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Pets & OCD: Contamination

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Obsessions focusing on pets and animals incorporate all the common themes: contamination, checking, harm, scrupulosity, and sex. In this 3-part blog series, I discuss some of the common ways OCD obsessions may target our lovable, snuggable friends. This article, Part 2, will focus on contamination obsession associated with pets and animals. Part 1 covered harm and violent obsessions related to pets. Part 3 will address sexual obsessions and scrupulosity, as they pertain to pets and animals. Most everybody loves that shower fresh feeling, right? Not only does it feel good, but it’s probably good for us too. Throughout history, cleanliness and good hygiene practices have been instrumental to reducing our vulnerability to germs, disease, and illness. For survival’s sake, to a certain extent, we’re probably biologically-programmed to prefer clean, hygienic environments, over dirty, disgusting ones. Yet, at the same...

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Contamination OCD – Long Shower Exposures

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Long shower times? Just a quick announcement… I’m pleased to announce that with our recent office renovations, we now have a spa-like therapeutic shower room that is perfect for individuals with contamination OCD who have excessively long shower times. This room is ideal for those with contamination OCD who wish to work on shower-based response prevention. For individuals with contamination OCD who take really long showers, we are now able to provide office-based interventions for reducing your long shower times. We’ve had great success with reducing our patients long shower times from multiple hours to a mere 10-15 minutes. Reduce Long Shower Times to Short OCD Shower Times We do this first by developing shower-based response prevention guidelines and modeling non-OCD based shower behavior in-session. We essentially use a shower script to help individuals identify normal shower routines (which,...

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Reassurance Seeking in OCD

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Although contamination OCD and washing rituals often go hand-in-hand, many rituals in this domain do not actually involve cleaning or disinfecting. These more subtle rituals are often based around reassurance seeking behaviors that become ingrained in everyday habit. In the context of exposure and response prevention (ERP), reassurance seeking OCD rituals are just as important to address as washing rituals. If you resist washing rituals but continue to engage in reassurance seeking rituals, your recovery will eventually stall (or perhaps never get started at all). Do you believe that knowledge is power? Do you aspire to optimum health? Do you believe that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? If so, you may be vulnerable to reassurance seeking rituals. Information-Seeking vs. Reassurance Seeking Reassurance seeking rituals involve mentally preparing for potential threats. These compulsions are often...

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OCD & Contamination: Washing & Cleaning Compulsions/Rituals

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OCD: Common Compulsions In my last post about OCD, I discussed reasons why people do rituals. This time, I’ll identify specific rituals that are common in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) characterized by a fear of germs, contamination, diseases, and other health-related ills. OCD: Hand-washing Rituals/Compulsions Hand-washing is a very common ritual and typically involves prolonged and frequent hand-washing behaviors. These washing behaviors may involve a particular sequence, order, or rhythm. Some individuals count while washing or wash in multiples of particular numbers. If these washes are interrupted, the individual may feel the need to repeat the entire sequence to make sure that the wash has been performed “properly.” Although people with OCD may think that their washing rituals are primarily for hygienic reasons, the true function of washing rituals is to reduce feelings of distress, anxiety, doubt, and vulnerability. The...

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OCD & Contamination: Reasons Why People Do Rituals/Compulsions

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In my last post, I identified several idiosyncratic feared outcomes in OCD that are associated with contamination/health-related obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Obsessions are intrusive, recurrent, and distressing thoughts, impulses, or images related to these feared outcomes. Today, I’ll discuss the function of compulsions. Why do people with OCD do rituals? Compulsions, or rituals, are the other main feature of OCD. These physical and/or mental behaviors reduce the anxiety brought on by obsessions and reflect one’s attempt to avoid, reduce, or prevent certain feared outcomes from occurring. Ask someone with a fear of contamination, disease, illness, or germs why they ritualize; and they will likely tell you that rituals serve as a means to destroy, neutralize, or escape from potential pathogens. As a consequence, rituals common to health-related OCD often incorporate washing, cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing behaviors. Excessively long OCD-driven shower...

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