Mental contamination: Relationship with Psychopathology and Transdiagnostic Processes

Anne Coughtrey, Rosamund Shafran, Sophie Bennett, Radha Kothari, Tracey Wade

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    15 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: Mental contamination, the experience of feeling dirty in the absence of physical uncleanliness, is closely associated with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Given that many features of OCD are found in other diagnoses, the primary aim of this study was to determine whether mental contamination is specific to OCD or whether it is also associated with psychopathology found in other disorders. We hypothesised that, in addition to OCD symptoms, mental contamination would be associated with other psychopathology, in particular symptoms of depression, anxiety and eating disorders, and with transdiagnostic processes such as perfectionism. Methods: 120 participants (82%) completed measures of psychological disorders and transdiagnostic processes. Results were analysed using Pearson's r correlations and a multiple regression analysis. Results: Mental contamination was most strongly associated with symptoms of OCD but was also associated with eating disorder symptoms, depression and anxiety. It was also correlated with perfectionism, intolerance of uncertainty and fear of compassion. OCD, eating disorder symptoms, fear of compassion and low self-esteem were significant independent predictors of mental contamination. Conclusions: Mental contamination is associated with a range of psychopathology but is most strongly associated with symptoms of OCD. Further research is warranted to advance treatment for mental contamination.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)39-45
    Number of pages7
    JournalJournal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018


    • obsessive compulsive disorder
    • Mental contamination
    • physical uncleanliness
    • OCD
    • psychopathology
    • depression
    • anxiety
    • eating disorders


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