OCD or not?

I wash my hands ten or twenty or even thirty times a day. It isn’t a ritual. I don’t do it because I think something bad will happen if I don’t. And I’m not a germaphobe, not afraid of getting sick. Also, my job doesn’t involve dirt; I basically type all day. I just don’t like the feeling of my hands being dirty. The slightest feeling of dirtiness and I have to wash them. Purell type hand sanitizers are useless to me because it leaves a faint, sticky residue. The other weird thing is I’m not an exceptionally cleanly person. My apt is only really clean when I’m expecting guests and I’ve been known to skip a shower or two. Does this behavior sound indicative of mild OCD or is it just a quirk? Anyone else feel the same?

You perceive your hands are dirty and you wash them.
Do you know that they are not really dirty and you are spending time washing them for no good reason? How long do you wash them? Do you get gratification from washing them, is it pleasureable to you? Does it calm you or reduce your stress level? What is the total amount of time in a typical day that you spend at the sink? How do you feel if you do perceive your hands as dirty from typing and you don’t wash them?

I’m the same way, and I spend most of my time on a computer typing too. I don’t think it has anything to do with OCD unless you have to wash your hands for no other reason than you have to. That’s what constitutes an obsessive compulsion. When it’s something you know you aren’t doing for any logical reason, yet you can’t not do it, and it’s affecting the way you live your life or plan other activities, it’s probably time to check in for some professional help.

It’s more a practical issue, I think. The buildup of dust and oils from your fingers can make your typing feel ‘off’, and especially if you are typing all day long this can bug you. I also can’t go more than a week without trimming my fingernails, because that too interferes with my typing and the way the keyboard feels to me. This is more of an issue when I’m typing on my laptop than on a normal keyboard, though. I think it’s just a habit more than anything else.

Are you obsessed with washing your hands? Compelled to do it? Motivated unreasonably? It doesn’t sound like it. So, no, not OCD.

Strange behavior is usually not considered a mental disorder unless it interferes with your functioning. In other words, if you’re not risking losing your job because you spend so much time in other bathroom or dumping partners to have more time to wash your hands, you’re fine. Mental disorders (with some exagerrations, like schizophrenia) are exagerrations of normal behaviors anyway. So you have a quirk…people who take the same behavior to the extreme have a disorder.

By the way, I check my alarm clock about thirty times before bed and am mildly disgusted by eating with silverware not from my house. We all do strange stuff.

I type all day long every day at a pretty grimy keyboard and my hands NEVER feel dirty unless I actually do something to get them dirty. . .like dig dirt with them.

So, for you to say that you wash your hands every time your hands feel slightly dirty and that happens 20-30 times per day. . .at the very least you have a ridiculous threshhold for “dirty”.

disclaimer: I’m only speaking as someone who has had OCD for the most part of my life, not offering medical advice, diagnosis or anything remotely like that. There. :smiley:

In my own opinion, and just from what you’ve posted, doesn’t sound like OCD to me. There’s nothing unusual about not liking dirt very much and not liking your hands to be dirty or the *feeling * of your hands being dirty. We all have our quirks.

If you have that overwhelming urge of dread that not washing your hands ten, twenty, fifty times a day exactly will result in some dire, unknown consequences, or if you compulsively wash hands and get no or only brief relief from the anxiety, then maybe, possibly, could be OCD-related.

Also, there are usually other symptoms present, so if it’s only the hand-washing, it doesn’t sound like OCD.

But sounds like it might just be that you like your hands to be clean. Nothing wrong with that! :smiley:

I did some reading on this once. Turns out that OCD can manifest itself lots of ways.

For example, I have a big problem with morbid onychophagia. That’s the unpronouncable way of saying I rip my cuticles to shreds. It just occured to me a few months ago that having 7 fingers actively bleeding all over the place probably wasn’t normal. So I read up. Now that I’m conscious of it, it’s a little better. But it’s always a fight to not dig away with clippers or a blade or just pick pick pick. I manage.

I don’t wash my hands until they’re raw, and I don’t drive around my block 7 times before going to work, or anything like that. But my behavior still falls under OCD. Same category as hair pulling and face picking.

I’m not ritual about what I do either, I just can’t stand feeling any dead “flesh” at all around my fingertips. The itch is worse if I’m bored or anxious about something.

So yeah, it does sound like you have a touch of OCD. It’s not a big deal really. Just be aware of it and don’t let it bleed into other areas of your life. Everyone has their own quirks and this is just one of yours. You’ll be fine.

I bet that if you’re having a boring day or are stressed about something, you wash your hands a lot more than on days when you’re working hard at something you enjoy doing. Try monitoring your behavior and mood. It might be amusing.

It’s a broad fuzzy line between careful and OCD. I’ve danced on both sides of that line. Most folks who are mildly OC head toward the OC side under stress or anxiety. The more stressed you are, the more likely you are to need everything “just right.” I suppose there’s a set of Jeff Foxworthy-style jokes; “You could be OCD if…”

This is just speaking as someone who has undiagnosed OCD (yeah, I know a self-diagnosis is pretty much worthless, but it runs in the family and I’m sure as hell not doing these rituals for shits and giggles), but I have a feeling that if you had it it would be making other small intrusions into your life as well. The compulsive mindset is, at least for me, sort of a slippery slope-- if this completely irrational causation can be true, why not this one? And this one?

Nitpick: The action itself is a compulsion, the perceived frantic need to do it is an obsession. I’m not actually correcting you because “obsessive compulsion” is what it is, just trying to bring a little prescriptivism into the thread. :smiley:

Have you tried wearing gloves (at least around the house)? Heck, you could even start a job at the movie theatre and then you’re wearing gloves all day long :smiley:

I’m asking because I knew a nail-biter who did just that–got a job at a movie theatre–and without even thinking about it he kicked the habit because most of the day he couldn’t get to his fingernails.

WRT the OP, IANAP but I’ve studied a little psychology and I agree with a couple other Dopers that you don’t really need to worry about it unless it affects your well-being, occupational security or personal relationships with others, or it really distresses you. “Distress and disability” are the classic indicators of whether or not something is a mental illness that needs treatment.

I don’t know… Washing your hands 20-30 times a day sounds a little disabling to me. If it takes you 5 minutes each time, that’s maybe 2 hours a DAY spent washing your hands.

And do your hands really feel ‘dirty’? Or is your brain just telling you that? Because I’m having a hard time imagining how typing for 10 minutes could make your hands feel dirty…

What kind of dance do you do on the OCD side of the line?

Quick question: How many times do you wash your hands on the weekends / your days off?

Also, if you do have a touch of OCD -common amongst lots of us you know- you’ve picked a pretty good manifestation of it.

It’s entirely possible to have OCD (at least mildly) and be messy outside of your obsessive areas. My girlfriend has been diagnosed with OCD and her room’s a mess. Her OCD just manifests itself as M&M sorting, a particular ritual involving tapping pills out of bottles, and general fussiness in picking hairs off people, besides starting to worry about everything when she gets stressed.

I don’t think I’m sensing phantom dirt; my hands are dirty, just only very slightly so. Also, I don’t really need to scrub them. Soap is good, but just a quick rinse and toweling is sufficient. 10 Seconds to a minute at most. I guess it is a very mild symptom of OCD. I was just curious if anyone else had the same eccentricity.

Some people just need to have cleaner hands. My husband washes his hands much more often than I do, and my niece has always been a “no dirty hands” kind kid. It does seem like a lot…we’re talking every 30 - 45 minutes of your waking hours. But if it’s not interfering, I wouldn’t be too concerned.

I am a psychiatrist.

Although of course I would not claim to be able to make a definitive diagnosis over the internet , it does sound as though you may (or may not) meet the criteria for OCD as per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders :

*A. Either obsessions or compulsions:

Obsessions as defined by (1), (2), (3), and (4):

(1) recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses, or images that are experienced at some time during the disturbance, as intrusive and inappropriate and that cause marked anxiety or distress

(2) the thoughts, impulses, or images are not simply excessive worries about real-life problems

(3) the person attempts to ignore or suppress such thoughts, impulses, or images, or to neutralize them with some other thought or action

(4) the person recognizes that the obsessional thoughts, impulses, or images are a product of his or her own mind (not imposed from without as in thought insertion)

Compulsions as defined by (1) and (2):

(1) repetitive behaviors (e.g., hand washing, ordering, checking) or mental acts (e.g., praying, counting, repeating words silently) that the person feels driven to perform in response to an obsession, or according to rules that must be applied rigidly

(2) the behaviors or mental acts are aimed at preventing or reducing distress or preventing some dreaded event or situation; however, these behaviors or mental acts either are not connected in a realistic way with what they are designed to neutralize or prevent or are clearly excessive

B. At some point during the course of the disorder, the person has recognized that the obsessions or compulsions are excessive or unreasonable. Note: This does not apply to children.

C. The obsessions or compulsions cause marked distress, are time consuming (take more than 1 hour a day), or significantly interfere with the person’s normal routine, occupational (or academic) functioning, or usual social activities or relationships.

D. I another Axis I disorder is present, the content of the obsessions or compulsions is not restricted to it (e.g., preoccupation with food in the presence of an Eating Disorder; hair pulling in the presence of Trichotillomania; concern with appearance in the presence of Body Dysmorphic Disorder; preoccupation with drugs in the presence of a Substance Use Disorder; preoccupation with having a serious illness in the presence of Hypochondriasis; preoccupation with sexual urges or fantasies in the presence of a Paraphilia; or guilty ruminations in the presence of Major Depressive Disorder).

E. The disturbance is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication) or a general medical condition. *

These psychiatric diagnoses tend to be like that; the criteria seem very scientific and objective at first glance, but deciding whether any particular borderline case meets them hinges on a series of ultimately subjective decisions. In your case, it is not clear whether these thoughts of your unclean hands are really causing you “marked distress”, whether you feel “driven” to wash your hands, whether you see this habit as “excessive or unreasonable”, and whether it is “significantly interfering” with your normal functioning; the questions Cyn asked in post #2 are the sort of things I would ask if you showed up in my office to clarify this, and of course we would also need to rule out the various other possibilities listed in criteria D and E.

Note that, in contrast to what some posters have written, the absence of symptoms in other areas of your life doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t have OCD; just that, if you do have it, you are fortunate to have a relatively mild case. On the other hand, if you don’t have it, you certainly have what we would call an “subthreshold OCD spectrum disorder”; this isn’t a yea-or-nay situation like pregnancy.

In general, I tell my patients that the important thing is not whether you meet some set of ultimately arbitrary criteria, but whether the problem is bothering you enough to look into seeking treatment, in which case we need to define the “problem” clearly enough to decide what sort of treatment would likely be effective (which doesn’t necessarily mean clearly enough to make an unequivocal DSM-IV diagnosis), and then you consider the hassle, expense, likelihood of success, and possible side effects of the treatment and decide whether the symptoms bother you enough to make it worth proceeding. In your case, I suspect that, if you received a full evaluation from a qualified professional, you would probably be told that these relatively mild and constrained symptoms would probably respond very well to a short (12-20 sessions) course of cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy. So, even though these symptoms don’t seem to bother you too much, you might want to think about the fact that there may be a benign and highly effective treatment available.

Hope this was helpful.

Why, a line dance, of course. :smiley: Seriously, though, I was a janitor in a factory before I retired, and I would sometimes get carried away with the cleaning. I also hated to be assigned to a job that I couldn’t find the equipment to do. I had two gear lockers, because I had one of everything, and I knew where to find all of it. In my restrooms, no grafitti survived more than a day or two, especially if it insulted a named person.

As I said, there’s a line. I stayed on the “doing a good job” side of the line most of the time, but I knew I was close to the line, and I’d catch myself going too far sometimes. Did I risk an asthma attack by brushing the thick coat of dust off a fan? Yes, I did, and it damn near killed me. :smack: