Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Magic Germs

Recently, somebody I know with OCD was having some serious anxiety about getting sick.  The reason?  They were in the vicinity of someone who had thrown up.  Even though she knew she hadn't made contact with that person, she was still concerned that maybe she had been exposed.  What if she had been in contact with a person who had been in contact with that person?

What could be lurking on the sink handle?

Now this concern may seem outlandish to some, but for those of us with germ-related OCD fears it makes total sense.  Although I'm much better than I used to be, I know that at different times in my life I have determined that germs have amazing powers.

Powers to spread... powers to stick around. Powers to crawl over distances.  

Magic germs.

But I got to thinking this week... what do I know about germs?  

As far as actual facts go:  Not much.  

What even is a germ really?  As I'm writing this, I realize that I don't actually know, other than that it is something that is icky and can make you sick.

Most of my germ fears are not based on any real scientific knowledge.  They're based on false beliefs, and the tragedy is that I know sometimes there is no level of scientific reasoning that would get rid of the anxiety.

Obviously germs can spread through contact with people who are infected, but different diseases spread in different ways.  I just don't know how it all ultimately works.  There are those times you get a cold and you don't remember even coming into contact with someone who had a cold.  There are other times you know you made out with and snuggled your boyfriend all weekend, and then you don't catch his cold.  

Washing your hands before you eat or after you come into contact with a sick person is obviously a smart move, but over-washing or spending your time worrying about what you will catch will only give you dry skin on your hands and an unquiet mind.  

But I know what it's like to not be able to shake that feeling of contamination until you've washed your hands a certain extent.  My concerns have definitely lessened over the years, but I can still relate to the caricature of an OCD person: someone terrified of germs, washing and washing and washing.  

To those who still struggle, I hope you know it can get better.  With the right treatment, you'll see the real magic isn't the spread of germs, it's the power of your own mind to overcome your biggest fears.