I think I have written a few blog posts about trying on clothes or things related to trying on clothes. Obviously this has been a problem for me. I worry about potentially ruining the clothes—stretching them out, getting deodorant stains on the them, smearing my makeup on the shirts and staining them, maybe busting a zipper or button, whatever.

For these reasons, I had basically trained myself to either not try on clothes in stores or to basically buy whatever I tried on, even if it wasn’t “perfect.” I kind of felt like if I tried it on, I had to claim it as my own. This made shopping a particularly stressful (and sometimes expensive) experience. I became familiar with what brands I liked and what sizes fit me the best, and would typically stick with them. I had clothes that I didn’t particularly like that stayed in my closet for awhile before I gave them away, hardly worn (if it all). 

The situation

Part of my exposures earlier this year included going to the mall or “normal” (not thrift) stores and trying on clothes. Then I had to not buy them (for maximum exposure). This was hard! And frankly, it still is hard for me to try clothes on. I will often just try to size up the clothes in the aisle against my body rather than actually try them on. However, I’m trying on clothes a lot more than I have in the past. Now, my issue is a little different. Now I worry about unbuttoning my pants and putting them back on.

The problem

This may sound odd, and it probably is. I feel like my pants button and zipper are “dirty” because I use the hands I used to wipe myself after going to the bathroom to zip and button myself back up—before washing those hands. Think about it, okay? You go to the bathroom, wipe, pull and zip up pants, button, and then wash your hands. So really, your zipper and button are pretty dirty, right?

Anyway, so I have this obsession now that when I try on clothes, my hands are getting dirty when I take off my pants and then I’m contaminating the store clothes with my dirty hands. I will usually try to unbutton my pants using my shirt as a shield between my hands and the button, but this is surprisingly difficult. If I end up undressing “normally,” I consider that to be a good exposure. Sigh.

Life with OCD can get randomly complicated, can’t it? It’s like when you conquer or overcome one thing, the OCD has another obsession and compulsion waiting in the wings to take its place. I guess that’s why we learn tools to beat it rather than situational, specific ways to handle each obsession.


I will have to try and face this issue more head on. I will have to take ownership of my situation and unbutton and unzip those pants without any fear of contamination. Or maybe the fear is good. Maybe it’s fine. I just have to do it, fear or not, and be okay with the discomfort. There we go. That’s cognitive behavioral therapy.

Have you ever had similar contamination issues with shopping?