Sunday, March 11, 2012

OCD: Slowness

   Turn the shower faucet on. Squirt face soap into my hand. Step into the shower. Pull door closed the second time to make sure it’s sealed.
   Wet my face with one hand. Rub face soap on my cheeks, nose, chin, forehead, cheek, nose. Rinse my hands until they’re free of soap. Splash water on my face. Splash water on my face and rub hands across my face. Splash water on my face. Splash water on my face. Splash water on my face.
Rub my eyes to the rhythm in my head. Open my eyes and pick up liquid bath wash.
Squeeze bath wash bottle with my right hand to put soap in palm of my left hand. Hold soap bottle under my left arm to use my right hand to wipe off any soap residue from top of bottle. Slowly close bottle cap to hear it click. Hold the bottle under the running water to wash off any soap residue before setting it back in its place.
Cover body with bath wash. Each part gets a number of swipes and scrubs according to the rhythm. Rinse bath wash off. Rub skin until it feels free of soap residue.
Wet my hair. Rub my eyes to the rhythm in my head. Pick up shampoo bottle.
Squeeze shampoo bottle with my right hand to put shampoo in palm of my left hand. Hold shampoo bottle under my left arm to use my right hand to wipe off any shampoo residue from top of bottle. Slowly close bottle cap to hear it click. Hold the bottle under the running water to wash off any shampoo residue before setting it back in its place.
Rub shampoo into my hair. Rinse hair. Rub eyes to the rhythm in my head. Squeeze water out of my hair.
Cup my hands to catch water and splash any soap off the shower walls. Squeeze water out of my hair again. Splash water again. Turn off water. Push the lever one more time.
That’s my shower routine. I don’t take 30 minute-plus showers anymore. I can finish up on good days in about seven minutes.
But I can’t seem to let go of a lot of the little rituals, little movements that are embedded in my shower routine.
I didn’t realize that I had so many rituals regarding showering until I started thinking about the things I do that take me significantly longer than it takes my husband.
Maybe a seven to 10 minute shower doesn’t seem like much, but that’s on a day when I’m focused. And the other grooming tasks that I have to do in the morning before leaving for work make the whole process take too much time.
And since the process is steeped in rituals, I dread it and avoid starting, which makes me take even longer.
My parents used to fuss at me for how slowly I performed tasks. Besides the long showers, I took a lot of time to wash dishes, to perform household chores and to get ready to go anywhere.
I researched OCD slowness and discovered that the term obsessive slowness and similar terms are controversial. I found one expert who seemed to write about what I experienced in a commonsense and helpful way.
Fred Penzel, Ph.D., wrote an article called “What the Heck is ‘Obsessive Slowness?’” for OCD Chicago.
He believes the term obsessive slowness is not useful: “There are a great many subtypes of OCD, and many of them cause sufferers to do things slowly or tediously. OCD usually makes sufferers inefficient because of all the extra steps and activities it adds to their lives.”
Penzel goes on to explain that it is important in treatment to determine “why some OCD sufferers do things in what appear to be painfully slow ways.”
He names doubtfulness, waiting for the “just right” feeling and perfectionism as reasons for slowness.
I think all three apply to my shower routine.
With my new awareness, and in my continuing quest to weed out the “hidden” aspects of OCD in my life, I am starting to try to combine and delete steps to become more efficient and to free myself from rituals that are only weighing me down, not just in my shower routine, but all my routines.
And I plan to discuss this with my therapist at my next appointment.
Do you have OCD rituals that slow you down? What success have you had in letting go of the rituals that were not useful and just time consuming?


  1. Hi Tina,
    I love to see how you are taking control and empowering yourself, a step at a time.

    1. Thank you, Carolyn, I appreciate your support and encouragement!

  2. This is a fascinating topic that I had never heard of before. Although I don't relate personally, it is giving me a greater understanding of a loved one. Thanks for sharing this information!

    1. Nadine, Thanks, as always, for stopping by. I didn't relate my sometimes-slowless to OCD for a long time.

  3. Interesting post, Tina. Slow is definitely how I would describe my son Dan, and I can't remember him ever rushing through anything or to get anywhere. In college, he works slower than most of his peers; he tends to over-think, and is also a perfectionist, and that's tough for an artist. I think just being aware of these issues has helped him be successful in his courses...I do hope this is something he will continue to work on as he goes into the workforce (hopefully!)

    1. Janet, I found that when I started working (long, long ago), I made sure I was on time. I was determined not to let my OCD get in the way of me keeping a job. I remember my mother saying, Tina may be late to everything else, but she's never late in getting to work. I guess the pull of wanting to be conscientious on the job and the idea that I would be immediately fired if I was a minute late outweighed my OCD anxieties. Your son will probably do fine in the workplace, especially because he has done well in college and has responded well to treatment and worked hard.

  4. Sometimes I take really long showers in the winter, because it's the only way I can warm up after a long run. But the rest of the time I'm probably in there about 5 minutes.

    So what do you do with your extra time now that you don't have to take slow showers?!

    1. Lisa, I get ready for work more quickly! It really does help me cut down on the "getting ready" time.

      When I was a runner in wintry Northwest Ohio, I used to have to soak in hot baths to warm up after a run. Probably did my muscles good, too.

  5. Interesting thought...I think OCD Slowness is redundant becuase most rituals DO slow you down in one form or another! If I have to check and check again, I'm slowed down my actions....

    1. I agree that it's redundant. I think that was Penzel's point too--slowness is an inherent part of a lot of the OCD rituals. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Super interesting post, Tina! I had to sit here at my computer and really think about it for a bit, because my OCD looks so different from this (I am Pure-O). My "obsessive slowness" showed up a little in my inability to follow along with some conversations because of all of the repetition going on inside my head. I would have to (visibly) shake my head to kind of get the compulsive prayers to clunk together and quit galloping.

    P.S. I added a blogroll to my blog, and I included your site! I hope it gets you some extra traffic!

    1. Thanks, Jackie! I have your blog listed in mine.

      I know what you mean by not being able to follow along in conversations. I would be praying my chants or dwelling on my doubts and not be able to pay attention to what was going on around me.

  7. I used to take long showers. This was because I would have to stop and wash my hands several times in the shower. I also had to shower in a certain order. Also, depending on how dirty I thought I was, I would sometimes shower twice in a row. Lastly, I also had to work very hard to make sure I had tons of soap lather or I didn't feel clean enough. I used to dread showers. Through ERP I've cut out almost all rituals. I now only take about a 10 minute shower. So much less stress.

  8. Again, we are so similar. My shower routine is almost exactly like yours! I know I say this all the time, but, it really comforts me to know there is another "me" running around out there :-) I wish that years ago, I had known you and some of my other friends I have met through blogging but I am so grateful to know you now.

    Oh, and P.S., that's my stove AND my tea kettle!

  9. Sunny, I used to dread showers too, and sometimes still do, but I'm learning to push through. Sometimes I try to change up the order, like wash my hair first. That helps me get out of the "mindless" movements.

    Elizabeth, Maybe we're related! Wouldn't that be funny? I'm glad I met you too! And my friend Sunny, and my other blogging buddies. You have made a big difference in my life! :-)

  10. Replies
    1. Thank you for visiting! My bird clock is my favorite. On the different hours, a different bird chirps.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.