Yesterday's post was about Medical OCD. For the next few days I am going to talk about some of the many symptoms of OCD I have either experienced or still have. Keep in mind there are several symptoms of OCD and although I have several I do not have all of them.
Contamination fears are a symptom of OCD I have had since childhood and still battle with on a daily basis. These fears ultimately make little sense but are very specific. They not only revolve around the fear of germs but also of poisoning yourself or your loved ones accidentally. I use the word "tainted". Things, certain people, and places can become tainted to my mind and I am unable to function properly around them.
This also is why I have a compulsion to clean. Not just a straighten up kind of clean but a I have spent all day washing the baseboards with hot soapy water and a scrubber brush to remove dirt that apparently only I can see. If my house becomes tainted than I have to spend exasperating amount of time cleaning the contamination.
It is much like my mind is an evil scientist. If someone that is covered in sweat sits on my couch, my couch soaks up the oils of there skin. Now, my couch is obviously not made of paper towels, however, that is what my contamination fear OCD tells me. That my couch has absorbed dirt, grime, and sweat of this person.
It has become tainted. It must be cleaned.
Germs: I am terrified of germs. I can feel them on my hands. Obviously, my mind is a supermind and I can feel microscopic bugs that dwell on all surfaces when others can not. When I "feel" a place is dirty such as a doctors office, dentist office, anyplace where sick or dirty individuals have roamed my hands actually feel coated. It feels like I have dipped my hands in warm wax. The skin feels unable to breathe and heavy and if touched by an object or person in this situation I feel the place that I have been touched hours later until I am able to wash. I have been tainted. My clothing is tainted. My hands are tainted. To avoid this I keep my hands in my pockets or I use tons of germ killing gel. I do not like to be touched by strangers. I do not want to shake other people's hands. In some situations hand shaking is unavoidable so I just leave that hand hang like a useless dead limb and refuse to touch any part of my body with it until I can wash. This has caused me to wash excessively. I wash my hands more than twenty times a day. It is quite silly because I am not in construction, I am a house wife and therefore washing so much seems a little overboard. But that is the nature of OCD. You know it is crazy but you do it anyway again, and again, and again, and again......
Poison: This is a little harder to discuss and a lot of OCD sufferers with contamination fears do not talk about this. Why? Because unlike germs, which make sense, being afraid that you have accidentally poisoned yourself just seems crazy. Even to us, and yet the fear is still there. Some examples of this would be if you used spray cleaner on the kitchen counter and you have a drink somewhere else in the room. You spray and go to take a drink. You believe that microscopic droplets of this cleaner somehow have traveled all the way to where your drink was, turning it into a deadly cocktail of drink mixed with poison. You throw the drink away. You could drink it but then you would have Medical OCD and why go into that again. This could go on for hours until every piece of food or drink you feel might have gotten microscopic particles of cleaner on have been thrown away. You must stay safe and you must keep your family safe. Another example is having a slight spray of cleaner touch your lips. Now you OCD has convinced you that you have poisoned yourself and you are going to die a horrible painful death because you licked your lips subconsciously. Or using mouthwash. Sometimes you feel like you are going to swallow the mouthwash because the OCD tells you you fell the urge to swallow. Then you start questioning if you really feel the need to swallow. As you spit out the mouthwash, the OCD says you have swallowed some and again it reveals the horridly painful way you are going to die from poisoning yourself with mouthwash.
This also can lead to excessive washing and cleaning. You know it is not true and it seems crazy and yet you do it anyway again, and again, and again, and again............
This is the hell of contamination fear OCD. To avoid the anxiety you avoid the situations. This leads to the age old problem with OCD, avoidance. It is OCD taking bits and pieces of our lives away from us. Stealing away our minutes, hours, days, years. It is OCD making us avoid places we have to or want to go to. Avoid people we love. Avoid things we want or need to do. It fills our days with fear and anxiety, cleaning and washing, shame and guilt. It makes us fear things that we know are not truthful and yet the great and powerful OCD makes us doubt, avoid, wash, doubt, avoid, wash. It's exhausting. It's scary. It's painful. We don't clean because we love to, we clean because we have too. We clean because we want to sit on the couch and not go shower three times. We clean because we want to be able to eat food and not throw it away because we feel it is going to make us sick or our loved ones sick. We clean because we want to be able to get rid of the fears. We clean because there is no other option but to doubt and we are so sick of doubting everything.