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OCD & Contamination Fears: Feared Outcomes (Example: HIV/AIDS)

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In my last post, I identified several types of obsessions that are associated with contamination/health-related obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). These include the fear of: Germs and getting sick. Making others sick. Developing an incurable illness in the future. Experiencing extreme and uncontrollable disgust or distress. Other unwanted negative outcomes related to the spread of germs, contaminants, or other agents. Given the idiosyncratic nature of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), I thought it would be useful to talk a bit more about feared outcomes. Feared outcomes can be very different for different people, even when you’re dealing with the same surface obsession. Moreover, sometimes the immediate feared outcome (getting sick) differs from the ultimate feared outcome (dying from a disease). Consider the OCD fear of being infected with HIV. Individuals who experience this health-related OCD obsession often experience distress related to very different...

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Contamination & Health-related OCD: Obsessions, Fears, & Worries

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What are common obsessions in contamination/disease/illness/health-focused OCD? OCD: Fear of Getting Sick Contamination- or health-related OCD is associated with persistent worries about one’s health or the health of loved ones. Common obsessions in contamination-related OCD include the fear of getting sick with a serious illness like rabies, ebola, H1N1 (swine flu), Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, mad cow disease, hepatitis, or avian influenza. Other frequent obsessions focus on the fear of contracting sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) such as AIDS/HIV, herpes, HPV, syphilis, or chlamydia. Chronic progressive diseases, like AIDS, that have no known cure tend to evoke extreme anxiety. Individuals with OCD fear both getting sick and the negative consequences associated with illness, which may range from pain and discomfort to serious repercussions such as death, sterility, or deformity. Some individuals have a strong fear of vomiting (also known as vomit phobia or...

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OCD guilt, shame, disgust, anxiety & depression: Why treatment sometimes fails (and what to do about it)

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OCD isn’t just about anxiety. Although anxiety is certainly a prominent feature of the disorder, clinicians who only attend to anxious symptoms can easily overlook some of its other core features. As a psychologist in Palm Beach, Florida, I work closely with kids, teens, and adults throughout the greater Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami areas on strategies for recovering from OCD. In the patients I treat, anxiety is often accompanied by significant guilt, shame, disgust, and depression. These features are not necessarily related to, or caused by, anxiety; they can be distinct processes. If you (or your psychologist) conceptualize exposure and response prevention (ERP) as only a means to habituate to anxiety but fail to consider how treatment must also address these other features, you are likely to have a suboptimal treatment response and will continue to experience significant...

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