Reducing time in the shower?: I have... - My OCD Community

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Reducing time in the shower?

I have contamination OCD that I am trying to work through but it has not been easy. One of the most challenging tasks each day for me is showering. Prior to the onset of all of this, I could take a normal 5-10 minute shower no matter what I did during the day. Now, I spend about an hour or showering even if I just stayed home and watched Netflix all day. It is even worse if I have gone to work or have been out in public or in my car. I hate it and want to spend less time showering. I know a common suggestion to help with this is to set a timer and when it goes off, get out regardless but I know that would make my anxiety worse trying to racing the clock like that. Any thoughts would be appreciated!

15 Replies

I've been trying to reduce my shower time for a couple weeks. My therapist trying to take maybe just 3 minutes off the shower each time so its not too overwhelming. I don't know how this can be done without a timer though.

in reply to BlackOnyx

I have been trying to cut back on the number of times I do each compulsion rather than focus strictly on time because adhering to a time limit like that increases my anxiety. For example, instead of lathering and rinsing my hair 7 times, I'll try for 6. I still am currently spending a lot of time in the shower but I'm hoping that I can eventually cut back on the number of times I feel I need to carry out each compulsion.

DeathtoOCD profile image
DeathtoOCD in reply to

Just reducing it from 7 to 6 is a start, I had issues with the shower not exclusively though contamination though, anything less even by just one is a good start. I know what you mean about racing against the clock, in my case it was generally waiting it out, but its what ever works for you, I think you should try it and see what it does for you, who know it might not be as bad as you think, but if reducing helps better than try that.

"I know a common suggestion to help with this is to set a timer and when it goes off, get out regardless but I know that would make my anxiety worse trying to racing the clock like that."

Have you ever tried doing this? Just asking because I am battling a checking compulsion right now, and a couple weeks ago my therapist wanted me to try doing only two quick checks per 30 minutes of exposure. At first I thought "There's no way," but I've actually reached that goal a few times, and my overall trend is getting closer to it on a regular basis. Point being, setting limits has really helped me assign a cost to my compulsions, and I think twice before doing them. It's helped me eliminate a lot of the "lesser" compulsions and has shown me they're not as powerful as I thought they were.

It does increase my anxiety when I'm doing an exposure, but it's worth it because I'm more successful in the long run, and over the last few days I've noticed my anxiety going down. I've even made a chart in Excel that tracks the number of checks I do on each exposure session, so it's become a bit of a competition with myself. I like to see that trendline going down, even if it spikes up on occasional bad days. So you might give a timer a try, with a reachable goal (50 minutes?) at first and gradually decreasing it to keep it doable but challenging.

Otherwise, I've heard of doing things like changing the order that you wash yourself, going slowly and mindfully, or otherwise mixing up the routine so you are doing less out of habit and more out of intention. There are some general tips here:

Finally, one thing that's really helped me lately is separating my content (obsessions) from my anxiety. You know you can get clean enough to be healthy in less than 10 minutes because that's what you say you used to do, and presumably you weren't walking around contaminated then. So recognize that after 10 minutes you are no longer showering to get clean, you are showering to reduce anxiety. If you stop at 10 minutes, your anxiety might go sky-high, but you will be NO DIRTIER than if you stay in another hour. Reframe your problem as an anxiety issue, not a cleanliness issue. Being contaminated is a real threat, but FEELING contaminated is not, regardless of what your OCD will tell you. If you can gradually build up a tolerance of that feeling, it will eventually stop showing up.

in reply to MothFir

Thank you very much for your feedback and suggestions. No, I havent tried the timer method yet and you make a good point that I won't know how it will work for me until I try it. Even when I think I'm doing well and reducing the amount of time I spend scrubbing and lathering and rinsing and telling myself to stop, I still can't reduce the amount of time I spend in there which is frustrating. I will look at that link you sent and try your suggestions too. Thank you, and best of luck on your journey.

3BirdLover profile image
3BirdLover in reply to MothFir

Good job!!!! :)

So I decided for myself that info was in order.

I had to do research on the specific info about generic viral spreading.( however excessive researching in of itself is OCD) How does it spread? What's the likelyhood? I even got out the 'ol scope to test my house and "contamination" zones.

Once I saw how unlikely it is to catch this virus from surfaces...I personally got way better.

But I still struggle with enclosed spaces and air circulation and ventilation.

in reply to

Thank you. I tend to do the same thing, thinking about the likelihood of something actually being a problem. Depending on what it is, sometimes that train of thought helps, sometimes it doesnt. I'm hoping to eventually get to the point where I dont need that to feel better but theres a long road in front of me before i get there. Best of luck with your journey!

One type of ERP that is easier to do (at least for me) is to do imaginable exposure. One of the things I believe we do, most of the time without knowing it, is play thoughts about something being contaminated in our mind, which eventually becomes an obsession. (I believe the OCD is already there; but that's a different topic). So, "imagine" in your mind that you're cutting your shower time shorter, touching things that you previously considered contaminated. This would be an easier way to build up to the actual exposure.

Hope this helps.

in reply to Fishman123

Thank you for your advice. ERP is the one component of therapy that I am currently missing. I'm trying to find someone who can help guide me through it but I am trying to do some smaller exposures on my own.

Hi. I personally use the "maybe, maybe not" technique ;)

Usually I don't have this issue that you do, but occasionally I do wonder if I showered long enough. I heard about the "maybe, maybe not" tip and it worked for me. If I'm in the shower and I think "gee, did I wash enough???", I will think to myself "well, maybe, maybe not" and stop. Believe me, I understand that this is not easy, but we have to try very hard to break the compulsion. Try this.... and just stop and step out of the shower without trying to rationalize anything. The more you do it, the easier it will be. It's imperative to not do the compulsion. Good luck :) .... hope you have great results!!!!

in reply to 3BirdLover

Thank you for this suggestion! When I'm having a really rough time, I use a similar technique and say "if soap touched it, it's clean." Sitting with the uncertainty of "am I clean enough? Did I lather enough?" is a huge struggle for me but I wont get past my OCD if I dont start learning to live with it. I'll start trying your technique.

3BirdLover profile image
3BirdLover in reply to

Sounds like you have a technique that works!!!! Yes, it's all about sitting in 'uncertainty' isn't it? I used to have anorexia and struggled with eating too much. Then I finally found out that when I ate something I didn't want to, that I didn't die or anything. :) Sounds odd but experiencing that nothing horrible happened was a huge help.

The easiest and most helpful for me was showering couple of times together with my girlfriend. She would politely tell me to move on just to get that feeling again how to shower properly.

LuvSun profile image
LuvSun in reply to Semtex500

I had to do the same thing. I had my husband shower with me and show me how he showers and it really helped me shorten the time and anxieties of taking a shower.

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