Germaphobia and OCD Management: Helpful Tricks and Tools

Helpful Tools for Managing OCD and Germaphobia Anxiety in Everyday Life

If you or a family member is living with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), you likely understand the exhausting impact it can have on your everyday life. For many living with OCD, it may seem to exert complete control over your mind and actions throughout the day. 

The Anxiety and Depression Association estimates that OCD affects 2.2 million adults every year, or approximately one percent of the United States population. The stress of everyday life has been magnified for most of us since 2020 because of the Coronavirus pandemic.  

What is Germaphobia?

People with anxiety and OCD centered on cleanliness obsessions may be particularly impacted and triggered by the constant narrative around hand washing hygiene. Germaphobia (Mysophobia), or extreme fear of dirt and germs, has reached an all-time high in the last 18 months. 

Several approaches may be helpful in putting this hygiene emphasis in perspective for those with OCD – and the Time Timer® WASH is an easy-to-use tool that shows users how long they need to wash and rinse their hands.   


What is OCD?

OCD Meaning 

According to the American Psychiatric Association, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a result of overactive areas of the brain, manifesting itself in recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas, sensations, or urges (obsessions) that drive a person to do something repetitively (compulsions). Excessive handwashing is a repetitive behavior commonly associated with OCD. In the age of COVID, frequent handwashing is a positive behavior that should be encouraged among adults and children alike.  

OCD Symptoms

Yet, when anxiety or OCD tendencies lead to excessive handwashing, additional problems may result, not the least of which is more anxiety. When handwashing becomes obsessive, raw or broken skin can result. There are two ways hand washing can get out of control for people with germaphobia, OCD, or anxiety: 1) excessive time spent washing, and 2) frequency of washing. 

But how much is too much? Many people with OCD believe washing their hand’s dozens of times a day to be a normal pattern. When frequency escalates beyond this point, a germaphobia obsession can become a roadblock to living a productive and healthy life.   


Healthy handwashing for a healthy amount of time! 

There is certainly a great deal of clinically verified information supporting the importance of healthy handwashing. According to research published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Library of Medicine, handwashing can reduce the risk of respiratory infection by 16-to-21 percent. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), proper handwashing also reduces the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by 23-to-40 percent. The CDC recommends actively washing your hands for a minimum of 20-seconds. 

If you or someone in your household, workplace, or classroom struggles with washing their hands for an excessive amount of time (or not enough time!), the Time Timer WASH Touchless Handwashing Timer is a game changer.

This amazing little timer provides visual cues for each stage of the handwashing “process” as determined by the CDC. This visual timer helps provide some structure to the handwashing process, which may further support people with OCD and/or Germaphobia. 


Time Timer WASH Can Help!

This visual timer has a digital disappearing face, and is designed to keep users focused on the correct amount of time you should be washing and then rinsing your hands. It is small (3.74 x 3.74 x 2.36 in.) and easily sits on a bathroom or kitchen counter, a ledge, and can even be attached to a mirror with the included suction cup.  

Time Timer WASH helps users track three stages of hand washing in a touchless, visual fashion. The vivid, digital blue indicators on its face make the timer easy to read and understand for students of all abilities. It features music, as well that can be turned off for those with sensory issues.  


What are the stages of Time Timer WASH? 

A Time Timer WASH cycle lasts for a total of 30 seconds and breaks hand washing into three simple steps: 

  • Soap (5 seconds) 
  • Scrub (20 seconds) 
  • Rinse (5 seconds) 

Simply start by holding your hand in front of the Timer. No touching needed! Music and sound can be switched off and on. The sound can be used to help reinforce steps, or may be operated silently for sensitive children. 

This video illustrates Time Timer WASH, along with the music and sounds it uses. We also encourage you to download Time Timer’s FREE Handwashing Activity Guide created especially for educators (and parents)!

Developed by Dr. Eva Phillips, Ed.D., a longtime educator and early childhood advocate, the guide features many creative ways to learn facts, play games, and sing songs around handwashing routines in the classroom.    

Be sure to check out the complete collection of Time Timer visual timers – there is something for everyone!

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