contamination OCD

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    Emotional abuse and learning to mistrust (OCD)

    I joined a depression and OCD support group today. Something that was mentioned by the therapist was that ERP is trusting our future self to handle whatever happens.

    I don't see how I can do that. My OCD developed when I was a child. To deal and cope with the situation I lived in. Parents whom invalidated my needs, invalidated my wants, invalidated my feelings. I learned to mistrust. I learned to avoid. I learned to create little bubbles of control in an environment that was out of control.

    Now that my parent's are dead. I still have these bubbles of control that I try to make. I actually work even harder now to please OCD than ever before. My OCD bubble of control has trapped and disabled me. It is something that I don't see how I can undo. Because really it is not my own doing. But it is still my responsibility.

    #EmotionalAbuse #ContaminationOCD

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    Community Voices

    Meditation - just dipping my toes in #ObsessiveCompulsiveDisorder

    Lately I've been trying to meditate. As someone with OCD, and someone who has always had a very busy brain in general (I'm certain the two are related!), it's very difficult for me to slow my brain down and refrain from engaging with my thoughts. Man. I also struggle with being a beginner at anything, which is probably part of my OCD. Good grief, I am definitely a beginner with this though, and I am working on accepting that this is where I have to start to be able to make progress (yay perfectionism, am I right?!). A podcast I listen to said that most people experience intrusive thoughts every TWO SECONDS when they are beginners at meditation. That sounds legitimate. I swear sometimes I have a new thought every second, just BAM-BAM-BAM, popping into my head like fireworks, and each one clamoring for my attention. But it's supposed to help with OCD in the long run -- since it's all about accepting your thoughts without judgment -- so I am gonna keep on keeping on!#Meditation #MentalHealth #ContaminationOCD #HealthAnxiety #perfectionism

    Community Voices
    Community Voices

    OCD & emotional contamination

    hey hey i was wondering if anyone else experiences strictly emotional contamination as part of OCD? to be clear, this is very different from contamination. for me, emotional contamination manifests like this: i dont like my mother walking into my room or touching me or my friends because i dont want her to contaminate it with her being & her personality & the negative memories i have of her. even if she puts her clothes in the laundry with mine i break down and take all my clothes out and put them outside while it snows for about an hour to get rid of her presence on my clothes.

    does anyone else do something like this? # #ContaminationOCD #ObsessiveCompulsiveAndRelatedDisorder #ObsessiveCompulsiveDisorder

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    Community Voices

    Tips for being around sick people when you have an illness / contagion phobia?

    Long story short, I have always had a phobia of getting sick. It causes me to avoid being around sick people at all costs. The pandemic has only made it worse. But does anyone have tips for how to deal with it when you *have* to be around someone who is sick? I'm not talking about COVID-19 here, but if my partner gets a cold, for example, any tips on how I can cope with being around them and deal with the potential for becoming sick? My phobia controls me so much that I either want to ask my partner to stay somewhere else or I want to leave, but this is very detrimental to my relationships. Any tips or suggestions at all? #ContaminationOCD #ObsessiveCompulsiveDisorder #Phobia #IllnessAnxietyDisorder

    Community Voices
    Community Voices

    Such a bad ocd weekend. Paranoid about everything from vape juice being everywhere and coronavirus! Feel so on edge and upset. Just want to relax! #ContaminationOCD

    Jenna Sayring

    What I've Learned About OCD Through Experiencing It for Decades

    Obsessive-compulsive disorder ( OCD ) is always keeping me on my toes, but here are a few things I’ve learned along the way. 1. You might have OCD and not know it. I’ve had OCD for 27 years by best estimates. I’ve known about it for two and a half years. How does that even happen? Well, it’s not straightforward to diagnose. According to the International OCD Foundation , it takes on average 14 to 17 years for people to get diagnosed and start treatment. I got diagnosed (and misdiagnosed) with plenty of other mental illnesses on the way to my OCD diagnosis, but it took 25 years from the onset of my OCD and 13 years from the time I started seeking help for my mental health to get the right treatment. 2. It doesn’t get bad overnight. OCD is sneaky. It may start out as anxiety, then a few maladaptive coping mechanisms to deal with the anxiety , and before you know it you’ve constructed a complicated system for deciding which food is “safe” which makes every meal a living nightmare, you’re covered in scars from skin picking and your home has turned into something out of an episode of “Hoarders.” No one wakes up one day with full-blown compulsions. 3. It’s not all cleaning and perfectionism. Yes I used to believe that’s what OCD was about too: cleaning and perfectionism. While that is partially true, it barely scratches the surface on the variety of obsessions and compulsions you can have with OCD . That misconception, which is heavily reinforced by the media, is another reason it takes people so long to recognize they might have OCD . I never once thought I had OCD because I am a hot mess; anyone who has visited my home can tell you I’m not a compulsive cleaner. But that’s an OCD thing too. 4. The obsessions can be dark. The part of OCD that no one likes to talk about are the “taboo” subtypes of OCD such as harm and suicide . But these types need to be talked about because they are common and incredibly isolating. How do you tell someone that the reason you’ve hidden all the kitchen knives is because you’re obsessing that you’re going to stab someone with them? Or that you can’t change your baby because you’re obsessing that you’re going to sexually abuse them ? Or that you’re getting rid of all the suicide methods in your house because you’re obsessing that you’re going to try to kill yourself? It’s important to note that people with these obsessions are not dangerous. I’ve had both harm and suicide obsessions before and the best way I can describe it is like having someone repeatedly telling you to do something that goes against every fibre of your being. You don’t want to do it, and are horrified by the idea of it which is why the obsessions cause so much distress. 5. OCD is always changing. OCD is crafty; it adapts to “fit” your life circumstances. Over the years, I think I’ve experienced nearly every subtype of OCD — contamination , sexuality , relationship, scrupulosity , existential , perfectionism /always right. It likes to complement whatever life stage I’m at. For the last few years, I’ve been dealing with ongoing health problems, and contamination OCD has taken center stage, but recently I started working again after five years of unemployment because of those health problems and contamination OCD is starting to take a back seat to perfectionism/always right OCD . 6. You never really beat OCD ; you just get better at managing it. This was the hardest thing to terms with. OCD is for life. There is no cure for it; you just learn how to manage it. You will never reach a point where you are 100% free from OCD , and recovering from the damage it has already caused is not a linear process. When you first start treatment — in particular exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy, the gold standard for OCD — things get much, much worse. It feels counterintuitive, then it flips and suddenly you’re feeling stronger, like maybe you can tame OCD after all. You can truck along for months, even years like that, slowly gaining ground over your OCD , feeling like a champ. Then boom, life happens, you let your guard down and those obsessions start taking back territory. It feels like you’re back at square one, and it’s demoralizing. But over time, you get better at spotting the signs, you react faster, you minimize the damage and you come to accept the fact that OCD is always waiting to strike.

    Community Voices

    How Contamination OCD Treatment Will Change Because of COVID-19

    My therapist stands up, walks over to the bookshelf in his office, and picks up two red apples that are sitting on one of the shelves. The apples look out of place next to his personal library of psychology books, collection of fidget toys and various decorations. He grabs two plastic knives from the same shelf and hands me a knife. He hands me one of the apples. Silently, he then sits on the floor, cross-legged, and waits for me to join him. I am reluctant; I know what is coming. I finally take a seat on the floor, cross-legged as well. I can feel the carpet beneath my legs as I hold the apple in my left hand and the plastic knife in my right. My therapist begins to cut into his apple. He cuts it flawlessly into slices, an impressive feat since we are using plastic knives and just cutting the apples in our laps without the use of a table or other hard surface. A few seconds later (though these seconds feel like days), I begin to slice my apple as well. I am not as talented at this freestyle cutting as he is. My slices are jagged and uneven. My therapist then places an apple slice on the floor and rolls it around. He makes sure each side of the apple slice touches the carpet multiple times as he rolls it over and over. I am cringing on the inside. But I know what I must do next. I slowly place my apple slice on the floor. I roll it over once, then twice, then a third time. I pick it up and look at it, disgusted. I can’t help but think of all the germs that are on that floor, embedded in the carpet, and now on my apple slice. My therapist picks up his apple slice and holds it near his mouth. I know he is waiting for me to do the same. In another short period of seconds that felt like days, I begin to raise my apple slice to my mouth as well. I stare at it, examining it as if I could physically see all the germs that now tarnish it. Sometimes, I expect that I actually will see the germs; but, of course, I never do. My therapist and I are there, stuck in what can only be described as an excruciating time vortex, preparing to eat apple slices off the floor. We stare at each other for a few seconds. He can sense my hesitation, my disgust, my anxiety . Alternatively, I can sense his support, encouragement and faith in me. We share these feelings without ever saying a word. I look down at my apple slice and then raise my gaze again to meet my therapist’s eyes. He waits for me, patiently. With our eyes still locked, I move my apple slice closer to my lips. He mirrors me, doing the same. And then we both take a bite. Exposure and response prevention therapy, or ERP, has long been considered the gold-standard treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) . ERP is in the family of cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. ERP often looks a lot like what I just described above; a trained therapist encourages their clients to face their fears head-on and then refrain from engaging in any sort of compulsive or compensatory acts. This particular “exposure” I described is based on my irrational and debilitating fear of germs, contamination, and illness. Over the course of many months, my therapist and I worked through a series of exposures in which I was intentionally confronted with a feared situation (germs) and encouraged to face these fears head-on (as I did when I ate the apple slice off the floor). Over time, ERP retrains the mind, and the feared stimulus becomes less and less threatening. The idea is that ERP serves as a bit of an “overcorrection” — in other words, eating apple slices off the floor in my therapist’s office for a couple of months ultimately allowed me to be able to eat out at restaurants without having a full-blown anxiety attack if I didn’t have my hand sanitizer with me. To paint an even more graphic picture for you, eating apple slices off the floor was not the most harrowing exposure I did to try to combat my fear of germs. Over a series of months, my therapist and I rubbed apple slices on public restroom sinks, doorknobs, elevator buttons and the backs of toilet tanks. Each time, I shook my head, said I could not do this, and stared at the apple slice waiting for the germs to appear. I thought if the germs appeared, or if I felt them in my hand (which I sometimes believed I did), I could say, “Look! I was right!” But the germs never appeared. My therapist was always patient, yet always unwavering. He never forced me to do anything, but encouraged me nonetheless. And, eventually, I (almost) always ate the apple slice. As you may have surmised by now, these events took place months ago. I have not seen my therapist in-person for quite some time now, and I do not know when we will physically meet again. Treatment of OCD has entered uncharted territory due to the threat of the coronavirus (COVD-19); it is no longer expected, advisable or safe for clinicians to conduct ERP in the way I described above. The “illogical” fears of many people living with OCD have suddenly become logical; people without OCD are engaging in cleaning and sanitizing behaviors that go well beyond the “normal standard” prior to the pandemic. For those of us with OCD — the fears we have spent months (and years) trying to untangle and strip of power have suddenly become quite real, with no foreseeable end in sight. I have the unique experience of being both a person with OCD and a therapist myself. I wonder how clinicians like myself (and my own therapist) will have to adapt and change the way we treat OCD going forward. The “gold-standard treatment” is not so gold anymore. The way we treat this disorder will have to be reflective of the times we are living in. Understandably, not much research has been done yet with regard to OCD treatment in the midst of a global pandemic. But some researchers, clinicians and other professionals have begun to devise a new and improved discourse for treatment of this disorder, given the circumstances. According to Fineberg et al. (2020), clinicians should give consideration to the use of medication for the treatment of OCD during this time. Specifically, “based on the risks associated with exposure and response prevention (ERP) in the pandemic … pharmacotherapy should be the first option for adults and children with OCD with contamination, washing or cleaning symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic.” ERP as it has been done traditionally (as I described above) is no longer safe for either the client or the therapist. Therefore, medication (when prescribed by a doctor and taken with compliance) might be a helpful option for clients with OCD to consider and discuss with their treatment team. In particular, the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) has evidence of success in alleviating the symptoms of this disorder. Additionally, Fineberg et al. (2020) offer suggestions from a cognitive-behavioral perspective regarding how to adjust one’s ERP treatment plan during this time. Fineberg et al. (2020) recognize that it may “be difficult to disentangle OCD -related cleaning and checking compulsions from rational COVID-19 -related safety behaviors.” Therefore, the authors “recommend significantly tailoring CBT to take into account the CDC guidance.” Clients with OCD should no longer be expected to stop washing their hands completely, even if this was part of their exposure plan prior to the pandemic. Instead, Fineberg et al. (2020) suggest, the therapist should focus on supporting their clients and “trying to prevent them from deteriorating.” The authors suggest using activity scheduling and behavioral activation with clients to combat the unfortunate reality that “obsessions often expand to fill a vacuum of time.” With too much time on their hands and fewer in-person exposure opportunities (as well as the looming threat of a global pandemic), clients with OCD can be more prone to increased obsessional thoughts and compulsive acts. Treatment providers who see clients diagnosed with OCD are currently facing a unique and unprecedented predicament. My therapist often helped me realize that my fears around germs were irrational, or at least not as bad as the catastrophic scenario my brain had concocted. Now, however, he has his own fears around contamination and illness related to the pandemic. He has to take care of himself and his loved ones. It would be unsafe and inadvisable for us to continue engaging in ERP the way we had been doing it for many months. The way we treat OCD has to change; there is simply no way around it. Treatment protocols will have to be adjusted for the foreseeable future, and possibly forever. I am curious to see how this pandemic and its aftermath impacts both my treatment and that of my clients. We have no choice but to use the information at our disposal from both OCD experts and public health officials to make the most educated decisions moving forward. Only time will tell how COVID-19 influences OCD symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment in the long term. But I believe we can say with certainty at this point that I will not be eating apples off the floor of my therapist’s office again for quite some time. Struggling with anxiety or OCD due to COVID-19? Check out the following articles from our community: How Can You Tell the Difference Between Anxiety and COVID-19 Symptoms? 6 Tips If You’re Anxious About Being Unable to Go to Therapy Because of COVID-19 What to Do If the Coronavirus Health Guidelines Are Triggering Your Anxiety or OCD Mental Health Resources to Help You Cope During COVID-19 An Activist-Therapist’s 15 Affirmations for Hope Amidst COVID-19