Disgust reactions commonly occur during/following trauma and predict posttraumatic stress (PTS) symptoms. Yet, disgust is not mentioned in DSM-5 PTSD criteria. To investigate disgust's clinical significance in PTSD, we measured the relationship between disgust (and fear) reactions to a personal trauma, and problematic intrusion characteristics (e.g., distress) and intrusion symptom severity. We focused on intrusions because they are a transdiagnostic PTSD symptom, though we also measured overall PTS symptoms to replicate prior work. Participants (N = 471) recalled their most traumatic/stressful event from the past six months. They then rated disgust and fear reactions to this event and completed the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist-5. Participants who had experienced intrusions about their event in the past month (n = 261) rated these intrusions on several characteristics (e.g., distress, vividness). We found stronger traumatic event-related disgust reactions were associated with more problematic intrusion characteristics, higher intrusion symptom severity, and higher overall PTS symptom severity. Notably, disgust reactions uniquely predicted these variables after statistically controlling for fear reactions. We conclude disgust reactions to trauma may be similarly pathological to fear reactions for intrusion and broader PTS symptoms. Therefore, PTSD diagnostic manuals and treatments should recognize disgust as a trauma-relevant emotion.
- Posttraumatic stress disorder