What are magical impregnation fears in OCD?
|Magical impregnation fears in OCD involve concerns about getting pregnant or getting someone else pregnant despite a lack of sexual intercourse with another person. These obsessions often occur whether or not someone has actually had any physical contact with a person or object.
Sometimes these fears arise after one has hugged another person, touched their belongings, used the same facilities, or even made eye contact with another person. One may also fear coming into contact with semen in public spaces due to concern that incidental contact with semen could result in pregnancy. Conversely, some may fear being responsible for magically impregnating someone else, even though there has been no sexual intercourse or contact. Some may even fear being impregnated after coming in contact with an inanimate object such as a plant; others may be concerned that they could be impregnated by an animal.
Individuals with OCD often have the insight to recognize that their fears are illogical or even impossible, however, the slightest nagging doubt about whether or not they could have been impregnated or impregnated someone else persists and results in a great deal of anxiety. This fear can completely alter a person’s life and cause impairment in one’s functioning, as individuals will seek to avoid all possible feared outcomes or repetitively reassure themselves about their fears.
Magical impregnation related OCD – Common obsessions
- Thinking that you are pregnant despite lack of sexual activity
- Thinking you have impregnated someone else without having had any sexual interaction/intercourse
- Irregularities in menstruation
- Hyperfocus on bodily sensations that could be pregnancy symptoms such as nausea, frequent urination, or feeling like something is moving in your belly
- Hyperfocus on potential signs of pregnancy (nausea, frequent urination, etc.) in a partner
- What if there was semen on that towel?
- What if there was semen on that train seat?
- Was there semen on my hands when I touched that?
- My period should have come today. Could I be pregnant somehow?
- Did the contraception I used work perfectly?
People with OCD focused on fears of magical impregnation may find that their fears are triggered by anything involving sexual contact, physical sensations related to pregnancy symptoms, or possible contact with bodily fluids, especially in public or shared places.
Triggers for people with fears surrounding magical impregnation include:
- Physical or sexual contact of any kind
- Seeing pregnant people
- Experiencing nausea or any other pregnancy-related symptom
- Coming in contact with objects or surfaces that have been touched by others: seats, towels, etc.
- Seeing babies
- Conversations or media involving pregnancy
How can I tell if I’m experiencing fears about magical Impregnation due to OCD, and not exhibiting healthy levels of anxiety or cautiousness?
There are notable differences between fears related to OCD and normal concern and precautions that one would take to prevent pregnancy. Individuals with OCD will experience excessive worry about getting pregnant in ways which are highly improbable or impossible. Individuals with OCD will experience distress from the very thought that they could have gotten pregnant or impregnated someone in an improbable manner, even when they have no particular reason to feel doubt or worry.
Someone with OCD will also engage in compulsions in order to relieve the anxiety that they experience as a result of these obsessions, or to feel 100% certain that they aren’t pregnant or haven’t gotten someone else pregnant. People with OCD often spend hours of their day engaged in obsessions and compulsive behaviors to try to find relief from the distress they experience from these concerns about magical impregnation. They will do whatever they can to feel certain about whether or not they have been impregnated or caused someone else to become pregnant, only to start the cycle all over again when doubt is triggered once more.
When peopWhen people with OCD experience intrusive thoughts, images, feelings, or urges about accidental or magical impregnation, they may engage in any number of mental or physical actions in an attempt to relieve the uncertainty and anxiety they feel. These behaviors are called compulsions, and they inadvertently reinforce the OCD cycle and make it worse over time, by teaching one’s brain that their obsessions posed a real threat in the first place.
Compulsions performed mentally or physically by people with fears surrounding magical impregnation include:
- Avoiding contact with the people or objects that trigger fears about impregnation
- Taking frequent pregnancy tests
- Taking emergency contraception when not needed
- Wearing condoms outside of the context of sexual activity
- Avoiding sexual acts or interactions
- Repetitively asking friends or family for reassurance that one is not pregnant
- Frequently visiting the doctor to get blood tests done or to ensure one is not pregnant
- Repetitively researching possible pregnancy symptoms
- Checking surfaces, clothing, or underwear for semen
- Washing clothes whenever they have come into contact with surfaces that others have touched
- Avoiding contact with people or objects that one fears they could impregnate
- Researching if it’s possible to get pregnant in obscure ways
- Repetitively washing bedding
How to treat fear of magical impregnation
Magical Impregnation fears associated with OCD can be debilitating for people who struggle with them, but OCD is highly treatable. By doing exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy with an OCD specialist, you can find relief from your fears and compulsions.
A trained therapist who understands how to treat your symptoms can help you learn how to cope and improve the quality of your life. ERP is the most effective form of treatment for OCD and many people experience a reduction in symptoms within 13-14 sessions when they attend therapy sessions at least twice a week.
Treatment involves a series of exposures to the things that trigger your fears—in response, you will practice tolerating the anxiety you feel, while resisting the urge to engage in any compulsions, thereby breaking the vicious cycle of OCD. You will approach these exposures in a hierarchical process, beginning with exposures that bring mild anxiety and working your way up to more challenging exposures. Over time, you will teach your brain that it can tolerate uncertainty involving impregnation and pregnancy, just as it does in other areas of life. This can allow you to live your life with confidence in your knowledge and choices, rather than being guided by fear.
Examples of possible exposures done to treat fears surrounding magical impregnation include:
- Imagining worst-case scenarios
- Writing scripts about ways in which one get get pregnant or impregnate someone
- Watching videos of pregnant people
- Being around pregnant people while resisting compulsions
- Making contact with persons or objects that one fears they could impregnate or be impregnated by while resisting compulsion
If you’re struggling with OCD, As an OCD specialist, I’ve used ERP to help many people regain their lives from OCD. I encourage you to learn about NOCD’s accessible, evidence-based approach to treatment 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.