They were told by their bosses that they shouldn’t say so publicly because: “It may be a very risky strategy, including if a patient actually does catch the virus.”, For some OCD patients, the risky strategy is the correct one, says Jon Abramowitz, an OCD expert and therapist at the University of North Carolina. What topics would YOU like to know more about? Are you willing to sacrifice being social because you might encounter a triggering person? Roselle wasn’t experiencing typical OCD contamination fears, but rather mental contamination. Individuals who develop contact contamination OCD, typically experience an overwhelming feeling of distress, discomfort or a sensation of uncleanliness, when they come into physical contact with substances, objects, people or animals, that are viewed as ‘contaminants’ (usually containing germs, dirt, disease, bodily waste, secretions, or toxic chemicals). In 2012, Australian scientists reported the first cases of OCD in people who fixate on thoughts about climate change – a bogeyman for the new millennium and one that, like HIV in the 1980s, poses an uncertain, universal threat, depicted in lurid detail by the mass media. While that is a common and important area of attention for those interested in understanding OCD, the obsession with bodily fluids may warrant more attention. It wasn’t just me. And given you have OCD, you’re probably better off not.”. “It’s a tough call. In every case, I already knew the answer was no. The OCD makes a pretty strong case for doing compulsions. If I get this disease, I may give it to my child (or partner or other loved one). But I wanted them to say it because for a second or two I believed and the world seemed a brighter place. This typically involves initial low exposure to the contaminant that gradually increases over a period of time as the perceived distress and threat decreases. It’s an inconvenient behavior, so it must be important, right? So, having something get on a cut is not the threat your OCD is telling you it is.
In this series on Contamination OCD, I will attempt to break down the symptoms and treatment for obsessive fear of contamination from three common triggers. After all, if you are seeing blood outside of the body, it usually means something is wrong. Unlike contact contamination, mental contamination may not require a visual trigger– this can make it difficult for the individual who experiences the distressing thoughts and compulsions to pin point the cause, for it may be on a subconscious level.
For some OCD patients, not washing their hands is part of their treatment. Over time, through a process called habituation, this practice of resisting compulsions becomes more automatic and the brain is forced to release its association between the thoughts and the responses that make them seem so important. In the 1960s and 70s there was a spike in irrational fears of asbestos, just as the dangers of the material had come to popular attention. bottom of shoes), Avoidance of people associated (accurately or inaccurately) with blood contact or blood-related illnesses (i.e. In this first installment, I will be focusing on blood, how fear associated with blood often presents in OCD, and how cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be used to treat it.
If I say don’t think about blood, it will have the same effect as me saying not to think about a tap-dancing giraffe! I have known clients to burn their clothes, spend hours showering, hours checking their body for cuts, abandon groceries in the parking lot of the supermarket, abandon entire locations (including their own home) for fear of blood contamination. In addition to emotional reasoning, black-and-white thinking and magnifying can play an important role as well. By observing and allowing, you are weakening the glue that binds unwanted thoughts to compulsive urges. What should they look out for?
As anyone with the condition will know, of course, OCD is challenging all the time. But when OCD puts all the focus on “dangerous,” all of life’s other qualities become obscured.
What’s worse, compulsions simultaneously provide temporary relief from unwanted thoughts and feelings. This involves a gradual process of identifying with your therapist what your triggers and compulsions are, then working to overcome each one from the easiest up to the hardest. Chiefly, the spike in anxiety about the virus can fuel existing obsessive fears of contamination and trigger destructive compulsive actions. In theory, the anxiety drips away and the patient realises they need not rely on handwashing to feel better. For some people with OCD, coronavirus can become all they think about. “It is a challenging time for people who have OCD.”. How do we develop a capacity for uncertainty tolerance when the OCD makes it seem impossible? David Adam is the author of The Man Who Couldn’t Stop: The Truth About OCD. Mental contamination and traumatic experiences. Indeed, one question raised by the rush for soap is just what all those people without any in the house did before. The process depletes the immune system, resulting in a gradual deterioration of health, the final stages of which is called Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Mindfulness based CBT is another approach helpful for treating contamination OCD, whereby individuals learn to acknowledge their thoughts as they come and go, and to accept them as ‘just thoughts’ without judging them as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’, or attaching meaning or action to them. One of Veale’s patients with coronavirus OCD, for example, has started to fixate on whether they can catch the disease from Chinese food. It is also true that at some point, we draw a line in the sand and we say, enough. What about people who do worry they might convert rational coronavirus anxiety to OCD? With OCD, the intrusive thoughts are exaggerated and irrational. avoiding handshakes in case someone has a cut on their finger), Avoidance of things that could be confused with blood (red paint, etc. Yes, all symptoms and diagnoses from A to Z and everything in between has a spiritual and metaphysical explanation. People who have an obsessive fear of blood contamination often focus as much on the fear of spreading harm to a loved one as on being contaminated themselves. “I’d wash my hands 20 times in a row,” he says. What about a simple walk in the park where you might brush up against a sharp plant… or step on a discarded band-aid? Sophie and Director Dr Emily O’Leary carefully think about each topic and try and provide the most up to date information. You can resist washing in the presence of a blood-related thought (you can also presumably resist putting tap shoes on a giraffe). What about shaking hands when you meet someone? The virus is actually pretty fascinating. If OCD won’t let you draw the line with rational thinking, then how are you supposed to choose to ever draw the line? While there are various forms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), this article will focus on one category known as contamination OCD, and the similarities and distinct differences between its two subcategories – contact contamination OCD and mental contamination OCD. For Kyle MacNeill, a freelance writer, the 2009 swine flu scare initiated a years-long struggle with OCD. That is why OCD is so hard to treat, and why coronavirus and official advice on handwashing pose such a dilemma for some OCD patients and therapists. Fretting about the virus and washing hands a lot don’t qualify on their own. Nobody is washing their hands correctly.’”, The worsening outbreak affects people with OCD in other ways, too. (Full disclosure: as the former environment correspondent for this newspaper, I used to write those stories.). Avoidance and reassurance seeking around this topic is also common. If coronavirus continues to spread, experts expect related cases of OCD to spike as well. The content of the thoughts and the nature of the anxiety are usually different, too. For me it was seeking reassurance: checking for blood on a piece of glass I stepped on, or asking health professionals if I could catch HIV by doing this and that. Among the more common manifestations of blood-focused OCD is an obsession with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).