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Contamination fears / hand washing advice?

C

crystalrose

Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2020
Messages
5
Location
USA
Hi. If you experience germ related/contamination obsessions and compulsive hand washing and showering or know someone who has, id really appreciate your advice.
I don’t know if I have ocd, but I’ve been dealing with intense anxiety for years. Anxiety about my health has consumed my life for years. And now with covid, I’ve become more aware of germs, and that combined with my health anxiety, I’m in the worst place I’ve been so far.
I’ve started to wash my hands and shower excessively. Showering multiple times in a row because I just feel like I missed a spot, or I might’ve brushed against something and gotten dirty again, I question whether I have or not and even if I’m not sure, I think I better be safe and get back in. I question if I’ve washed long enough. I question if the soap is really working. If I need to scrub harder. Same thing happens with washing my hands. Was it really 20 seconds? Even if I counted, what if I counted wrong? I think I’m spending hours doing this now. Half my day at this point feels like I’m spending it in the bathroom. By the time I finish it all, I’ll have to use the bathroom again soon. While I know my fears and obsessions have been stacking and building for so long, this still has spiraled so fast. This particular obsession only started a couple weeks ago but it’s already got such a hold on me and I feel like I’m going crazy. When I’m washing, I feel trapped in a cycle that I can’t break out of I keep going and going. I want to cry but I have to keep doing it. It feels like I’m possessed or something like I just need to do it because taking the time to wash, as time consuming as it is, feels safer than letting it go and getting sick. Even though when I finish, I still feel worried I’m dirty and will get sick.
I’ve been using disinfectant spray too but I’m almost out and with covid i don’t know if I can even find more anywhere. i know germs are everywhere in the world, they’re unavoidable and that thought is so terrifying. I can’t stop thinking about it. I don’t want to touch anything at all, I feel like everything is contaminated and I don’t know what to do. I imagine the worst case scenario of everything.
If you have any advice on ways to cope and fight the compulsion or limit the thoughts, any things you say to yourself to reassure yourself, anything at all, please share. I don’t have therapy until next week and I feel like I’m at the breaking point.
 
Tawny

Tawny

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Nov 10, 2019
Messages
1,629
Location
England
Germs can be good for us
We are full of all sorts of nasties which turns my stomach, but this is just how it is
Fortunately, unlike cat fleas, they are so small we cannot even see them

I am sorry, it is clear i know nothing about OCD but i just wanted to say hello. There will be smarter people along soon ;)

Next week is not far away. Good luck
 
Lizaje

Lizaje

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Joined
Jul 20, 2020
Messages
521
Location
Idk
You have therapy, but do you have medication? You can search for those basic advice on how to try and cope or even lessen the compulsions and intrusive thoughts.

I guess the best advice i have as to right now, is to distract yourself. The moment you get the thought, such as: "there's a spot on my hand I didn't wash properly," leave the bathroom, just leave, don't think. Go do what you were about to do next.
 
P

Purpleplum

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Feb 7, 2020
Messages
715
Location
U.S.
There are germs we need so you wouldn't want to get rid of all germs. In fact, they are finding out that the today's use of hand sanitizers (even pre-COVID) are leading to kids becoming more allergic to things than before.

Germs help us build immunity.
 
Tawny

Tawny

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Too much house cleaning has been linked to childhood asthma too.

Isn't our digestive system is full of creepy crawlies? 🤢 and isn't that is a good thing.

I know your diagnosis is very serious, and very disabling. :hug:
 
C

CalmMe

Member
Joined
Jul 20, 2020
Messages
20
Location
Texas
Since the covid stuff came to town I've been doing the same thing with my washing. Just today I was showering and using multiple kinds of soaps and wondering if the bar had touched something "contaminated". Then I would use the shower wand and think, "I didn't bleach/put alcohol on the shower head before I got in the shower, maybe it's got covid on it!" I also worry about my body ever touching the walls of the shower because mold and other nasty stuff. If I leave a shampoo bottle open I wonder if something got into the teensy tiny hole in the top. I ponder the cleanliness of shower pouffs vs. washcloths.

My OCD would usually be strong in the shower anyway but now it's gone a bit off the charts.

Since I'm actually struggling with the same thing I'm trying to find a way to ease some of these fears. I'm thinking of a bottle of shower foam where it's a pump so it feels cleaner to me and lathers really well. Maybe a routine where you wash hair first so the soap cascades and you can imagine the water and shampoo cleansing you more as it runs down. Put a turbie twist on the rack and once your hair and hands/arms are clean wrap your hair right up while still in the shower. I do this because it makes my head feel protected. (Or if you don't need to wash your hair just wear a shower cap.)

Wash then from top to bottom and it will feel like the germs are all headed in the same direction -- down the drain and away from you. Clean surfaces you know you need to touch before getting in shower like the shower handle or the faucets. Prepare your soaps and shampoos so they are ready for you to use.

Visualize the germs moving off your body and each part becoming "sterilized" and safe. Set up some rules for your washing so that you tell yourself you only need to spend a certain amount of time on each body part and as you are washing you are becoming cleaner and cleaner during that time. Tell yourself that once that time is done and you have lathered and scrubbed and rinsed, that part is now completed and safe. Then you move to the next part.

Maybe also you could buy a few bath items online that would make you feel more confident about your level of cleanliness without feeling you need to wash over and over. If I use a certain soap I can get stuck in a loop of always wondering if the bar got dirty and you know I have dropped it a few times which is just CRINGEY. The foam body wash is so much more comfortable and makes showering easier for me.

There used to be Johnson's Baby Wash towelettes for washing infants but I would buy them for me. My child was a baby at the time but I just loved these towels and would share them with her (ok, I probably used more than she did). You just take one out of the box and it's dry and you wet it and it becomes a wonderful, never used before and already soaped up washcloth that you can throw away when you're done. I am not sure they still make them but they were really smart items.

I'm not trying to perpetuate your OCD but just some ideas for reducing how much you feel you need to wash is a good first step in my opinion as a fellow OCD'er who literally spent too long in the shower this morning.
 
C

CalmMe

Member
Joined
Jul 20, 2020
Messages
20
Location
Texas
Hi. If you experience germ related/contamination obsessions and compulsive hand washing and showering or know someone who has, id really appreciate your advice.
I don’t know if I have ocd, but I’ve been dealing with intense anxiety for years. Anxiety about my health has consumed my life for years. And now with covid, I’ve become more aware of germs, and that combined with my health anxiety, I’m in the worst place I’ve been so far.
I’ve started to wash my hands and shower excessively. Showering multiple times in a row because I just feel like I missed a spot, or I might’ve brushed against something and gotten dirty again, I question whether I have or not and even if I’m not sure, I think I better be safe and get back in. I question if I’ve washed long enough. I question if the soap is really working. If I need to scrub harder. Same thing happens with washing my hands. Was it really 20 seconds? Even if I counted, what if I counted wrong?
There is a site called washyourlyrics.com (can I put a url?) that will let you input a song you like and it will give you an infographic you can print out and hang in the bathroom where you sing along while you wash your hands to make sure you finished your 20 seconds. I have one in our bathroom right now. It gives each set of lyrics a step of washing hands. Let me know if that might be helpful.
 
Lizaje

Lizaje

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 20, 2020
Messages
521
Location
Idk
I'm not trying to perpetuate your OCD but just some ideas for reducing how much you feel you need to wash is a good first step in my opinion as a fellow OCD'er who literally spent too long in the shower this morning.
I'm familiar with the strange anxiety filled pleasure that comes from being aware that something is becoming cleaner or is 'safe', but I don't think it's a good idea to purposefully try and think about. I would rather attempt to distract myself. We all know those 'safety measures' have led us nowhere and have helped us none.
 
C

CalmMe

Member
Joined
Jul 20, 2020
Messages
20
Location
Texas
Maybe get a shower radio? They have some now that you can stick on the wall and connect to Bluetooth. You could put some songs on and just jam. I used to ponder lots of things in the shower like letters I would want to write to people and I'd write the whole thing in my head and then forget about it once I was out of the bathroom.

Something else I've been doing to relieve some anxiety is memorizing things like the state capitals, NATO alphabet, countries in Africa (there are 54 so it takes a while) and the presidents in order. I run through my lists and it really makes me have to think. (The book "Yo Millard Fillmore" is smashing for learning the presidents of the USA.)
 
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