Contamination OCD: imagination vs reality

Image of my kitchen island with food boxes, cleaning supplies & many paper plates & bowls piled with used purple gloves

So I came up with a long list of ideas for blog posts and as usual procrastinating on writing them because of wanting them to be perfect. So gonna break out of that cycle and just write this one without worrying about how good it is…

So I wanna talk about Contamination OCD. OCD has several flavours and this is I think the most prominent one since most people without OCD usually associate germaphobia and cleanliness with OCD and often even use phrases like “I’m so OCD” flippantly to describe their own perfectionism around cleanliness. More on why saying “I’m so OCD” is not cool later but for now I want to talk about what ppl think contamination OCD looks like and what it actually looks like.

For starters, not everyone with contamination OCD is a germophobe. For me personally, I’m specifically afraid of contamination from stuff I’m actually allergic to. This seems like a reasonable thing at first but to get diagnosed with OCD, you must be doing stuff that interferes with everyday functioning. For me, this means avoiding allergens goes far beyond what my allergist asks me to do. Unfortunately the lines aren’t always clear on what’s a reasonable level of allergen avoidance and vague guidelines from the allergist don’t help. Also doesn’t help that I have cleanroom training from my job so I know how things like particle dispersal and settling rates work. Anyway the point is Contamination OCD can be very specific and varies for each person.

So with that intro to Contamination OCD, I wanna talk about what ppl think our living spaces look like vs what they actually look like. The photo above is from my kitchen last week. As you can see, giant mess (mostly used gloves) on the counter. Why? Because my brain told me that the garbage can was…wait for it…too dirty to use…so if I put a garbage bag in it and pulled it out when it was full, it was gonna pull up dirty particles stuck to the inside of the garbage can and that would contaminate me. In my defense, the garbage can really had stuff fall into it like previous used gloves and i didn’t wanna reach in and pick them out so they were there a while.

The photo below shows part of my living room which is littered with gift bags which I buy at Target or CVS when I’m shopping there so I can carry stuff in them since the shopping baskets and carts are super icky. Also pictured small bags of garbage since I wasn’t using the garbage can.

Again the point is to show that Contamination OCD doesn’t equal neat space.

Photo of my living room floor with several large paper gift bags filled with trash

Part of the problem is that I’m scared of going into our garbage room to throw this stuff out. We do have a garbage pick up service where I live which was a big factor in choosing an apartment but they don’t pick up everything and don’t have service on weekends. So I occasionally hire someone to help me take out garbage. OCD is an expensive disease but that’s a topic for another post…

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