The signs of obsessive compulsive disorder
I am a 17-year-old girl. For some time now, I have been facing the problem of washing my hands all day as I continuously feel that they get dirty if I touch any object or person. This is becoming very problematic as I find it difficult to concentrate on my studies with thoughts of hygiene and cleanliness constantly on my mind. I feel that this has started to affect my life in many ways. Could you please tell me a way out?
-Obsessed You seem to be facing difficulties falling under the category of obsessive compulsive symptoms which are characterised by both obsessions (recurrent or intrusive thoughts or images) and compulsive acts (ritualised behaviours that have to be done a certain way or a certain number of times).
The symptoms can either be part of another condition occurring in co-morbidity or can be diagnosed as a separate condition. These symptoms are characterised as a disorder if they interfere significantly with daily function or cause marked distress. The most common obsessions in obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) are fears of dirt, contamination, danger to self and others. The most common compulsions associates with them are cleaning, washing, ritualised checking and repeating. It is important to monitor your feelings after you don’t wash your hands, and in a diary, record such intrusive thoughts. Try not to focus on these intrusive thoughts as they will only make you engage in compelling ritualistic behaviours, indulging in which would reduce anxiety, but only for a brief period of time. Starting step by step by limiting hand washing every day can help. If you wash your hands 20 times in two hours, then try to bring it down to 10 in two hours in the first week, five in the second and so on. Friends and family can help you follow this regimen by giving you daily feedback.
If your problem still persists after you have tried the steps suggested above, then it is recommended that you seek professional help from a trained psychologist or psychiatrist.