Emotional Contamination OCD
Did you know that someone with OCD can feel contaminated by a simple thought? A thought like, if I associate with people I perceive as "dumb" I will become dumb myself. Not only that, but they have to do many rituals to get rid of this mental and emotional contamination.
What is emotional contamination and how is it treated? That's what today's video is all about.
Well, you've probably heard of plain old contamination. Touching things that appear contaminated, these are all physical objects that enter someone's life. When it comes to emotional contamination, it's very different. This same feeling of contamination is often felt is all because of an association their brain put on something. Individuals will often get triggered by a thought, image or memory associated with an individual.
These things that make them feel contaminated can be an illness someone has or talks about or an individual that they know and dislike their traits. The key here is association. This subtype of OCD really attacks who they are and ruining their possible future.
For instance, someone may have all these goals of becoming a doctor. They have their classes ready to go, they have all the plans for the future. You know what would ruin this for them? If they couldn't pass their classes. If they just weren't smart enough. So the brain takes this value and says, well you know what. Jimmy struggled with this class and doesn't use proper grammar when he talks. If you talk or hang out with him, you will become like him. You are now contaminated. The only way to get this imaginary contaminant to go away is for you to do some compulsions.
It comes up with ideas; for sure don't hang out with Jimmy. Don't even say his name. Any association with him is dangerous. It's not going to get me to where I want to be.
Emotional contamination can show up with really any association. I could see a news report talking about the homeless population and its link to drug addiction. The news anchor was wearing yellow and standing under a tree. So now, my brain says, if I wear yellow, I'm in danger of being addicted to drugs. If I stand under a tree, it's possible my life will lead me to becoming homeless. Even seeing others around you wearing yellow triggers this contaminated feeling. It's more than something like magical thinking OCD (take a look at that video by the way). With magical thinking there is a superstitious thought, with emotional contamination it's a feeling.
It's a gross/yucky feeling. You think of touching something you know is gross and you immediately want to wash your hands. Imagine this inside you body, you want to do anything you can to cleanse yourself of this.
The compulsions individuals do really can be anything their brain tells them to do. Avoidance is a big one. I'm not even going to go there, see those people, watch shows, use social media, and even use words associated. It can be various rituals, washing hands, showering, or saying certain phrases over and over again.
We treat this just like any other subtype of OCD. With exposure and response prevention. That uncomfortable feeling essentially must be tolerated and responded to differently. For instance, the name Jimmy makes me feel contaminated, I know think I'll become dumb. I'm going to start looking at picture of Jimmy, hanging out with him, going online and searching anything I can about Jimmy. I may be writing his name out over and over again. I may be saying, "yep, I may or may not become dumb" -- That internal yucky feeling will be there, but it can't last forever. We're responding differently. Some may say, "man, I love this feeling" "I hope it lasts all day." I may be focusing on whatever the ultimate threats are. I may be using poor grammar on purpose. Sitting under that tree that makes me worried. Watching videos of the homeless population. Accepting uncertainty and breaking these associations by not engaging in the rumination or feeling that comes with it. Ultimately, doing the opposite of what my OCD tells me to do. Don't think about this phrase, I'm going to think about it. Don't wear yellow or else. I'm wearing yellow.
The brain needs to learn that you're the boss. You can handle anything and any feeling that comes your way.
Emotional contamination can feel similar to superstitious or magical thinking ocd. Watch that one here.
Also, if you've struggled with this before, let me know in the comments.
Magical Thinking OCD
Treatment for Emotional Contamination OCD
Nathan Peterson, LCSW
OCD can be tricky! I want to provide useful information for your OCD, anxiety, tics, tourette's, BFRBs, and many other anxiety related disorders.