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27-07-2010 | Mental health | Article

Schizophrenia patients prone to emotional disgust


Free abstract

MedWire News: Patients with schizophrenia show an elevated propensity for emotional disgust in psychological tests, especially in the domains of food and body secretion, research shows.

The findings may reflect "an elevated sensitivity for personal and interpersonal contamination in patients with schizophrenia" say Rottraut Ille (Karl-Franzens-University of Graz, Austria) and colleagues in the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

Alongside fear, anger, sadness, happiness, and surprise, disgust is one of six universal emotions generally recognized by psychologists.

An elevated propensity for disgust has been identified as a contributory factor in the genesis and maintenance of several mental disorders, such as specific phobias (spiders, blood, and injection injuries), obsessive-compulsive disorders, and eating disorders.

A less frequently investigated mental disorder with regard to habitual disgust is schizophrenia.

In the present study, the researchers assessed disgust propensity in 69 patients with schizophrenia, 68 patients with depression, and 70 mentally healthy controls.

Patients with schizophrenia reported more pronounced overall disgust propensity than patients with depression and mentally healthy individuals on the Questionnaire for the Assessment of Disgust Sensitivity (QADS), while patients with depression showed an increased disgust propensity relative to controls.

Whereas food-related disgust was characteristic of schizophrenia, depressed patients experienced elevated death-related disgust.

Ille and colleagues say the elevated food-related disgust propensity in patients with schizophrenia may be linked to their tendency to overestimate contagious effects of disgust elicitors.

"They are susceptible to magical beliefs about contamination (e.g., laws of sympathetic magic, such as you are what you eat or once in contact always in contact), implying that disgust elicitors are able to intrude into the body and soul with long-lasting negative consequences," they comment.

Likewise touching another person might be experienced as a threat of incorporation of this person's properties, which, again, relates to the disgust laws of sympathetic magic.

"Elevated interpersonal disgust might lead to problems concerning intimate relationships, which are typically seen in patients suffering from schizophrenia," Ille and colleagues comment.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Andrew Czyzewski

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