Disgust Sensitivity and Fear of Contagion in Specific Phobia, Spider Type and Blood-Injection-Injury Type: An Experimental Analysis
Disgust sensitivity and concern with contamination have been frequently associated with Spider Phobia and Blood-Injection-Injury (BII) Phobia. Research suggests that the two groups differ in their sensitivity to categories of disgust. Using a sample of 29 non-phobic controls, 25 clinical and subclinical spider phobics, 26 clinical and subclinical BII phobics, and 27 persons who endorsed clinical or subclinical criteria for Spider Phobia and BII Phobia, this study used survey measures and behavioral approach paradigms to assess differences in domain specificity of disgust sensitivity and concern with contamination. Survey data generally supported the domain specificity of disgust sensitivity for the Spider and BII Phobia groups, and suggested that persons with both phobias may be more disgust sensitive than persons with one phobia. The BII Phobia group and the dual phobia group were more avoidant of stimuli from both disgust domains than were the Spider Phobia and control groups. Across phobic groups, core disgust stimuli systematically elicited significantly higher disgust ratings than concern with contamination ratings, and significantly higher concern with contamination ratings than fear ratings. Animal reminder disgust stimuli systematically elicited higher disgust than concern with contamination and fear ratings for spider and BII phobics, but no within-group differences emerged in the 3 emotional response ratings for the dual phobia group. Fear and having Spider Phobia were the only unique predictors of avoidant behavior in the spider-relevant contamination paradigm. Disgust and having BII Phobia were the only unique predictors of avoidant behavior in the BII-relevant contamination paradigm. Treatment implications for Spider and BII Phobia are discussed.