Author ORCID Identifier

Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Document Type

Master's Thesis


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Christal L. Badour


Mental contamination–the experience of dirtiness or pollution in the absence of a physical contaminant–has established links with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Emotions such as shame and guilt have well-documented relationships with PTSD symptoms and are suggested to play a role in the development and maintenance of mental contamination. The goal of the present study was to examine whether trauma-related shame and guilt prospectively predicted daily experiences of mental contamination and PTSD symptoms among women with sexual trauma history. Forty-one women with a history of sexual trauma completed baseline and twice-daily assessments of mental contamination and PTSD symptoms over a two-week period as well as baseline measures of trauma-related shame and guilt. Two sets of hierarchical mixed linear regression models examined individual and combined fixed effects of baseline trauma-related guilt (guilt cognitions and global guilt) and shame in predicting daily levels of trauma-related mental contamination and PTSD symptoms. Primary analyses showed that trauma-related shame significantly predicted scores of both daily mental contamination and PTSD symptoms. Neither trauma-related guilt cognitions nor trauma-related global guilt significantly predicted scores of either daily mental contamination or PTSD symptoms. Findings in the PTSD literature support results from the PTSD model. However, trauma-related shame significantly predicting daily mental contamination is novel. Understanding factors influencing the development and maintenance of mental contamination can allow future research to learn how mental contamination, and subsequently PTSD, can be more easily targeted and improved.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)