Episode 4: Contamination OCD


Episode 4

Contamination OCD

Kelley and Lauren talk about Contamination OCD including common obsessions as well as compulsions. They also discuss what treatment can look like and Exposures and Response Prevention (ERP) work.

Contamination OCD can involve fears of:

  • Germs
  • STDs
  • Chemicals
  • Drugs and alcohol
  • Disgust and fears of feeling disgust ongoing

This subtype can be tricky with COVID-19. Lauren and Kelley discuss the fact that public health must inform treatment. If washing hands after doing an exposure is a safety measure, then limiting hand washing can be response prevention.

Side note: Kelley threatens to get a bell to call out Lauren each time she uses an “SAT word” which happens… a lot.

Meanwhile, back on the rails…

Kelley and Lauren discuss ERP:

Lauren: What you’re doing is reorienting your perspective… you’re leaning in. You’re showing yourself “I don’t need to run away from anxiety. I can just run at it. I can charge it.”

Kelley: While you’re peeing your pants.

Lauren: Yeah, totally, you’re charging it whilst peeing your pants… you’re Bravehearting it.

Kelley and Lauren consider the trade off if you choose to do compulsions. What’s at stake? Most of the time people sacrifice living a valued, meaningful life.

Those struggling with this are afraid they will infect others with the virus. Lauren and Kelley discuss a Venn Diagram of Contamination OCD, Harm OCD and Emetophobia (fear of vomit).

Needless to say, there’s overlap.

Those with Contamination concerns often worry about the “Wet Paint effect:”

Kelley explains:

The contaminated item is like a thing of paint. And now you’ve stuck your hand in it and you can almost visually see everything you’ve touched and really the compulsion is mental hoarding… mental review… and you’re just keeping [track] and having to go back and disinfect.

– Kelley Franke, LMFT

Lauren and Kelley cover exposure and response prevention for Contamination OCD.

Kelley shares an exposure idea: the “contamination towel.” With this, people “contaminate” a towel and then touch the towel (exposure) without doing compulsions, like excess hand washing.

Lauren and Kelley also touch on Imaginal Exposures for Contamination 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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