Sunday, March 15, 2020

Handwashing Hell

Wash your hands, We hear it over and over again on television. We read it in the newspapers and on social media. We all know that the best way to protect ourselves from the coronavirus is to wash our hands, repeatedly.

But, thanks be to the Guardian, we can ask what effect this has on people who have obsessive-compulsive disorder-- whose symptoms might include compulsive hand washing. 

Apparently, OCD sufferers wash their hands over and over again because they are responding to thoughts in their minds that tell them to do so. These thoughts are constructed around contagion fears. Some are realistic. Most are not. 

Treatment consists in learning not to obey these thoughts. Now, however, sufferers from OCD are likely to hear the same thought over and over again throughout their daily lives.

David Adam explains:

But for some people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), to be warned they must scrub to protect themselves from an invisible enemy, and to do so in a ritualistic way with internal musical accompaniment, is akin to inviting a demon to come for tea. Some of these people have spent years trying not to wash their hands, often as a prescribed part of their treatment.

Adam himself suffers from OCD:

“It’s definitely put a lot of the internal OCD dialogue back into my life. It’s being reinforced by outside, authoritative voices,” says Erica (not her real name), a long-term OCD patient. “It’s a lot harder to tell yourself that the urge to wash your hands is irrational when everyone on your Twitter feed or on the news is saying: ‘Wash your hands. Nobody is washing their hands correctly.’”

It’s surely an interesting sidelight on the current coronavirus pandemic.


Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

This OCD article provides an excellent barometer for the levels of stress people are encountering, brought on largely by a lunatic media and a CDC website that only feeds the beast. These OCD sufferers are canaries in the coal mine.

Sam L. said...

I wash my hands of it!

Leo G said...

U.K. attempting "herd immunity".
This will be interesting.

Leo G said...

Heck, never even thought aboot this scenario...