Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Why I Love Wipes

Patient Expert

Wipes are one of mankind's greatest inventions. You know, those things that pop up out of a container like Kleenex and come in a lot of different varieties. There are the ones for cleaning baby bottoms (and faces/hands). Then there are the actual cleaning ones that you use to clean your bathroom or kitchen. Of course, now you have wipes for things like computer monitor screens and cleaning leather, but the first two kinds are my favorite.

Okay, I know that if you don't have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), like me, or clean for a living, you probably are scratching your head. But if you clean for a living, you probably love them as much as I do. And if you have OCD, I'm sure you're saying "Hell, yeah"

Many people think of OCD as a fear of germs, but it's not that simple. While there might be an element of phobia mixed in, the disorder is well named. You are driven to do certain things, sometimes over and over again. In completely non-technical terms, it's like a LP needle that gets stuck in a scratch, and the record gets stuck going over and over the same spot.

Some people never get out of the house because they're showering over and over, or compulsively checking that they've locked the door. We all check that we've locked our door, maybe even twice. But an individual with OCD and this particular obsession will be convinced that they forgot to do it, and even if they've already checked it ten times, they're convinced they still missed it. Along the same lines, someone may become absolutely sure that they just struck a person with their car. They'll drive around the block to see if there's a body lying in the street. Since there isn't, of course, they may stop the car and start searching for the body on foot.

One of my most prominent OCD symptoms is that I hate having anything on my skin that doesn't belong there. If my hands get sticky after eating, I can't concentrate until they're clean. Come to think of it, it really bothers me when I spill something on my clothes, too. Or if I get to work and see that there's a spot on my shirt, it bothers me all day. I know consciously that it's silly to let it bother me, but it still will be on my mind all day. Trust me, my husband gets a lot of mileage out of teasing me about my OCD, because he knows that I'll be good-natured about it. I know that it doesn't make sense.

Anyway, back to wipes. I was so excited when they were invented. Of course you have baby wipes. Those are probably the ones that have been around the longest. I carry some around with me in a ziploc bag. When you're eating out and the table's gross, napkins just don't do it. As I said, I also hate it when anything sticky gets on my hands. The least little bit can totally distract me and make me want to find a sink. Since that's not always feasible, wipes are great for getting the worst of it off so I can get it off my mind.

Then there are the antibacterial hand cleansing wipes that I use frequently during my day working at the University of California. Although using those is not particularly obsessive when you come into contact with ten or twenty students a day. They just got back to school last week and I'm already sick.

One reason I like the cleaning wipes is that I used to hate using sponges to clean. Not only was it a pain to rinse the cleaning stuff out, but I hate mildewed sponges. I hate even touching them; it kind of freaks me out. I run them through the dishwasher, and if they still smell, they get tossed.

I'm not sure if at this point you're thinking I'm a complete loon, but actually, my OCD is fairly mild. The severity of an individual's OCD is judged by how much of the day it takes up. It doesn't disrupt much of my day, although it can definitely command my attention if something's bothering me. And I was kind of forced to get more relaxed about the cleanliness of my house and clothes when I got Multiple Sclerosis. I just don't have as much energy to clean as I once did, so I'm better at letting the compulsion go.

But I sure am glad that, when I do clean, I can use my trusty wipes.

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