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Contamination OCD
CBT / ERP Therapy in Orlando

At GroundWork in Orlando our counselors specialize in the treatment of OCD & Anxiety disorders, provided empirically based treatment to our clients.

image of person washing handsContamination OCD is one of the most common and well-recognized sub-types of OCD. On the surface, this type of OCD doesn’t appear to be too complicated: the obsession is that something or someone is contaminated and can cause sickness or death to oneself or a loved one and the compulsion is washing and cleaning. Yet Contamination OCD is much more complex as virtually anything can be a contaminant to the OCD sufferer, not just dirt, germs or viruses, as most people think.

Contamination fears can include:


  • Catching a disease from bathroom faucets
  • Getting sick from touching door knobs
  • Getting food poisoning from certain restaurants
  • Becoming sick from contact with feces, urine, saliva or blood
  • Getting AIDS from public toilets
  • Getting cold sores from touching money


  • Getting cancer from using bug spray
  • Getting poisoned from taking vitamins or prescription drugs
  • Getting brain damage from walking down the fertilizer aisle
  • Getting cancer from using cleaning products
  • Being drugged by using a tampon

Other People:

  • Becoming fat after touching a fat person
  • Getting AIDS after walking past a gay bar
  • Catching someone’s handicap after contact with a handicapped person
  • Getting cancer after being around a person who has cancer
  • Becoming gay after being waited on by a gay server

Harm to Others:

  • Getting women pregnant by shaking their hands
  • Spreading STDs by touching faucets
  • Giving people cancer by touching them
  • Making family members sick by touching things with dirty hands


  • Germs (but not fears of getting sick)
  • Specific people to types of people as contaminants
  • Distressing feelings related to disgust / contaminants

Compulsive behaviors for Contamination OCD might include:

  • Repetitive hand washing, disinfecting, or showering
  • Throwing things that might be contaminated away
  • Avoiding people, places or things that might be contaminated
  • Asking others repeatedly if they are contaminated or if certain things are contaminated, or whether things are safe or not
  • Repeatedly researching (googling) if things are contaminated
  • ‘Magical’ rituals such as praying or repeating certain things to ‘undo’ contamination
  • Keeping “contamination free” zones at home or at work that others cannot enter

Impact of Contamination OCD

Many individuals with Contamination OCD assume that the contamination is very easily spread to objects or persons they may encounter. For example, a woman may believe that her dress became contaminated with “AIDs germs” after a trip to visit a friend at the hospital. She then believes that the closet in which she hung the dress became contaminated with these “AIDs germs”, her husband’s suit, which he hung next to the dress also became contaminated, as did her husband who wore the suit.   To reduce these feelings of contamination and the fear of becoming infected with “AIDs germs”, the woman will likely shower, scrub, wash, clean and engage in other forms of “decontamination”, such as throwing away her dress and any clothing that may have become infected from hanging in the “contaminated” closet. She may avoid using the closet entirely and she may also avoid being touched by her husband for fear of being re-contaminated by him. Obsessive fears are dealt with by doing compulsive behaviors.

People with Contamination OCD and other types of OCD perform compulsive and/or avoidant behaviors to try and reduce the anxiety that is caused by their obsessions. However, while performing these behaviors may at first reduce the anxiety, it actually reinforces and worsens both the obsessions and the compulsions in the long run. This then leads to an increase in performing compulsive behaviors, which leads to an increase in obsessions and an increase in anxiety. This is known as the Obsessive-Compulsive Cycle and it can greatly interfere in a person’s functioning, happiness and quality of life.

Treatment for Contamination OCD Through CBT & ERP

GroundWork in Orlando offers individual therapy for treatment of adults, children and adolescents with OCD. At GroundWork Counseling, our therapists place a strong emphasis on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), specifically Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) techniques, also known as exposure therapy. CBT and ERP have consistently been found by researchers to be the most effective treatment for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and it is much more proactive and less time consuming than other ‘talk therapies’ that have not been shown to be effective for the treatment of OCD.

Therapists at GroundWork can help you to face your anxiety and distress about things being contaminated and teach you new ways of responding to anxiety. Our approach is compassionate, goal-oriented and scientifically based and focuses on your individual needs.

More about  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

More About Exposure & Response Prevention Treatment 

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Contact Us & Location
GroundWork Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
341 N Maitland Ave #330
Maitland, FL 32751


411 Congress St #3292
Portland, ME 04101

Burlington, VT 05043

Virtual & In-Person Appointments

Virtual / Telehealth appointments available for individuals residing in: Florida, Maine, Vermont, South Carolina & Montana

In-person appointments available in Central Florida. By appointment only.

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