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Emotional and Cognitive Variables Associated with Contamination-Related Obsessive-Compulsive Symptoms

  • Gemma García-Soriano (a1), Vicent Rosell-Clari (a1) and Miguel Ángel Serrano (a1)

Different variables have been associated with the development/ maintenance of contamination-related obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), although the relevance of these factors has not been clearly established. The present study aimed to analyze the relevance and specificity of these variables. Forty-five women with high scores on obsessive-compulsive contamination symptoms (n = 16) or checking symptoms (n = 15), or non-clinical scores (n = 14) participated in a behavioral approach/avoidance task (BAT) with a contamination-OCD stimulus. Vulnerability variables and participants’ emotional, cognitive, physiological and behavioral responses to the BAT were appraised. Results show that fear of illness was a relevant vulnerability variable specific to contamination participants (p = .001; η2 p = .291). Contamination participants responded with significantly higher subjective disgust (p =.001; η2 p = .269), anxiety (p = .001; η2 p = .297), urge to wash (p < .001; η2 p = 370), threat from emotion (p < .001; η2 p = .338) and contamination severity (p = .002; η2 p = .260) appraisals, and with lower behavioral approach (p = .008; η2 p = .208) than the other two groups. Moreover, contamination participants showed lower heart rate acceleration (p = .046; η2 p = .170) and higher contamination likelihood appraisals (p < .001; η2 p = .342) than the non-clinical group. Urge to wash was predicted by state disgust (R 2 change = .346) and threat from emotion (R 2 change = .088). These responses were predicted by general anxiety sensitivity (R 2 change = .161), disgust propensity (R 2 change = .255) and fear of illness (R 2 change = .116), but not by other vulnerability variables such as dysfunctional beliefs about thoughts (Responsibility and Overestimation of threat) or disgust sensitivity. State disgust, threat from disgust, anxiety sensitivity and fear of illness were found to be the most relevant variables in contamination symptoms.

Corresponding author
*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Gemma García-Soriano. Universidad de Valencia. Personalidad, Evaluación y Tratamientos Psicológicos. Valencia (Spain). E-mail:
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