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Disgust and its disorders

Prof. Bunmi Olatunji

Tuesday, 3 December 2024


Disgust is a negative emotion that has been viewed as motivating an avoidance response. There has been a growing recognition of the role of disgust in anxiety and related disorders. However, much less is known about the function of disgust in these disorders as well as strategies that may be effective in reducing disgust responses. 

The event will be equivalent to 2 hrs of CPD.


In this webinar we will review the nature and function of disgust. Research implicating disgust in anxiety and related disorders, particularly obsessive-compulsive disorder, will be discussed. We will then review basic cognitive-behavioral treatment strategies to reduce excessive disgust reactions among patients with anxiety and related disorders.

Learning Objectives

1. Describe the nature and function of disgust
2. Outline the role of disgust in anxiety and related disorders
3. Discuss the use of exposure-based approaches for reducing excessive disgust reactions

Training Modalities

Please remember there are no break-out rooms. What to include can be a variation of: didactic content, Q&A, and other methods may include: video/live role play, experiential components, polls (the host will set these up for you and load them on the day). Please note that any videos must be captioned – if you plan to use videos and they are not already captioned please let us know and we will arrange to do that for you. We need at least two weeks’ notice to be able to do this.

Key References

Cisler, J. M., Olatunji, B. O., & Lohr, J. M. (2009). Disgust, fear, and the anxiety disorders: A critical review. Clinical Psychology Review, 29, 34–46. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2008.09.007

Davey, G. C. L. (2011). Disgust: The disease-avoidance emotion and its dysfunctions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 366, 3453–3465.

Engelhard, I. M., Olatunji, B. O., & de Jong, P. J. (2011). Disgust and the development of posttraumatic stress among soldiers deployed to Afghanistan. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 25, 58–63. doi:10.1016/j.janxdis.2010.08.003

Knowles, K. A., Viar-Paxton, M., Riemann, B. C., Jacobi, D. M., & Olatunji, B. O. (2016). Is disgust proneness sensitive to treatment for OCD among youth? Examination of diagnostic specificity and symptom correlates. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 44, 47–54. doi:10.1016/j.janxdis.2016.09.011

Ludvik, D., Boschen, M. J., & Neumann, D. L. (2015). Effective behavioural strategies for reducing disgust in contamination-related OCD: A review. Clinical Psychology Review, 42, 116–129. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2015.07.001

Mason, E. C., & Richardson, R. (2012). Treating disgust in anxiety disorders. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 19, 180–194. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2850.2012.01282.x

McKay, D. (2006). Treating disgust reactions in contamination-based obsessive–compulsive disorder. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 37, 53–59. doi:10.1016/j.jbtep.2005.09.005

Olatunji, B. O., Armstrong, T., & Elwood, L. (2017). Is Disgust Proneness Associated With Anxiety and Related Disorders? A Qualitative Review and Meta-Analysis of Group Comparison and Correlational Studies. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 12(4), 613–648.

Olatunji, B. O., Cisler, J. M., McKay, D., & Phillips, M. (2010). Is disgust associated with psychopathology? Emerging research in the anxiety disorders. Psychiatry Research, 175, 1–10. doi:10.1016/j.psychres.2009.04.007

Olatunji, B. O., Forsyth, J. P., & Cherian, A. (2007). Evaluative differential conditioning of disgust: A sticky form of relational learning that is resistant to extinction. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 21, 820–834. doi:10.1016/j.janxdis.2006.11.004

Olatunji, B. O., Huijding, J., de Jong, P. J., & Smits, J. A. J. (2011). The relative contributions of fear and disgust reductions to improvements in spider phobia following exposure-based treatment. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 42, 117–121. doi:10.1016/j.jbtep.2010.07.007

Olatunji, B. O., Tart, C. D., Ciesielski, B. G., McGrath, P. B., & Smits, J. A. (2011). Specificity of disgust vulnerability in the distinction and treatment of OCD. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 45, 1236–1242. doi:10.1016/j.jpsy chires.2011.01.018

Salmani B, Mancini F, Hasani J, Zanjani Z. (2022). Anti-Disgust Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Contamination-Based Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 19:2875. doi: 10.3390/jcm11102875.

Smits, J. A. J., Telch, M. J., & Randall, P. K. (2002). An examination of the decline in fear and disgust during exposurebased treatment. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 40, 1243–1253. doi:10.1016/S0005-7967(01)00094-8

Thayer, K.K., DeRiso, M., Warren, J., Wilson, A., & Vance, S. (2021). What Therapists Need to Know about the Treatment of OCD when Disgust is Part of the Clinical Presentation: A review. Journal of Affective Disorders Reports, 6.

Woody, S. R., & Teachman, B. A. (2000). Intersection of disgust and fear: Normative and pathological views. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 7(3), 291–311.

About the presenter

Bunmi O. Olatunji, PhD, is Professor in the Department of Psychology and Psychiatry at Vanderbilt University where he also serves as the Director of Clinical Training. He is Associate Editor of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology and currently serves on the editorial boards of several journals. He has published more than 190 journal articles and book chapters and he co-author of the book “10-minute CBT: Cognitive behavioral interventions for the brief medication visit” published by Oxford Press, editor of The Cambridge Handbook of Anxiety and Related Disorders published by Cambridge, and co-editor of the book “Disgust and its disorders: Assessment, theory, and treatment” published by the American Psychological Association.

As Director of the Emotion and Anxiety Research Laboratory at Vanderbilt University, his primary research interest involves multilevel examination of cognitive behavioral theory, assessment, and therapy for anxiety disorders. His research has been funded by the National Institute of Health and the Anxiety Disorders Association of America. For his research and professional efforts, he had been the recipient of the American Psychological Association (APA) Division 12 David Shakow Early Career Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions to Clinical Psychology, the Association for the Advancement of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies New Researcher Award, and the APA Division 12 Theodore Blau Early Career Award for Distinguished Professional Contributions to Clinical Psychology. He was also the recent recipient of the APA Distinguished Scientific Awards for an Early Career Contribution to Psychology. This award recognizes excellent psychologists who are at early stages of their research careers.

Who should attend

The webinar is for any practitioner of CBT who wishes to enhance their knowledge-base and clinical practice by developing skills for treating disgust across various disorders.

Details coming soon

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