Moral disgust as a transdiagnostic feature in obsessive-compulsive disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder

Justin Michael Arocho, Fordham University

Abstract

Disgust is a basic, universal emotion that motivates avoidance and is experienced as aversive. Moral disgust is a more complex, elaborated subtype of this emotion, which represents the extension of core disgust into the interpersonal realm. Moral disgust is also known to be associated with other emotional states related to morality, including anger. Although the role of core disgust in various psychopathological conditions, including obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and its implications for treatment have been well established, little is currently known about how moral disgust contributes to these conditions or psychological distress in general. This study thus aimed to evaluate moral disgust as a transdiagnostic feature relevant to OCD and PTSD, and to better understand how moral disgust relates to these conditions in a manner similar to, yet distinct from, core disgust. Based on past research, it was anticipated that core disgust and moral disgust would differ in their relationship with particular obsessive-compulsive symptoms, and with posttraumatic stress symptoms for participants who experienced an interpersonal trauma. It was also hypothesized that anger would be a significant mediator unique to the relationship between moral disgust and psychopathological symptoms. Adult participants (N = 1007) completed an online battery of self-report measures including questionnaires related to traumatic life events, posttraumatic symptoms, obsessive-compulsive symptoms, disgust, moral disgust, and anger. Moral disgust was found to be significantly and positively correlated with overall obsessive-compulsive and posttraumatic stress symptoms. However, support for the role of moral disgust in OCD and PTSD as distinct from that of core disgust was limited. Additionally, anger was not found to be a significant mediator in the relationship between moral disgust and either obsessive-compulsive or posttraumatic stress symptoms. Overall, findings from the present study support the possibility that moral disgust is a transdiagnostic feature relevant to both OCD and PTSD, though additional research will serve to refine and extend this conclusion. This study represents a novel contribution to the nascent body of research related to moral disgust and psychopathology, and is the first to provide preliminary support for moral disgust as a transdiagnostic feature relevant to both OCD and PTSD.^

Subject Area

Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Arocho, Justin Michael, "Moral disgust as a transdiagnostic feature in obsessive-compulsive disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder" (2015). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3728444.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI3728444

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