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Do mild OCD sufferers contract fewer infections?

  1. May 16, 2005 #1
    To what point does the compulsive behavior of handwashing act as a prophylactic? (I suggest such manipulation as a part of a "third hand.") Obviously, bleeding hands from overwashing is a detriment. Do monkeys or racoons suffer from this symptom?
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  3. May 16, 2005 #2


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    Nothing scientific here but my calculus teacher was neeeeeever sick in 2 years and he was mildly OCD and cleaned his hands a lot. He had this dry-rinse disinfecting soap at his desk and had like 3 ionic breezes hehe.
  4. May 16, 2005 #3
    I don't understand the last question in relation to the original question. But dogs can suffer from OCD.
  5. May 16, 2005 #4


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    I can see your logic behind the typically clean lifestyle of certain OCD sufferers and its benefit in terms of not contracting illness. For the adult, this is probably not a bad thing and frequent handwashing is suggested by doctors as a means of avoiding/reducing flu, colds etc. However for a child this may be a different story.

    There are some scientists that believe that during development the immune system should be challenged by numerous antigens or else it can become "weak" and unable to mount a good response when the time comes. Some evidence for this comes from asthma studies that show that children that live on farms or that have more than two pets in their household have a lowered risk of developing asthma. I have also heard anecdotal stories, or "old wives tales" with words along the lines of having to "eat a peck of dirt before you grow up". Perhaps this potential association between a less than immaculate hygiene during childhood and decreased incidence of certain diseases was witnessed long ago and is what started these phrases. The flip side to this is that living in a home with cockroaches is also believed to be associated with an elevated risk of asthma, so not all sound hygiene practices need be abandoned.
  6. May 16, 2005 #5
    I volunteer at a nursing home, where washing hands can be a matter of life or death for the residents.

    About other species (or mankind before germ theory) washing - is that a measure of asepsis or does it embody another function?
  7. May 18, 2005 #6
    Sounds like you may be refering to the risk of overreacting to a real threat. This would be mild "hypervigilance", not OCD.
  8. May 18, 2005 #7


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    Excessive handwashing is just one of many forms of OCD and the sufferers of this form may spread fewer germs, but it may not result in fewer infections than another person that takes reasonable precautions.

    I think washing hands after obvious things like going to the bathroom, handling raw chicken, if you are contagious, washing hands after sneezing on them or in contact with someone contagious makes sense. I think the craze right now of making everything in our environment sterile is nuts. I wonder what the long term result of this craze is going to be?
  9. May 19, 2005 #8


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    For what it's worth, I have OCD (just starting behavior therapy- yay!/scary), though my compulsions are all mental. But I do happen to wash my hands regularly and can't remember the last time I was sick.
    The suggestion certainly makes sense, also for people suffering from germ phobias. However, even mild cases of OCD are stressful, and it would be interesting to see what effects that stress might have on the immune system and if it would negate any positive effects. A quick search only turned up one study.
    I know it doesn't help your blood pressure ;)
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