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Why is it that when my contamination ocd is at its worst, then things happen to just push me over the edge? I work in a school and my office/room is used by others working with children  when I am working elsewhere. I came back to my room yesterday at the end of the day to find it had been used and two (used) plasters were in the middle of the carpeted floor. I picked up my bags and left - leaving the plasters to be dealt with by the cleaners. 

 Now laying in bed really panicking about coping today. Obviously I can’t avoid this room as it’s my room. Cleaners will pick up plasters, but then touch door handles etc. Room is used for a variety of activities, including yoga, so children will be lying on carpet later in the week - should I inform site team that carpet needs disinfecting? 

 

Why hat does this happen to me?  I was feeling so much better only a couple of weeks ago :( 

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Just reread this and realised that what I should have done was informed site team last night. Then they could have disposed of plasters safely and immediately cleaned area. If I do so today, plasters probably will have been disposed of by cleaners and they’ll never find the exact right part of carpet to clean. 

Realse now that my panic and failure to deal with things properly last night has actually put everyone and myself  in more danger. :( 

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Hi Chelsie, I'm sorry to hear you are going through a rough time, I know that OCD can be hard to deal with.  That said I think you are focused on the wrong thing.  The problem is not that you didn't inform someone about the plasters (forgive me if I get this wrong, according to my quick google search plaster in the UK is what we refer to as band-aids here in the US, or to be more generic bandages, i.e the thin, sticky things you put on when you get a cut), its that you feel so much anxiety about something that most people don't even think twice about. 

For example:

1 hour ago, Chelsie said:

Realse now that my panic and failure to deal with things properly last night has actually put everyone and myself  in more danger.

Assuming we are talking about bandages here, there really is no worthwhile danger to you or anyone in this situation.  A used bandage, while unpleasant, represents a miniscule risk (if any) especially if handled with simple caution (like picking up with a  clean tissue and throwing away).  This sounds like an opportunity for you to practice some CBT and work on reframing your thinking about these types of situations rather than going down the rumination path that you seem to be on.

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Thanks for the reply. Looking back, a better option would have been to have picked up the plasters (band-aids) with something to cover my hand and put both the plasters and hand cover in the bin. By taking the cowardly route, I have made it worse as I now know the cleaner would have picked it up. She wears plastic gloves, but won’t have changed them after touching the plasters and then will have touched other things in the room, including the door handles. Now I have a whole host of contamination to deal with. 

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6 hours ago, Chelsie said:

Looking back, a better option would have been to have picked up the plasters (band-aids) with something to cover my hand and put both the plasters and hand cover in the bin.

I agree this would have been a good choice to make as you would be challenging the anxiety and directly dealing with an unpleasant situation. 
 

6 hours ago, Chelsie said:

She wears plastic gloves, but won’t have changed them after touching the plasters and then will have touched other things in the room, including the door handles. Now I have a whole host of contamination to deal with. 

This however is still an example of problematic thinking.  The risk of contamination you fear is not real.  Your OCD is massively exaggerating and misinterpreting the situation.  The issue is not contamination, the issue is that you are falling in to the trap of believing the lies OCD is telling you.  To move forward you need to work on challenging the idea that these fears are meaningful and worth focusing on.  Yes, the thoughts make you feel uncomfortable, thats anxiety you feel is real, but the source of it, the "contamination" is not.  Time to start separating the feelings from the cause because they aren't actually related like you have come to believe.

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Thanks for the support. I just find it difficult to work out what are legitimate contamination concerns - obviously they exist or protocols for dealing with band-aids, blood spills etc wouldn’t exist - and which are ocd.  

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6 hours ago, Chelsie said:

Thanks for the support. I just find it difficult to work out what are legitimate contamination concerns - obviously they exist or protocols for dealing with band-aids, blood spills etc wouldn’t exist - and which are ocd.  

Yeah, it can definitely be difficult to know what a "normal" reaction is sometimes, especially if its an anxiety you've dealt with for a long time.  Sometimes, especially if its a recurring situation, you can ask another person for guidance (though this can turn in to a reassurance compulsion if you allow it to occur over and over), such as a therapist, partner or friend.  Other times you can observe how other people behave in similar situations and go from there.  Finally sometimes you have to take a best guess, and absent serious and severe safety risks its often the case that you'll err on the side of taking more risk than you might think normal.

And yes, its true, when dealing with biological contaminants like blood there are safety protocols that should be followed, it doesn't mean that each instance is a disaster waiting to happen.  A bandage should be thrown away, and its reasonable not to want to touch it directly, but beyond that? Definitely not worth worrying about.

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It must be difficult to know what is a real possible threat and what is an OCD exaggeration. 

This is where the concept of the "OCD twin",  which I learned in CBT comes into play and can be helpful. 

When faced with what your brain is telling you is a real contamination threat, think what someone you know is sensible - but doesn't have contamination OCD - would think of the situation. 

Then try to respond in that way. 

This isn't a call to ask them for reassurance - the sooner we can "fly solo" without asking for reassurance, then the better for our recovery. 

Work it out for yourself based on your knowledge of their thinking and behaviours. 

This should help - and hopefully lift your spirits. 

I have watched three members of staff, when I was working, struggle with OCD. 

One had health fears OCD,  one contamination and the other the repetitive fear that something awful may have happened, or was about to happen, to her husband ( when I told the latter that she was suffering with OCD and wasn't going mad, her relief was so good to see. 

With those three ladies, they had very different manifestations of OCD, but with the same result - falsehood/ exaggeration causing repetitive negative thinking, urge to carry put compulsions, and resultant disorder. 

Two I helped a lot - the other, who had excess fears of contamination,  moved on - she was spending two hours cleaning her flat before she was "allowed by her OCD"  to come to work, then half an hour cleaning her workstation before she was "allowed" to use it. 

The fact that we were all happily using our " contaminated" phones chairs and workstations shows how irrational - but also totally believable - this horrible illness can be. 

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having a bad afternoon. Things happening at work meant that I didn’t go back into the room where the bandaids were dropped on the floor until today. They were gone, but that was almost worse, as I couldn’t see where they had been and wanted to avoid stepping on that part of the carpet. Also had worry that door handles etc a prob as cleaner who picked up the bandaids would have touched them. Managed to get on with work however, but now just about to go home and face taking the contamination home with me :( 

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Oh well. I would gladly roll all over that carpet for you and lick the doorknobs. Wouldn't bother me a bit.

The contamination only exists in your head.

Edited by PolarBear

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4 minutes ago, PolarBear said:

The contamination only exists in your head.

This might beneficially be framed for you Chelsie and any other contamination sufferer. 

There is no issue with the bandaids. They haven't contaminated the carpet or doorknob. And you aren't taking contamination home with you. 

Only your OCD has made up this exaggeration then irrational connections. 

Who are you going to believe?  Us or what your OCD is telling you?  

Why don't other - sensible, practical, cautious people react like you are doing? 

You do NOT have to believe the nonsense and gobbledegook that OCD dreams up.None of us do. You can stand up to it and slowly, but surely, get your life back. 

I have been working cleaning a part of our carpet in the lounge which has been surrounded by the Virgin media leads and not very accessible until now (with my new cordless vacuum with detachable head and various interchangeable tools). 

It was really mucky and cobwebby under there. 

Did I go about this job wearing rubber gloves, a facemask and spraying disinfectant?

No. Why?  Because I saw no reason to - there was no fear. 

And that is your goal. When there is no artificial threat that is ringing our alarm bell, we don't react, don't suffer distress and have no urge to carry out compulsions. 

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5 hours ago, Chelsie said:

Managed to get on with work however, but now just about to go home and face taking the contamination home with me :( 


Hey Chelsie, I want you to consider the following for a second.  Imagine one of your coworkers came up to you and told you they were afraid that there were a pride of lions loose in your building.  You ask them why they thought there were lions and they tell you, "well I saw some hairs on the carpet that could be lion hair and I thought I heard a scratching noise". Would you be worried there were ACTUALLY lions in the building?  (Full disclosure, I've never been to Essex, or the UK, so maybe lions are super common there, i'm going to assume they are not ;) )  My guess is no, you wouldn't at all be worried about lions being loose in your work building.  You'd think of the millions of other possible explanations for the "signs" your coworker heard, the millions of more reasonable expectations.  That is how other people, people without your kind of contamination worries, would react to the situation you are describing.  PB, Taurean, myself, and probably almost all the other people you know.  We wouldn't think twice about their having been a bandage on the floor or a cleaning person touching the door handle after throwing the bandage away.

I know what you are probably going to say "Its different, my coworker didn't SEE the lion, and I SAW the bandage!" The issue is not whether the bandage exists, its whether the danger exists.  The bandage is as real as the hairs your imaginary coworker saw.  The lions are like the contamination you fear.  They are the threat you THINK is real, but actually isn't.  OCD is sending you false signals.  Those false signals make you feel real anxiety.  But feeling real anxiety doesn't mean a real threat exists.  A person who is afraid of flying feels real anxiety, but that doesn't mean they are at great risk inside a plane.  A person who is afraid of spiders feels real anxiety, even when the spider they see is completely harmless.  You feel real anxiety about contamination but the contamination isn't real.  Part of overcoming OCD is learning to choose how to think and react even when you feel anxiety.  You have to choose to accept that you can feel anxiety even when there is no threat, and when you do that the anxiety will, ironically start to fade.  The less reaction you give to false threats, the less the anxiety will be a problem, until someday you will walk in to a room, see a bandage, and not feel any anxiety at all.

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On 10/01/2019 at 10:20, Chelsie said:

Thanks for the support. I just find it difficult to work out what are legitimate contamination concerns - obviously they exist or protocols for dealing with band-aids, blood spills etc wouldn’t exist - and which are ocd.  

On a possibly related tangent, a while ago, a friend (without OCD) offered me an antiseptic hand wipe after we sat down at a restaurant, I declined, told her, I can't afford the luxury.  

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