Fear of Contamination

A fear of contamination due to dirt, germs, viruses, and a multitude of other substances or items, including chemicals, radioactivity, greasy or sticky substances, bodily excretions (urine, feces), bodily secretions (sweat, saliva, mucus, tears, etc.), and blood can include obsessive fears about:

  • Touching surfaces (in public places or at home) that may be thought to have germs or other “contaminants” on them
  • Touching others or being touched by others or animals
  • Being coughed or sneezed on by others or being in a public place or a vehicle where this could occur (such as in a carpool, bus or airplane)
  • Contaminating others by touching them
  • Wearing clothing that has come in contact with germs or other contaminants

Compulsions that are commonly associated with contamination obsessions are:

  • Washing and cleaning, such as repeated hand washing, showering or bathing, or excessive house cleaning
  • Avoiding public places or public transportation
  • Avoiding being touched by others or touching others
  • Frequently changing clothing or even throwing away clothing that is considered “contaminated”
  • Avoiding certain rooms in the home that are thought to be contaminated
  • Asking others for reassurance that the person with OCD has not been contaminated

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