What is Contact Contamination OCD?
Contact Contamination OCD is one of the most prevalent forms of OCD and concerns a preoccupation with contracting disease or illness. Contamination OCD involves a fear of becoming contaminated through physical contact with a perceived contaminant or a fear of contaminating someone else resulting in serious illness or death. Contaminants that typically concern those with Contamination OCD include viruses and bacteria as well as bodily waste or poisons.
What are the OCD symptoms?
The common symptoms associated with Contact Contamination OCD are as follows:
- Contracting an illness that will be either serious or fatal to yourself or others through exposure to viruses, bacteria or other perceived unsanitary objects.
- Being poisoned by products such as household chemicals or poisoning another accidentally.
- Repetitive hand washing, showering or disinfecting of the self or possessions.
- Avoiding or throwing away perceived contaminants that it is believed cannot be cleaned.
- Constant questioning of others as to whether they may be contaminated and researching to ascertain whether certain things may be contaminated.
- Maintenance of perceived clean areas that others cannot enter or touch.
Why does it occur?
As with all forms of OCD, it is difficult to attribute the manifestation of Contamination OCD to any one factor. Research suggests that a number of factors such as past experience, genetic predispositions and distorted beliefs may lead to the acquisition and maintenance of OCD.
What treatments are available?
Contact Contamination OCD is typically effectively treating using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy with a particular emphasis on Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). ERP involves exposing clients gradually to anxiety-inducing substances or situations and engaging in a process of desensitization. This involves a client engaging in an anxiety-inducing action, such as touching a surface that they perceive to be contaminated, and then preventing them from engaging in a compulsive response, such as hand washing. Over time clients work towards exposing themselves to increasingly more anxiety-inducing substances, objects or situations and work towards increasing to time period between exposure and acting out a compulsive response.