Living with Metaphysical Contamination OCD

What’s Going On?

Metaphysical Contamination OCD is an uncommon subset of OCD. It often involves a history of trauma or abuse. Things associated with that history become contaminated to a sufferer and cause severe anxiety.

It is normal for people who have survived traumatic experiences to be sensitive to certain topics, situations and people. However, sufferers of Metaphysical Contamination OCD maintain an obsessive fear that inanimate objects related to past experiences have the ability to “infect” them with negative characteristics or omens.

Common Metaphysical Contamination OCD obsessions:

  • Fear of objects or people that remind you of something traumatic.
  • Fear that you might become contaminated by someone’s non-physical traits.
  • Constantly feeling unclean.

Common Metaphysical Contamination OCD compulsions:

Social avoidance.

Stop dating, going to events or hanging out with people.  

Avoidance of objects.

Don’t use things connected to the original trauma or abuse.

Avoidance of people.

Don’t see people that are connected to or are a minder of the original trauma or abuse.


Common misconceptions about Metaphysical Contamination OCD:

  • OCD only comes in one, general type. Subsets like Metaphysical Contamination don’t exist.
  • You’re actually suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) because this subset involves past trauma.
  • There is legitimacy to your thoughts and associations.

How Do I Know it’s OCD?

Intrusive thoughts affect everyone. Having them, does not mean you have OCD. However, for some people, they can be debilitating and have a serious impact on day-to-day life. No matter how hard you try, they won’t go away. If you suffer from Metaphysical Contamination OCD, you often become limited in mobility. You become fragile about places or things that could bring back a memory of past trauma. You are afraid of being triggered and limit everyday activities to avoid anxiety.

Having intrusive thoughts does not make you a bad person. They are a misfiring in the brain, not a reflection of your character.

Everyday examples:

  • You were abused by a stepparent. Anything your stepparent touched, even a birthday card that might have been sent to you, is a reminder of that abuse. This creates a great amount of distress and desperation to separate yourself from this stepparent.
  • You might know someone who’s of lower social status that you inherently consider a loser. You think any contact with this loser might metamorphosize you into becoming a loser.
  • Someone made a comment about your outfit that you perceived to be negative and it caused you to literally feel like dirt. This perception creates an internal feeling of uncleanliness.

How can my family help with my OCD?

Family members and friends can help. It’s important for them to become educated about this OCD subset. Especially because it is one of the lesser known types. When they become aware of your OCD, they’re often tempted to offer reassurance. Unfortunately, enabling you in this way can actually make your OCD worse. You might like to involve your family in your therapy, so that they can understand the do’s and don’ts, and how best to help you.

Is Recovery Possible for Me?

Yes! Recovery is possible, and the recommended treatment for Metaphysical Contamination OCD is Exposure Response Prevention Therapy (ERP). ERP is when you voluntarily expose yourself to the source of your fear over and over and over again, without acting out any compulsion to neutralize or stop the fear. By repeatedly facing something you’re afraid of, you force your brain to recognize how irrational it is.

Examples of ERP treatment:

  • You may be asked to display reminders, touch objects or get in contact with people that remind you of trauma.
  • Treatment may also combine exposure therapy with work around the historical trauma to make sure it’s still not playing itself out in your life.

There are other treatment options as well. Mindfulness-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, also known as CBT, teaches people to identify, understand and change negative thinking patterns and behaviors. Patients are taught problem-solving skills during therapy lessons and then instructed to practice them on their own time in order to build positive habits.

Can medication help?

Medication can help alongside ERP, but it shouldn’t replace it. Doctors should always be consulted before considering medicinal options.

The main family of medicines used to treat OCD are known as Serotonin Specific Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRIs. SSRIs enhance your natural serotonin activity and are used to treat major depressive disorders and anxiety conditions. Examples include Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft. 

What is the goal of therapy?

Some people with Metaphysical Contamination OCD recover completely through ERP. But for many, their obsessions never fully go away. Recovery has more to do with managing the condition, than it does with eliminating it. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t lead a healthy, happy life. By prioritizing treatment and positive lifestyle habits, sufferers often gain confidence and freedom. Even if some anxiety is still present by the end of therapy, you’ll no longer feel debilitated by the condition. You can leave the house, hop on the subway, or have a sad day without worrying you will end your life.

If you suffer from OCD, you have a severe anxiety disorder. But it can be treated. Start by getting educated and making healthy living choices. Then find a clinical psychologist in your area who specializes in OCD and Exposure Response Prevention (ERP).

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