Ebola/Handwashing Combo Post

Why haven’t I written here about OCD and Ebola yet?

The Ebola virus fright this year has become highly politicized. I would be the first to complain about media hype, sensationalism, and attempts to scare the public. We also must recognize that it should be perfectly reasonable to have discussions and disagreements about protocol without it becoming political, or overly emotional. It can be political, of course, but shouldn’t have to be.

Many people with OCD experience fears of illness, and these people (at times including myself) are particularly susceptible to this type of scare and media hype. Luckily, I have not been unreasonably worried about Ebola this year. It should be noted, however, that for someone with OCD, media hype isn’t even necessary. Those of us with OCD often develop fears based on stimuli which would hardly even affect normal people, let alone scare them.

Sometimes it seems people think it is necessary to over-state or exaggerate something to make an impression on others at all. Sometimes I wonder if this had to do with my childhood fear of germs, and hand washing compulsion. At school, teachers emphasized hand washing. They showed us videos about germs. The normal kids went on not washing their hands but I decided to, every day before lunch. It separated me from the other kids. It was a ritual no one else did. Yet I only washed my hands once — every single day, before lunch. (Not that that was the only time I washed my hands, but the only unusual time I washed my hands, at school.) Would I have been this way if teachers hadn’t treated me like every other kid, assuming I would not listen well enough, or take the concern of germs seriously? I don’t know. Would I have had other OCD fears and compulsions? Probably. But is it right to overstate what we say to kids, assuming they will only mind half of it?