Contamination Ocd. Is There a Cure for It?

Written by: Ankita Kathad – MA (Clinical Psychology))
Last updated date : August 22, 2022

Contamination OCD is one of the many types of OCD. In this type of OCD, a person can have obsessive thoughts about ‘germs’ or ‘dirty’ spaces. To cope with such kinds of thoughts, the person will engage in excessive cleaning. In this article, we learn more about contamination OCD. We find out if there is a cure for it.

Contamination OCD is one of the many types of OCD. In this type of OCD, a person can have obsessive thoughts about ‘germs’ or ‘dirty’ spaces. To cope with such kinds of thoughts, the person will engage in excessive cleaning. In this article, we learn more about contamination OCD. We find out if there is a cure for it.

Chapter 1:
What is contamination OCD? How does it affect people's lives?

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a mental disorder in which a person has recurring intrusive thoughts. These thoughts are disturbing in nature. A person having them has no control over the thoughts. They keep coming back again and again. To ease these disturbances, a person engages in some kind of repetitive behavior. These behaviors then become a compulsion whenever such thoughts arrive.

Some types of OCD are as follows:

  1. Organization OCD
  2. Checking behavior OCD
  3. Hoarding OCD
  4. Harm- Or prevention of Harm OCD
  5. Contamination OCD

In contamination OCD, a person fears becoming dirty by ‘germs’ or ‘dirt’ around them. A simple example of this type could be when a person thinks that a hand shake can lead to the passing of germs. This fear becomes so strong that they have a lot of nervousness while shaking hands. Additionally, even the thought of shaking hands creates fear in them. Some common features of this type of OCD are as follows:

  1. A person fears that someone will cough or sneeze on them
  2. An individual will have a fear of touching surfaces.
  3. A person will fear when their child touches something
  4. Additionally, a person will behave in extreme fear of HIV, Blood donation, or urine. To be specific the person may fear the thought of a public toilet.
  5. Extreme fear of wearing clothes that the person thinks are dirty.
  6. Moreover, the person is very scared if someone brings outdoor shoes into the house.
  7. They also fear going around the house with unclean objects.

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Chapter 2:
Compulsive Behaviors related to Contamination OCD

 

There are many other forms in which this type of OCD can show up. These behaviors differ from person to person. Some of these behaviors are as follows:

  1. The person may engage in excess handwashing. To add to this, this handwashing can also lead to the skin peeling off. This is because the person washes their hands a lot of times.
  2. A person with this condition will clean the surface around him again and again. This includes cleaning the floors and tiles in the house many times a day. Additionally, washing the bathroom tiles again and again. Cleaning the toilet sit multiple times a day.
  3. The individual may sanitize their belongings again and again. This is done to a point where most of their time is wasted on sanitizing things.
  4. People with this condition avoid touching, hugging, or shaking hands with other people. If they do it, they will engage in excessive cleaning.
  5. They will bathe multiple times a day.
  6. Moreover, people with this condition will avoid public spaces, public washrooms, or social events at all costs.
  7. People with this condition will change clothes multiple times a day.

 

This condition affects a person’s life to a great extent. Family members of the individual have to suffer too. Moreover, the person ends up wasting a lot of time and money. They empty several bottles of cleaners, sanitizers, and hand washes. This also affects the social life of a person. Since the person avoids social events, they have no social life.

The person does not feel like touching anything due to the fear. Moreover, they may even stop their kids from playing outside. The person can damage their skin if they keep washing their hands and body.

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Chapter 3:
Is there a cure for contamination OCD?

Indeed, there is a cure for it! People suffering from this condition should seek medical help from a mental health expert. This condition requires serious help. The most effective types of therapy to cure this condition include Cognitive behavior therapy and Mindfulness-based therapy. Another useful therapy is exposure and response prevention therapy.

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Chapter 4:
Cognitive Behavior Therapy for OCD

In this method, there is a range of techniques that can treat many behavioral disorders. People with OCD, start noticing changes in a few weeks. In this therapy, the counselor tries to break the connection between thoughts and compulsory behaviors. The therapist tries to reason the roots of such thoughts and behaviors. Moreover, the therapist aims to replace negative core beliefs with positive ones. Some of the methods to cure this are:

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Chapter 5:
Exposure and response prevention (ERP) treatment for OCD

 

Here the person is exposed to a stress-inducing event. In the next step, the counselor stops the person from using compulsive behaviors. For example, in contamination OCD, the person is shown a dirty towel. They have to touch it. However, they cant wash their hands for a while at least. This way the person can no longer feel the temporary relief that they get from the coping behavior of washing hands. They learn that the fear that they feel generally goes away in a while.

Some elements of ERP are:

  1. In Vivo exposure: In this technique, the therapist places a person in real situations that they fear. For example, if they fear dirty surfaces, they are shown dirty surfaces.
  2. Imaginal: Here the person has to imagine a situation. Sometimes, real exposure is not possible. At other times, the level of anxiety is too high for real exposure.
  3. Response prevention: In this, a person is stopped from practicing compulsive behaviors.
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Chapter 6:
Deep breathing as a cure for contamination OCD

 

In OCD, a person faces a high level of fear. Therefore deep breathing is used to ease the tension. In deep breathing the person focuses on the here and now. In ERP, a person can have high levels of stress. This is because of exposure to stressful stimuli. Therefore, breathing creates a calming effect. An individual is taught these before going for ERP. Additionally, breathing helps in bringing down the heart rate, sweating, and fast breathing. All of these are symptoms of stress.

Deep breathing is also helpful in curing stress in general. It helps a person be more aware of their body. Moreover, when a person has control over their breath, they can slow down and observe their thoughts. There are many types of breathing. Some examples are control over breathing, mindful breathing, and body scanning.

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Chapter 7:
Thought reframing

 

In this technique, a person’s thought patterns are challenged. For example, if the person has fear of germs, the counselor digs into this. They may ask where this fear comes from. There is always a core belief for any fear. This core belief gives rise to automatic thoughts.

For example, a child may have fallen sick during childhood. This could be due to eating street food. The experience was so bad that the person has a belief that germs or dirt has led to the condition. The person, therefore, fears anything that has a possibility of germs in it. The therapist questions the negative thoughts of the person. Moreover, they ask about the purpose of excessive cleaning. All of this helps the individual question their irrational behaviors. In addition to this, the therapist helps the person use constructive defense actions.

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Chapter 8:
Endnote

 

Contamination OCD impacts various aspects of a person’s life. It majorly affects the social life of a person. Moreover, It affects family life too. Nobody likes excessive cleaning. The family members can get tired of the cleaning behavior. It is a cause of worry. However, there is a cure for it.

A person with OCD may have low self-esteem. This is because their time is spent cleaning, and they avoid social meetings. Moreover, they are also scared of getting dirty in public places. All this leads to low self-esteem.

At Epsychonline, some courses focus on self-esteem. These courses can help someone build confidence after treatment. Do check them out!