The origins of mental contamination

Zysk, E. ORCID: 0000-0002-7715-5874, Shafran, R. and Williams, T., 2018. The origins of mental contamination. Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders, 17, pp. 3-8. ISSN 2211-3649

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Background: The origins of mental contamination fears are unknown although this might enhance interventions.

Method: Thirty people with OCD and contamination fears were interviewed about direct, vicarious and informational learning routes to fear, especially mental contamination fears.

Results: 29 reported contact contamination, 17 mental contamination and 6 morphing fears. Mental contamination fears started around 15.5 years (SD=7.8). Contact contamination preceded mental contamination in 9 cases, four described simultaneous onset, and two reported mental contamination first. Thirteen participants with mental contamination (76.5%) recalled a direct learning experience, often immoral acts. Three participants with mental contamination fears reported receiving threatening information. Of the 6 with morphing fears, three described a direct learning experience, three reported an occasion when they received threatening information, and one provided an example of a vicarious learning event.

Conclusion: Contact contamination tends to precede mental contamination and is associated with specific incidents. Mental contamination precedents often involved immoral acts (direct learning) in which the person was the victim or perpetrator. In contrast contact contamination fears showed a more equal distribution of direct, vicarious and informational. This study is limited by a small sample size and retrospective method but provides an initial understanding of the origins of mental contamination.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders
Creators: Zysk, E., Shafran, R. and Williams, T.
Publisher: Elsevier
Date: April 2018
Volume: 17
ISSN: 2211-3649
S221136491630166XPublisher Item Identifier
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 23 Jul 2018 13:46
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2018 03:00

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