Contamination confusion: Does anyone who... - My OCD Community

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Contamination confusion


Does anyone who has contamination issues struggle with the idea of transferring the contamination to other objects or places? If I touch something that I feel is contaminated and then touch a second object or sit in a place, I then feel that the second object or place is now contaminated too. I just want to wash my hands, or take a shower if the contamination is on my body or clothing, without touching anything else - which is impossible. I am struggling profusely with most of my home and personal belongings feeling contaminated now because of this issue. There are so many surfaces that I don't want to touch or objects that I can no longer use (because they can't be washed like clothes because they will be ruined). Being stuck in my house for 10 months from covid has made the issue so much worse that I am at my breaking point it seems. Can anyone out there relate to this?

40 Replies

Yes. Tainted. I bought a uv wand!

But sometimes its like I look for the reason to make it tainted. Like I knew I wasnt going to touch or eat that item or thing i sabotage my own happiness using this as an excuse. It's trick. I am sorry you have to deal with this also.

Agrarian in reply to LulaBeth


I had the same exact thoughts a few weeks ago until I went through exposure therapy to help. It has helped tremendously i am now able to do every day things like visiting family, shopping, and eating out.

Thank you. I think I am going to force myself to do exposure therapy too. I have 40 years of these thoughts/feelings though to break down. I am really scared of facing the disgust feelings and the anxiety that will accompany them during this process.

I highly recommend it. It truly saved my saved my life. I will be honest and say that I am not 100% better after therapy but I am able to live normal again. It’s a relay to getting past OCD so I continue to try and expose myself everyday to gross germs. I hated doing the therapy but it was so crazy how much it actually worked. It was easy for me to actually do the exposure but the thought of doing it like you mentioned was what I struggled most with. But once you do it that thought and scary feeling becomes smaller and smaller. It’s hard but worth it!

How long did you do the ERP for?

I did it for one month everyday with a therapist!

Did you do the exposures in your home also?

Yes I did because a lot of my fears involved stuff in my home as well. I basically would do a video call with my therapist and we would do an exposure together. I had a lot of safe places I didn’t want contaminated like my room and bed so it was helpful to do the sessions virtually so I could get used to contaminating my safe spots!

I like to keep my room, bed and bathroom uncontaminated also.

Catlady27- I can TOTALLY relate to this! I have been this way for over 35 years and it is really a hindrance I know. It just makes sense to me for some reason and I never realize how other people don’t think like this also. It is so annoying because like you, I am constantly worrying about transferring the contamination to other objects. The whole COVID issue just kind of drives this home. I realize there are germs everywhere but I just have a hard time not thinking about spreading them around.

Catlady27 in reply to LuvSun

Thank you. It is comforting to know that I am not alone, though my heart aches for you as well. I am odd in the sense that I don't fear germs any more than any non-ocd person. I just get this intense feeling of repulsion by certain objects and I don't want to spread around whatever is on these gross objects to other things and places - this makes my environment feel "contaminated" and uncomfortable to be in. Thus I try to avoid touching these things/places like crazy. I know that my avoidance just strengthens the hold ocd has on me and covid has increased this greatly and at a fast pace. I think covid has just added to my overall stress level (like it has for every human in the world now) which the ocd monster loves. It is really strange and I don't understand it at all. I am so sorry that you have also struggled with something similar for so many years as well. It makes a horrible impact on life. It is hard to enjoy even the fun things in life when a piece of your brain is always focusing on something around you feeling disgusting and how you will transfer it somewhere else.

I’ve had OCD most of my adult life but the contamination issue started with this pandemic and now I can barely touch anything without washing my hands and outside of taking a Xanax to calm me I don’t know what else to do. I’m seeing a psychologist and he’s been worthless so far except to recommend a psychiatrist who prescribed me Effexor which I hate because of the side effects and it isn’t working anyways so he’s going to prescribe me buspirone and I’m praying it’s going to help me.

My therapist told me that most psychiatrists and psychologists just believe in sticking us on medication. They are old school and don't know about other treatments or just don't utilize them. A therapist may be a better route for you to go on. They at least listen to you and try to talk out your feelings with you. I have to see a pyschiatrist too because my therapist can't give me prescription medication. The woman is also useless. She tells me "you are a smart girl, don't cry" and shoves me out the door after just 10 minutes of talking. She asks me all these general intake questions but seems to have no interest in the ocd which is why I am there in the first place. How helpful. She also told me that ocd is very hard to treat so she will just help me with meds to sleep and eat since I struggle with both since covid started. I recommend you find a therapist instead.

I’m seeing both and it’s the therapist who has disappointed me the most so far because he simply provides cliched advice like “try harder” and so far hasn’t been much help.

I would look for a new therapist. I have read that many people don't find the right therapist the first time around. Yours sounds like he isn't well-versed on the disorder and maybe not a very empathic person either (like the psychiatrist I see for my meds). Maybe there is someone else in your area who specializes in it that you can find through internet searches. I actually found a center for ocd and anxiety in my area that I didn't even know existed. It's only 5 minutes from home! I just can't go there due to my insurance issues. I have also found there are books you can order online through barnes and nobles and amazon that are ocd self help books. They help you with your thinking processes and doing exposure therapy on your own. This may be more comfortable for you than even seeing a therapist. Have you asked your regular family doctor if they know of anyone in your area who specializes in helping people with ocd and anxiety issues? It's worth a shot as the worst that can happen is they answer with a no. Some people on this site say that they are seeing a therapist online as well through zoom meetings. I am open to chat with you as much as you would like. I feel that we have a lot of ocd struggle in common. I think talking to others helps some.

In fall 2019, when my contamination theme came back in a big way, I was concerned that a drop of car battery acid may have dripped onto the passenger floor mat of my car. Then I wondered if maybe I remembered wrong and it was actually the back driver side floor mat. Then I came up with a way of how it might have been the trunk interior. Then I thought of all the objects that might have touched those places, and what they might have touched, and how the contamination might have gotten in the house. Long story short, I used lots of baking soda all over the car interior, washed loads of clothes, and wiped off or avoided all sorts of possessions in the house over the space of probably a few months. All because there might have been one drop of contaminant!

Now I'm mostly over battery acid and worried about other contaminants. ERP therapy has helped with all of it, but the idea of "endlessly spreading contaminant" always tries to come back.

I think you said earlier you weren't worried about harm so much as just getting a strong feeling of disgust about certain objects. Here's a long academic paper on the subject, which at least lets you know you're not alone. (I didn't read all of it, but maybe there's something helpful there.)

Engelbrekt in reply to MothFir

Wow...the car battery acid - this is me! I really can relate. I´m in therapy rigth now doing exposures to this "maybe a drop of acid has contaminated this and that..." Hope you can treat your other contmination fears with ERP tools too.

Yes, very much so. I have responsibility ocd and contamination ocd so I worry about touching something contaminated and it eventually contaminating something or someone else.

Catlady27 in reply to BlackOnyx

Are there any things you do to cope with this?

BlackOnyx in reply to Catlady27

Not healthy things..compulsions like seeking reassurance, changing my clothes or washing my hands and just worry if it seems like it got on lots of things.

Catlady27 in reply to BlackOnyx

Me too, except you can add very long shower routines to my list 😔 Have you tried exposure therapy?

BlackOnyx in reply to Catlady27

Kind of I'm in group therapy for OCD that I can go to over zoom once a week and we do in session exposures and than are supposed to do exposures throughout the week. My in session exposure today was touching my kitchen garbage can. I've also used a towel twice several times for an exposure and wore my pajamas more than once.

Catlady27 in reply to BlackOnyx

Have you received any relief from these exposures?

BlackOnyx in reply to Catlady27

I don't feel like my anxiety went up for the pajama or towel one. The garbage can one my anxiety goes up a bit and as a bit of time passes it goes back down but I haven't been doing my exposures enough. Were supposed to do them for an hour a day.

BlackOnyx in reply to Catlady27

also my hot water goes cold pretty fast making it difficult to have too long of showers.

I am EXACTLY in the same boat and the suffering from this is immense for me. I don’t know what the solution is but I don’t enjoy my life and my poor dog is suffering because I can’t give him the affection he needs and deserves. My heart and soul is breaking because of this condition and I don’t know what to do about it. 😢

You sound like a mirror image of me. I am so sorry for your pain, as I probably feel the same immense pain as you. I also struggle to enjoy life and sometimes deprive my two cats of physical affection. At times, they come to rub on my leg and I run from them so they don't touch me. They look up to me for a pet and I don't touch them if I am feeling contaminated. I fear I will transfer the gross feeling to them. I am going to try exposure therapy since my heart and soul also feel to be breaking and I can't live with it anymore - its been 40 years. I feel now that I just exist, don't live and I am tired of it. I am extremely scared to do the exposure therapy, but I think it is the only way out of this living hell and getting some of my life back - even some would be an improvement. Have you tried exposure yourself?😱

I understand the premise of exposure therapy and have tried it on my own but my anxiety skyrockets at just the thought of it and when I’ve previously tried it I could understand how it helps since you realize after touching these things that the world didn’t end but the relief was short term and I regressed immediately. I don’t even know where to go for support groups or to even try it. I’m suffering so much and this website seems to be the only place I’ve found where others feel like I do.

I can completely relate to your anxiety skyrocketing. I have same the problem with merely just thinking of exposing myself. Sometimes I feel like my heart is beating so fast and my blood pressure feels so high that I will have a heart attack. I can even physically shake sometimes. It also feels like the anxiety will stay at that level forever which is terrifying. That is what keeps me from doing exposure therapy the most. I also immensely fear that once I start it, the contamination is everywhere and there is no turning back. I will not be able to get back to a state of feeling safe or comfortable (although it is always just temporarily) with being free of the contamination - like I do after handwashing or showering. I don't know if you feel the same way as it is hard to explain in words. ?

I know exactly how you feel and that’s the entire reason why I’m skeptical to try it. What if I’m part of the 20% it doesn’t work on and suddenly everything the therapist directed me to touch is now contaminated resulting in that much more anxiety and stress and that much less space and surface I’m now comfortable with in my own home? Are you trying medications or going for the therapeutic route?

I took celexa for 6 or so years that was prescribed by my regular doctor. She was the first person that I ever was able to tell about my ocd struggle. I broke down in tears during a routine physical and told her that I have the disorder but nothing else about it. She gave me this med and at first it made me feel physically weird. I felt like I had something really heavy sitting on top of my head holding me down to the ground, like an anvil. It was the weirdest feeling and I didn't like it at all. I also felt a sense of some calmness too though. Over time the heavy feeling went away but so did the more calm feeling. I continued to take the meds even though they felt like they did nothing. Two weeks ago, I went to the psychiatrist for the first time because my therapist can't give out meds. She took me off of the celexa and gave me a trial pack of Viibryd and also Trazadone since my sleep has been awful the last few months. Trazadone does nothing for me as it still takes me hours to fall asleep. I think the Viibryd is starting to help slightly as the dosage has increased over time (10 mg the first week and now 20 mg the second week). This has only taken the edge off of my panic and ruminating thoughts some. I know that I have to do exposure to really have any real chance of getting some control over the ocd. I am working myself currently through talking to my therapist once a week towards having the nerve to jump off the cliff and just start to expose myself to things around the house. That is what it feels like to me, jumping off a cliff without a bungee cord and there is no turning back as any comfort I have will be gone. I think it is the only escape for both of us though and the fear that it will not work is just the ocd monster talking to us again and trying to make itself stronger. The meds will only help you with managing the anxiety and stress some, they will not take the ocd away. From what I have read online and from what other people on this site post, the best treatment is a combination of exposures and meds. I am pushing myself to take this route.

One of your posts said that your hands are bleeding. I have had that happen to me off and on over the years too, especially in the winter as I live in cold Pennsylvania. I found that using soaps with extra oils in them slows down the cracking and redness a lot. This is what we used when I worked in an infant room in a daycare center since we had to wash after every diaper change and nose wipe, even though we had gloves on in the first place (state regulations). We used a brand called Soft Soap and it can be bought in any regular department or grocery store. I bet pharmacies carry it too. I also found that putting mild dish detergent in my soap pumps (like Dawn) instead of regular hand soap and using it kept my hands in better shape. There are good hand lotions out there too that you can apply right after washing - Oil of Olay. I relate to you being uncomfortable if the water splashes on your arm when washing your hands. Unfortunately, that has led me to wash up my arms and not just my hands now. I also wash out the sink bowl sometimes too if I am washing my hands or a gross item in it. It feels like when I wash I put the grossness on the sink bowl and it will then splash back on me while I am rinsing off the soap - defeating my handwashing process.

I´m so sorry you live with this suffering. I can relate very much. I had years with contamination fears around body fluids, and the last 20 years I have had issues with chemicals. I have so many places and things in my home that I avoid, it´s no good life. Fortunately I´m in ERP now. I will encourage you to take that step, but be sure that the therapist has knowledge in OCD, ask questions in the beginning, and it´s so importat that they use exposures! if so, you don´t need to be scared. It´s a hard wotk, yes! But it´s so much worse to live in that endless state of anxiety as you already do. Treatment works if you put it into practice, and you never start with the worst fears at once, you take it step by step - and your courage will grow when you see that you can tolerate more and more! Don´t wait for teratment - call a therapist today!

Blue_Red in reply to Engelbrekt

Do you do an exposure everyday?

Engelbrekt in reply to Blue_Red

Yes, I try to.

What you wrote in your original post is almost word for word what I went over w my therapist at my last appointment. I was getting to the point I waa getting nauseous over trying to stop this. I understand your frustration 💛

Thank you. It is a living hell

I'm afraid of the feeling of contamination itself. More specifically, afraid that I don’t keep track of the contamination and keep it from spreading, then everything could become contaminated, and thus the feeling of contamination would become inescapable.

Yes, yes and more yes, lol. Sometimes its tiring!

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