Behavioral Avoidance Tasks for Eliciting Disgust and Anxiety in Contamination Fear: An Examination of a Test for a Combined Disgust and Fear Reaction
Traditional conceptualizations of contamination OCD suggest anxiety underlies compulsive behaviors. Recent research shows strong support for the role of disgust in contamination OCD. Fear and disgust motivated appraisals and behaviors can overlap making the distinction challenging. More recently, researchers proposed the “heebie-jeebies,” as a blend of fear and disgust that underlies avoidance of skin-contracted pathogens. The “heebie-jeebies” has distinct physical sensations and behavioral urges. This motivation strongly aligns with characteristics of contamination OCD. From a large screening of undergraduate students, contamination fearful, high trait anxiety, and low trait anxiety groups were created based on level of contamination fear and anxiety. Participants were asked to engage in a disgust, fear, and “heebie-jeebies” behavioral avoidance task. Participants rated emotional reactions, physical sensations, and behavioral urges. Task duration was recorded. Significant group differences were not found for the “heebie-jeebies” task. There was a significant main effect for Trait Anxiety, such that those with higher levels of trait anxiety reported lower levels of these reactions. Exploratory analysis revealed that 39% of participants refused to engage in the "heebie-jeebies task", and 41% of refusers were contamination fearful individuals. There were significant differences between refusers and non-refusers on behavioral urges and duration. The current findings suggest that the “heebie-jeebies” motivates avoidance of contact with skin transmitted pathogens, especially for those with contamination concerns. Future research is needed to continue to investigate the “heebie-jeebies” as a construct in general and how it is related to symptoms of contamination concerns, specifically. Images of Behavioral Avoidance Tasks Scenarios can be found in the Supplemental Materials.
Clinical psychology|Behavioral psychology
Mancusi, Lauren, "Behavioral Avoidance Tasks for Eliciting Disgust and Anxiety in Contamination Fear: An Examination of a Test for a Combined Disgust and Fear Reaction" (2020). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI27834577.