Examining the Unique Roles of Disgust Constructs in Co-Occurring Posttraumatic Stress and Obsessive-Compulsive Symptoms

Rachel B Ojserkis, Fordham University


This study examined the distinct roles of disgust propensity (DP) and disgust sensitivity (DS) as mechanisms for obsessive-compulsive (OC) and posttraumatic stress (PTS) symptoms via both self-report and implicit measurement. Undergraduates completed self-report questionnaires assessing negative affect, disgust constructs, mental contamination (MC), OC symptoms, lifetime trauma exposure, and PTS symptoms. Participants who endorsed a lifetime traumatic event and whose reported PTS symptoms approximated DSM-5 diagnostic criteria were invited into the laboratory to complete additional assessments of disgust with the Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure (IRAP), with tasks assessing DP and DS. Partial correlation and linear regression analyses controlling for gender and negative affect examined associations between disgust constructs (as measured both by self-report and IRAP), OC symptom severity, and PTS symptom severity. Results showed that self-reported DP and DS were each uniquely, significantly predictive of OC symptom severity in a general trauma-exposed sample with a range of symptom levels, and that DS was uniquely, significantly correlated with PTS symptoms in a sample of individuals meeting for PTSD caseness. Additionally, DP and DS each significantly predicted OC symptoms in a model also containing gender, negative affect, and PTS symptoms, and DP had unique predictive effects when accounting for construct overlap with DS. Although the delivery of the IRAP tasks appeared to successfully replicate past applications based on descriptive statistics, the disgust IRAPs failed to show any significant associations with or predictions of study outcome variables. Exploratory analyses showed MC to be superior to disgust in predicting OC symptoms in the above model, and post hoc tests showed that DP and DS interacted to predict MC. Exploratory partial correlation analyses revealed differential patterns of association between disgust and OC symptom domains amongst participants reporting various types of traumatic events. Taken together, these findings provide preliminary evidence for a model of how OC symptoms may emerge in the context of trauma, in which DP and DS interact to contribute to MC, which in turn influences OC symptoms.

Subject Area

Psychology|Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Ojserkis, Rachel B, "Examining the Unique Roles of Disgust Constructs in Co-Occurring Posttraumatic Stress and Obsessive-Compulsive Symptoms" (2017). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10254633.