Obsessive compulsive disorder - OCD treatment and therapy from NOCD

Fear of color

4 min read
Danielle McDowell

By Danielle McDowell

Reviewed by Taylor Newendorp

Oct 10, 2022

Possibly related to:

Perfectionistic/Perfectionism OCD focused on colors can cause someone to have fears about colors not matching, looking, or feeling just right. It may also involve certain “good” or “bad” colors that may be associated with real things (such as the color red with blood). For some, compulsions may involve the exact shades of their clothes looking right; others may feel the urge to avoid touching objects of a specific color. 

As opposed to personality traits of perfectionism, perfectionistic OCD is not enjoyable, self-motivated, or goal-oriented. There is no real pleasure in accomplishing a task to “perfection.” The tasks completed are compulsions aimed to reduce fear, frustration, anxiety, or distress, or to alleviate worry or doubt. Someone with perfectionist tendencies may have their closet color coded and their books color coded, but it is done for enjoyment and pleasure. When someone is suffering from Perfectionism OCD, they feel anxiety or distress about their urges and the impact they have on their life.

  • Fear that things won’t look or feel right if the colors are not perfect
  • Fear of touching objects of a certain color
  • Fear of getting a certain color paint, ink, etc. on their body
  • Visual fixation on certain colors
  • Fear of being judged if colors are not perceived right by others
  • Fear of making mistakes when getting dressed, organizing the house, etc. 
  • Fear of not being worthy or good enough if they don’t look perfect or their possessions, material goods don’t look perfect
  • Feeling anxiety or unease when colors don’t feel right or perfect

Common triggers

People suffering from Perfectionism OCD focused on colors may be triggered by any situation involving colors, color matching, or specific colors connected to their obsessions.

Circumstances that may potentially trigger obsessions in those with OCD color fears include:

  • Inviting someone over to their house
  • Getting dressed in the morning
  • Decorating
  • Buying clothes or items for themselves
  • Seeing or being around colors themselves
  • Creating art or painting
  • Engaging with objects that prominently feature colors associated with obsessions

How can I tell if it’s Perfectionism OCD focusing on colors, and not just a part of who I am?

OCD thoughts are ego-dystonic, meaning the thoughts are not in line with a person’s identity or beliefs. As a result, they can cause great distress, shame, and anxiety. Compulsions are done in an attempt to get rid of or relieve distress, or to avoid a feared outcome.

3 signs you might be suffering from Perfectionism OCD, rather than just an aspect of your personality:

  • Intrusive thoughts and/or compulsions are taking up more than an hour of time a day.
  • Intrusive thoughts and/or compulsions are causing distress in your everyday life. 
  • You notice an impact in your ability to function throughout your day.

A therapist who specializes in OCD can help assess your symptoms and diagnose you if you believe you are suffering from OCD.

Common compulsions

People experiencing Perfectionism OCD focused on colors will perform compulsions in order to eliminate unease, anxiety, fear, or distress that comes from their obsessions. 

Compulsions performed mentally or physically by people with OCD fear of color include:

  • Excessive color coding of clothes in closets and drawers
  • Avoiding certain colors that feel wrong or imperfect
  • Insisting on certain colors for things they wear or use 
  • Excessive analysis and organization of objects and colors
  • Avoiding looking at certain colors
  • Asking others to move objects or accommodate their avoidance of colors

How to treat fear of color

Perfectionism OCD themes are treated the same way as any other theme: with Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy (ERP). ERP is considered the gold standard treatment for OCD, and is backed by decades of clinical research demonstrating its effectiveness.

ERP therapy consists of working with a therapist to engage in exposures that trigger color-related fears, while resisting the urge to engage in compulsions during and after the exercise. Over time, the brain learns that the thoughts, images, or urges are not dangerous, and that anxiety or distress can be tolerated.

As a result, people with OCD will often experience a gradual reduction in the anxiety they feel when obsession strike, and may eventually feel only minimal anxiety in response to previous triggers. ERP is about learning how to tolerate distress and live free from compulsive behaviors that only reinforce the cycle of OCD.

Examples of exposures of perfectionism OCD themes based on color can look like: 

  • Wearing outfits with colors that feel “wrong”
  • Intentionally messing up color coding systems in the home
  • Go out in public with colors that are “not allowed” or “wrong”
  • Touching objects of a feared color

If you’re struggling with OCD, you can schedule a free 15-minute call today with the NOCD care team to learn how a licensed therapist can help. At NOCD, all therapists specialize in OCD and receive ERP-specific training. ERP is most effective when the therapist conducting the treatment has experience with OCD and training in ERP.

We look forward to working with you.

Learn more about ERP
Taylor Newendorp

Taylor Newendorp, M.A., LCPC, has specialized in the treatment of OCD since 2011. He is a former clinical supervisor for The Center for Anxiety and OCD at AMITA Behavioral Health Hospital in Illinois, and is currently the Regional Clinical Director for NOCD.