During the Covid-19 pandemic, it's become not only acceptable but recommended that we wash our hands frequently, as per Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines. That is, any time we're in a public place and before or after touching our face. That includes after pumping gas, opening the mailbox, touching door handles—it's endless, and it won't end when everyone's vaccinated and we start to recover from the pandemic.
For people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), this isn't something to laugh about—there's a vast difference between handwashing to stop the spread of a virus and handwashing that's obsessive. The Mayo Clinic defines OCD as "a pattern of unwanted thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead you to do repetitive behaviors (compulsions). It comes down to the level of impairment and the degree to which these obsessions and compulsions interfere with daily activities and cause distress.
But OCD is not just handwashing, and it's not just a personality quirk or a way to describe someone who is "type-A"; it's a debilitating neuropsychiatric disorder. Between 2 and 3 percent of Americans will suffer from OCD at some point in their lives, and it's estimated to be the 10th leading cause of disability in the world. The good news is that OCD is treatable, but the first step is receiving an accurate diagnosis.
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