Emotional Contamination

OCD Subtype

What is Emotional Contamination?

Emotional contamination is a subtype in which the OCD sufferer fears their triggers (people, places, things) will somehow contaminate or harm them. They may not necessarily perceive contamination in the physical sense but more of an emotional and mental contamination. They may fear taking on someone else’s negative personality traits for example. These individuals also fear having the things they love ‘contaminated’ by their fears and triggers. They may label certain places as ‘bad luck’ and dangerous and avoid interacting with these places. This subtype of OCD also aligns with magical thinking subtype and superstitious type behaviors. OCD sufferers believe random events do not happen and instead things are meant to happen, and signs hold intentional meanings.
Emotional Contamination

Common Obsessions

OCD sufferers may feel internally ‘unclean’, and their brains may attach these feelings to colors, items, numbers, places, clothing, and more. As they start participating in compulsive behaviors around avoidance, they begin to avoid more and more things. When these individuals are doing something like getting dressed for example, they will redo this action over and over until they replace the negative distressing thoughts with a ‘safer’ alternative.

Emotional Contamination

Common Compulsions

Typically, individuals understand logically there is no link between the trigger and the feared outcome. However, OCD is convincing and uses terminology such as “what if” to keep the person participating in compulsions.

  • Avoidance of any type of trigger that would leave the person or loved ones contaminated
  • Cleaning self and belongings after exposure to contaminated person or items
  • Throwing items away that may be associated with a person, a memory, or triggering event
  • Holding breath, spitting, or saying certain words for comfort
  • Avoiding saying or writing any words that remind them of the triggers
  • Avoiding tv or movies due to fear of taking on those traits or possible negative events
  • Doing things over and over searching for the right thought or memory

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