim was to examine the unique contributions of changes in disgust to symptom improvement observed with exposure-based treatment for OCD. In study 1, individuals with OCD, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and nonclinical controls (NCCs) completed a measure of disgust propensity and disgust sensitivity. Compared to NCCs and individuals with GAD, those with OCD more strongly endorsed disgust propensity. However, individuals with OCD did not significantly differ from individuals with GAD in disgust sensitivity, although both groups reported significantly higher disgust sensitivity levels compared to NCCs. Study 2 comprised mediation analyses of symptom improvement among individuals with OCD and revealed that decreases in disgust propensity over time mediated improvement in OCD symptoms, even after controlling for improvements in negative affect. The implications of these findings for conceptualizing the role of disgust in the nature and treatment of OCD are discussed.

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