Contamination OCD

What is contamination OCD?

Contamination OCD is a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder that involves thinking that something is contaminated, even though there may be no real reason to believe it. For example, you might feel the need to wash your hands over and over again because you think that your hands are dirty or have been contaminated in some way. You might also have intrusive thoughts or images of contamination, and feel like you need to act on these thoughts in some way in order to get rid of them. This can be a very distressing condition to live with, as the obsession with contamination often involves a high degree of anxiety, which can make it hard for people who have this type of OCD to function normally.


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Symptoms of Contamination OCD

Contamination OCD

Some of the specific symptoms that people with this form of OCD experience include:

  • Obsessive thoughts about contamination or germs that are irrational and excessive.

  • Reluctance to touch anything for fear of spreading contaminants or contracting a disease.

  • Compulsive cleaning rituals or avoidance behaviors in order to limit exposure to contaminants.

  • Extreme anxiety, distress, or panic when faced with a perceived risk of contamination.

  • Repetitive behaviors, such as hand washing or checking for contaminants, that are performed in order to alleviate feelings of anxiety or distress associated with contamination fears.

  • Difficulty functioning normally at work, school, or in social situations due to compulsive thoughts and avoidance behaviors related to contamination OCD.

Obsessions of Contamination OCD

Some of the obsessions that people with this form of OCD experience include:

  • The fear of getting contaminated with germs, dirt, or chemicals through physical contact, ingestion, or inhalation.
  • The fear of contracting a disease due to exposure to contaminants in the environment.
  • The fear that one’s own body is contaminated and needs to be constantly washed and cleaned to prevent harm.
  • The fear that one’s own thoughts are contaminated and need to be constantly monitored and controlled in order to prevent harm.
  • The fear of not being able to stop oneself from engaging in compulsive behaviors related to contamination, regardless of the consequences.
  • The fear of becoming contaminated if one does not perform compulsive cleaning behaviors.
  • The fear of becoming contaminated if one does not comply with the specific rituals or rules that must be followed in order to prevent contamination.
  • The fear of being harmed by others who are contaminated or by objects that have been contaminated by others.
  • The fear of accidentally harming others due to the contamination of one’s own body or belongings.

Compulsions associated with Contamination OCD

Repetitive actions

Performing repetitive actions that they believe will prevent or reduce their exposure to contamination. This can include washing, cleaning, checking and even repeated touching or counting.


Strong urge to avoid anything that may be contaminated by germs or dirt. This can include avoiding family members, places, & things that may be associated with contamination, such as public toilets or bins.

Mental Compulsions

May engage in mental rituals to help reduce their anxiety and discomfort around potential contamination. These can include constant reassurance seeking from others, praying, counting, and mental checking.

Physical Symptoms

Experience physical symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, or light-headedness. These can be caused by the constant exposure to potential contaminants & the repeated efforts to reduce this exposure.