OCD and Doubt

So as you may know, I have been tasked by my therapist to count the number of times I wash my hands each day.  When I started on Sunday, I had no qualms about counting hand washes.  The first few days were no big deal.  I was actually excited to see that I wash my hands fewer times each day than I would have estimated.  Cue OCD.  I’ll open up a window to my head so you can look in on the thought process of a crazy person:

I can’t give these numbers to my therapist.  What if they’re wrong?  What if I’m lying?  What if I fudged the numbers?  What if I didn’t write down every hand wash so as to make myself appear more normal?  What if I wrote down too many hand washes to make myself appear more like I am legitimately suffering from OCD?  If the number is wrong, then treatment will be wrong.  There’s no way to tell.  I should just throw this piece of paper away.  What if my therapist knows I’m lying?  I don’t make a tally after every single time I wash my hands.  Sometimes I wait until I’ve washed them 2, 3, 4 times.  What if I forgot or misremembered one?  I have OCD.  My counting should be perfect.  What’s wrong with me?  Why isn’t it perfect? AGHHHH!

It’s taking everything in me not to tear up the paper on which I have been keeping a tally.


12 thoughts on “OCD and Doubt

  1. Keep it! You can do it! Keep it and sit with the thoughts that you might have counted wrong and what negative consequences might result.

    With that in mind, I have to say, I definitely had a sort of “aha, yes!” moment while reading your OCD thought process! The whole “What if I wrote down too many hand washes to make myself appear more like I am legitimately suffering from OCD?” is something I can definitely relate to. All to often I have wondered if I really have OCD or if am just trying to make myself appear to be “legitimately suffering” or suffering more than I actually am. As if worrying about contamination wasn’t enough, I start to worry if I am intentionally bringing it all upon myself! Of course, the funny thing is, this sort of question and the others you mention here, are very OCD! To have an internal debate of this nature is evidence of OCD itself!

    1. I think I might have OCD, but I don’t seem to have such extreme symptoms as real sufferers, so I’m reluctant to go to the doctor — although I’m always reluctant to go to the doctor I’m such a bloke! 🙂 — for a diagnosis in case they don’t believe me. On the other hand, I don’t want the diagnosis. Then it’ll be official, and I’m not sure I’m ready for that.

      1. I was diagnosed 10 years ago but it didn’t become enough of a problem to get treatment until a couple of years ago. You shouldn’t seek diagnosis or treatment until you’re ready. You may not even have it. If your potential symptoms worsen, though, you should more seriously consider seeing a doctor. My symptoms are still not bad at all compared to many people who have OCD. It’s easier to treat the earlier you start treatment. The longer you wait, the bigger your fears get (avoiding fears makes them grow).

        1. Hmm, a bit of a catch-22 situation, then? 🙂 I will bear that in mind, thanks.

          With the hand-washing tally, would it be useful to note how many times were for genuine hygiene reasons, for example, after going to the loo or before cooking?

          1. It could be, but I wouldn’t do that on a regular basis or it could become an obsession of its own. “Normal” hand washing is 10-15 times per day. Some people wash more than that. OCD is when you experience anxiety if you don’t wash your hands when you feel the need to do so. With my tally, I’m not noting which are ok and which are OCD. That would just be too much. I know that 15 would be acceptable and I’m in the 30s each day. So I’m about double normal.

            I wish I had sought cognitive behavior therapy 10 years ago when I was diagnosed, but I didn’t think I needed it. That’s common, though. Most people with OCD take around a decade to seek medication or therapy for OCD.

            1. Thanks. I’ll seriously think about going to the doctor’s.

              Good luck with reducing the hand-washing tally; even if you just get below thirty, that’s an improvement. You should be honest with the total because you won’t know if you are improving or not. I expect *you* know that, though, but it’s your OCD that needs convincing.

              I suppose the ultimate aim is to stop feeling contaminated, so there’s no need to wash your hands all the time.

  2. I just found your blog, and am going to visit often! I too have insane issues with OCD, and the hand washing was never an issue until I had children. Two toddlers, change a diaper, wash the hands. Cutting an apple, wash the hands. Let the dogs out, well, THEY pooped, so that’s kind of like changing diapers with our door handle… WASH THE HANDS.

    The result? Severe old lady hands. Recommendations for a good hand cream?

    1. I’m always glad to have a new reader! I look forward to your comments!

      I read an article recently about OCD getting worse during and after pregnancy. Apparently it’s very common! I can’t even imagine having a baby and having OCD. That takes strength!

      As far as hand cream, I just use Lubriderm Advanced Therapy For Extra Dr Skin. I keep a small bottle in my purse and use it liberally throughout the day. I go through as much lotion as hand sanitizer! I also wear moisturizer gloves at night after applying more lotion. It gives my skin a chance to heal. You can get the same effect just by wearing socks or something on your hands after putting on lotion. So yeah, just lots and lots and LOTS of lotion throughout the day.

    2. Hi Kelsey,

      Do you have E45 where you live? It’s a range of products for dry skin conditions, including eczema, which I get on my hands now and again with varying severity. Anyway, they do a handwash, which is much more moisturising than ordinary handwash. There’s also E45 cream, which you can just slather on as and when. If E45 can soothe my horrible eczema skin, I’m sure it can help with your “old lady hands”. You can get it in chemist shops like Boots (http://www.us.boots.com/).

  3. OCD is so funny. I find it interesting the places where I do and don’t overlap with other people. I SO relate to your issues around taking the kids to the bathroom, and some other contamination stuff you’ve mentioned. But I don’t have the perfectionism piece at all. When I’ve had to count stuff for my therapist in the past, I got lazy and sometimes just made stuff up. Oops! 🙂

    I hear you about all the times that it seems “okay,” even “good” to wash, and yet somehow other people don’t have to do it.

  4. I wish I had some good advice for you! Instead I’m just shaking my head saying wow I do that in my head all the time! 🙂

    Keep at it. You’re doing fine, and your therapist is probably just looking for you to be conscious of the handwashing, and also just to get a general sense. Even if your tally is off by a couple it’s not going to throw your numbers off significantly, but it’ll give her a ballpark idea of what your compulsion is like.

    And I totally agree with Kelsey. I think I always liked things the way I liked them, but never really realized I had issues til I had kids. Maybe it’s a control thing, I dunno. But it was never something my friends noticed til now. Now it’s like a “thing”.

  5. Elly, great post! Your writing is powerful – I don’t have OCD but I felt like I was in your head! Discovered you through the ProBlogger’s 31 Days to Build a Better Blog/SITSGirls Challenge and really like your site. I, too, blog about a health condition and am always interested in hearing other patient stories. You’re welcome to drop by if you have a chance: http://www.fibroworld.com

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