Episode 29: OCD and Disgust

Episode 29

OCD and Disgust

In this episode of Purely OCD, Kelley and Lauren discuss how disgust can be a central emotional experience for those with OCD. They talk about how to work with disgust in the recovery process and answer questions from viewers.

Sometimes people do compulsions in order to get rid of the feeling of disgust.

Here, the obsession is usually that the feeling of disgust will continue on indefinitely.

Some of the thoughts that cause disgust are related to doing something with these substances. For example: Someone might have a thought about eating poop. They will then feel disgusted and then do a compulsion to try to fix that.

Sometimes people will get a physical sensation related to the disgust – like when they think about touching something gross.

Slimy and gritty textures can be triggers too.

There’s actually some overlap with Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake disorder (ARFID).

People with this disorder are often disgusted by certain foods – like vegetables.

Disgust in OCD can also be triggered by gore and horror.  

Lauren talks about an exposure she assigned to a client who performed compulsions in the face of disgust.

Lauren: That show “Ratched”… there’s a scene it when someone amputates his own arm with a chainsaw.

Kelley: Oh my. Oh. Oh my! Oooh.

Lauren: For the person that… I assigned this to.

Kelley: You told them to amputate their arm with a chainsaw.

Lauren: Well of course!

Kelley: Ok good. Good, well done.

Lauren: No, I told them to watch the scene

Kelley: I know, I just wanted clarification on that

Lauren: Ya, I think that that’s a really good clarifying point. Oh my gosh. But I think that the idea there wasn’t that – this person wasn’t afraid that they were going to do this to somebody else or even to themselves they just didn’t want to have the feeling of disgust that was associated with the blood and the gore. Which in theory is not a problem but if you’re having these thoughts all the time and you’re sort of trying to push away the thoughts then we do want to lean in. We want to be like “Okay, we’re going to have these thoughts… bring those puppies on. Kelley: Bring on the disgust.

Kelley: Yep, bring it on.

Other common disgust triggers include:

  • Insects
  • Death, decay and rot
  • Maggots

Compulsions often include:

  • Attempting to avoid feelings
  • Washing
  • Thought stopping
  • Neutralizing thought

Kelley and Lauren talk about a few exposures, including using a contamination towel to get used to the feeling of disgust and bringing on disgust inducing thoughts and images on purpose.

On a separate note – with OCD, disgust can function in another way entirely. When people don’t feel disgusted by certain thoughts, they may be triggered. In this realm, disgust actually feels like a safety blanket. This might happen, for instance, with Pedophilia OCD and Sexual Orientation OCD.


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Disclaimer: This information is meant to be general information not unique to any individual. Before following any guidance or advice found on this site or in the Purely OCD Podcast a visitor or listener should always consult with their own licensed healthcare practitioner. The Purely OCD Podcast and Website are not therapy or intended as a replacement for therapy. They are for educational purposes only.

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