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J Anxiety Disord. 2014 Oct;28(7):704-11. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2014.07.007. Epub 2014 Jul 24.

Disgust as a unique affective predictor of mental contamination following sexual trauma.

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Medical University of South Carolina, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, 67 President Street, MSC 861, 2nd Floor IOP South Building, Charleston, SC 29425, USA; Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, Department of Psychiatry, 109 Bee Street, Charleston, SC 29401, USA; University of Arkansas, Department of Psychological Science, 216 Memorial Hall, Fayetteville, AR 72701, USA. Electronic address:
Fordham University, Department of Psychology, Dealy 422, 441 East Fordham Road, Bronx, NY 10458, USA.
University of Arkansas, Department of Psychological Science, 216 Memorial Hall, Fayetteville, AR 72701, USA; Laureate Institute for Brain Research, 6655 S Yale Avenue, Tulsa, OK 74136, USA.


Mental contamination has been described as an internal experience of dirtiness that can arise and persist in the absence of contact with observable physical contaminants. Recent research has examined mental contamination specifically related to unwanted physical contact and sexual trauma. This study evaluated the degree to which disgust propensity and both self-focused and perpetrator-focused peritraumatic disgust were associated with mental contamination in a sample of women who experienced sexual trauma (n=72). Results showed that peritraumatic self-focused disgust, but not peritraumatic perpetrator-focused disgust or fear, was significantly associated with mental contamination. Additionally, disgust propensity contributed significantly to the incremental validity of the model. These findings support the nascent literature showing that disgust plays a significant role in mental contamination, particularly following sexual trauma. Future research directions, and clinical/theoretical implications of these results are discussed.


Disgust; Mental contamination; Posttraumatic stress disorder; Sexual trauma

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