Contamination OCD — Symptoms & Treatment
Contamination OCD is one of the most well-known types of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and is most often confused with being the “truest” form of OCD. This type of OCD can lead a person to have obsessive thoughts and fears about being “contaminated,” with dirt or germs, which causes them to develop various compulsive behaviors in order to cope with and neutralize their fear and anxiety.
Common Obsessions of Contamination OCD
The obsessions a person experiences with Contamination OCD can vary widely and are not the same for everyone.
Common obsessions seen with Contamination OCD include the following:
- An extreme fear of becoming “contaminated” by touching certain types of substances or certain items in particular places
- Obsessive fears about sticky residues, grease, or dirt on body or clothing
- Obsessive fears about HIV, blood, cancer, bodily fluids, feces, or urine
- Extreme fear of being coughed or sneezed on
- A fear of wearing clothes that have come in contact with any contaminants
- Fears of spreading contaminants around house, car, personal belongings or bedroom
Common Compulsions of Contamination OCD
Compulsive behaviors that occur with Contamination OCD, very much like obsessions, can vary significantly from person to person.
Common obsessions that are usually associated with Contamination OCD include:
- Repeatedly washing and cleaning oneself (washing hands, disinfecting, showering, or bathing)
- Excessive and ritualized bathing that may consume large portions of one’s time
- Avoiding public spaces
- Avoiding the touch of other people
- Changing clothes frequently or discarding clothes or other items that have become “contaminated”
- Seeking reassurance that they have not been “contaminated”
Treatment for Contamination OCD
People suffering from Contamination OCD are encouraged to seek treatment from a mental health treatment provider that specializes in the treatment of OCD. OCD specialists are equipped and prepared to treat a wide array of OCD subtypes, including Contamination OCD. Like all types of OCD, Contamination OCD can be treated with Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), specifically with treatment approaches called Exposure with Response Prevention (ERP), and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.
Mindful-Based CBT teaches patients that everyone experiences intrusive thoughts. Individuals will also learn that intrusive thoughts have no power over them and that by responding to their thoughts through compulsive behaviors, their thoughts are given more strength and credibility and their fears and obsessions are strengthened and reinforced. Mindfulness-Based CBT is a very effective OCD treatment, especially when combined with ERP.
ERP exposes patients to situations related to their intrusive thoughts that cause them anxiety. The goal of this treatment is for the patient to prevent himself or herself from completing their compulsive behaviors when triggered by intrusive thoughts. The situations that are confronted will intensify over time, until the patient can face and overcome their most feared scenario. Once they are able to stop themselves from responding to their intrusive thoughts with compulsive behaviors, they can experience tremendous relief from the symptoms of OCD.
If patients are suffering from severe levels of anxiety due to their OCD, they may benefit from participating in treatment at an Intensive Outpatient (IOP) OCD treatment program, as is offered by The Gateway Institute. The Gateway Institute offers Intensive Outpatient treatment options as well as regular outpatient psychotherapy sessions, and a free, 30 minute face-to-face consultation with one of our experienced and caring clinicians at all three of our beautiful locations in Orange County, Scottsdale, Arizona, and the San Francisco Bay Area. OCD symptoms typically worsen over time and can take over a person’s life, so it is very important to seek OCD treatment as soon as possible with a skilled and dedicated OCD specialist who can provide expertise and support during this journey.
Other Common Sub-Types of OCD
It is not uncommon for an individual suffering from one OCD sub-type to also suffer from other sub-types. Treating co-occurring sub-types simultaneously is important in finding balance and healing from OCD.