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Title: The relationship between dissociative experiences and feelings of mental contamination
Author: Perrett, Rachel E.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7972 3307
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 2019
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Objectives: Mental contamination refers to a psychological sense of contamination involving internal feelings of dirtiness and is often accompanied by negative emotions such as distress, disgust and anxiety. Research has shown that recalling or imagining immoral situations or thoughts can evoke feelings of mental contamination. Research has also shown that obsessive compulsions have a dissociative element and that dissociation may impact treatment effectiveness. This study experimentally evoked mental contamination and aimed to assess if dissociative experiences are related to mental contamination and to assess if they have the potential to predict susceptibility to mental contamination. Design: Non-clinical participants (N = 134) completed outcome measures assessing dissociative experiences, obsessive compulsive traits and traits of mental contamination. Participants recalled immoral acts, intrusive thoughts/images and imagined wearing a jumper of an immoral individual and rated state mental contamination feelings of internal dirtiness, general dirtiness, anxiety, urge to wash and disgust on visual analogue scales before and after each induction task. Results: Feelings of mental contamination were successfully evoked in the three induction tasks with the jumper task evoking highest mental contamination symptoms. Results provide evidence to support the hypothesis that dissociative experiences predict susceptibility to mental contamination, that dissociative experiences are positively correlated with trait and state mental contamination and that state mental contamination is positively correlated with trait mental contamination and obsessive-compulsive traits. Dissociative experiences explain significant variance in state mental contamination beyond obsessive-compulsive traits in indices of internal dirtiness following imagined tasks. Conclusions: Idiosyncratic induction tasks are successful for experimentally evoking feelings of mental contamination in non-clinical populations. The results produce evidence for a relationship between dissociative experiences and state and trait mental contamination as well as obsessive compulsive traits. Theoretical and clinical implications are discussed.
Supervisor: Simonds, L. M. Sponsor: NHS Surrey & Borders (University of Surrey)
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Psych.) Qualification Level: Doctoral