Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a condition characterized by intrusive thoughts and repetitive behaviors (compulsions). For many people with OCD, daily activities like showering can be incredibly challenging and lead to long showers.
The obsessive thoughts and compulsive rituals associated with OCD can make even basic hygiene routines feel daunting. But there are strategies and techniques that can help individuals living with OCD.
In this guide, we’ll explore practical tips for taking a quicker shower and reducing the amount of time spent showering when you have OCD. With the right approach, you can take control of your daily shower routine, minimize anxiety triggers, and reduce the time OCD steals from your day.
- 1 Understanding Showering with OCD
- 2 Techniques to Reduce Shower Time with OCD
- 3 How can I make my shower area less triggering?
- 4 What if I can’t finish my routine in the time allowed?
- 5 How long does it take to see progress?
- 6 Should I see a therapist for help?
- 7 Are OCD medications helpful for showering?
- 8 The Bottom Line
Understanding Showering with OCD
Let’s start by looking at why showering can be so difficult with this form of OCD.
OCD comes in many forms, but some common shower-related obsessive thoughts include:
- Fear of germs or contamination
- Need for symmetry or perfection (obsession with order)
- Fear of uncertainty if routine is disrupted
These obsessive thoughts manifest in compulsive behaviors like:
- Excessive washing and scrubbing
- Repeating routine multiple times
- Long showers to ease anxiety
For those with contamination OCD, the shower may bring up distressing thoughts related to getting clean or avoiding illness and germs.
Those with perfectionism OCD may fixate on making sure bottles are arranged “just right” or towels are folded to precise angles.
The bottom line is that OCD can hijack the shower process in many ways, making a typically quick hygiene routine drag on for an hour or longer.
Techniques to Reduce Shower Time with OCD
The good news is there are proven techniques that can help you rein in your OCD symptoms and spend less time in the shower. Let’s look at some effective strategies.
Set timers for each step, limit supplies to essentials, try CBT techniques like exposure therapy, listen to music as distraction, do guided meditation beforehand to reduce anxiety. Recruit support people to encourage progress. Take small manageable steps to reclaim shower routine.
1. Set a Timer
Setting a timer for your total shower length is a simple way to stay focused. Experts recommend starting with a 10-15 minute timer and gradually decreasing the allowed time from there.
You can also set a timer for each part of your routine, like:
- 2 minutes to wet hair
- 3 minutes to wash body
- 2 minutes to rinse
When the timer goes off, practice resisting the urge to start over or continue repeating compulsive behaviors. Stepping out of the shower when the alarm sounds can train your brain that nothing catastrophic will happen if you don’t complete compulsions.
2. Limit Supplies
To prevent getting derailed scrubbing multiple products, limit yourself to necessary items only.
Stick to a basic gentle cleanser and resist the urge to stock up on an array of scented products, loofahs, etc. Too many choices can overwhelm the OCD brain.
3. Use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
CBT is an effective therapy for managing OCD thoughts and behaviors. Two helpful techniques are cognitive restructuring and exposure and response prevention.
With cognitive restructuring, you challenge obsessive thoughts and replace them with more rational perspectives. For example, if your brain says “I’ll get sick if I don’t scrub for 20 minutes” you could counter that thought with “Washing once with soap and water is sufficient to get clean.”
Exposure therapy involves gradually facing fears, like cutting shower time incrementally. This allows you to learn the feared outcome doesn’t happen, lowering anxiety over time.
4. Listen to Music
Listening to calming or upbeat music while you shower can provide a positive distraction from OCD thoughts. The sound blocks out negative rumination and gives you something upbeat to focus on.
5. Try Guided Meditation
Practicing 5-10 minutes of guided meditation or deep breathing before showering can reduce overall anxiety. Free apps like Calm provide relaxing guided exercises to try. Lowering stress before showering can lessen OCD triggers.
6. Get Support
Recovering from OCD is challenging, so recruiting help is key. Ask a loved one to periodically check in on you while showering and provide encouragement to stay on track. You could also join an OCD support group to connect with others facing similar struggles.
To wrap up, here are answers to some frequently asked questions about quickening your shower routine with OCD:
How can I make my shower area less triggering?
Decluttering your shower space can help reduce triggers. Limit products to basics only and avoid clutter that could lead to obsessive organizing or cleaning.
What if I can’t finish my routine in the time allowed?
It’s expected to struggle at first! Reframe slipping up as an opportunity to try again. Over time you can lengthen the allowed time incrementally as you master each goal.
How long does it take to see progress?
Showering with OCD can be a lifelong process, with ups and downs. But using proven techniques, many experience gradual improvements in shower time over a period of weeks or months. Be patient with yourself.
Should I see a therapist for help?
Yes, consulting an OCD specialist to help implement CBT techniques can greatly improve your progress and ability to manage symptoms. Find a qualified therapist at the International OCD Foundation.
Are OCD medications helpful for showering?
Certain antidepressants like SSRIs can reduce overall anxiety and improve OCD symptoms for some people in conjunction with therapy. Discuss medication options with your mental health provider.
The Bottom Line
The repetitive rituals of OCD can make showering feel impossible, but there are many effective strategies to reduce time spent scrubbing, soothing anxiety, and giving in to compulsions.
With tools like timed shower goals, CBT techniques, relaxation practices and professional help, you can overcome the obstacles of OCD and reclaim your shower routine. Take it one manageable step at a time.
Overcoming OCD requires courage, commitment and kindness towards yourself. With the right approach and support you can make progress. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) is a great resource for finding therapists and treatment options.
You are not alone in this struggle. By implementing the techniques in this guide, many find they can achieve quicker, less stressful showers. Success is possible with consistent practice. If someone you know is struggling with OCD, gently guide them towards resources and professional support.