What If Somebody Asked You If Cleaning Was Contagious

I had a chat with a friend yesterday and, since I have interests in many fields, I often get asked a lot of questions. You can imagine my astonishment when he asked me if OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) was contagious. This is the sort of question that makes it hard for a person to resist the temptation of using epithets signifying another individual’s intellectual deficit (the person actually knows what the condition is). I would understand asking me what OCD was (nobody knows everything). This would be logical. But when he asked me if it’s contagious I was stunned for a second. I will now explain to those of you who are not familiar with the disorder and I will let you decide if it could be transmissible.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a psychological disorder accompanied with high anxiety levels due to its ego-dystonic nature. Ego-dystonic means that it is ‘outside’ of the ego; it is perceived as something alien, as if it intrudes one’s mind. A very good example are the obsessions (which we observe here) – they are understood by the individual as being irrational, they might be even unacceptable for him or her, but they just can’t help it. So here we have obsessions, perceived by the sufferer to be illogical or irrational, yet persisting in his thoughts. Another component are the compulsions (hence obsessive-compulsive); they have the same ego-dystonic values and are behaviours which the individual cannot control. They are formed in order to decrease the anxiety based on the obsessions. For example, a person might have germ-related obsessions. In order to relieve the germ-related mental discomfort, the person will probably be a compulsive cleaner. He will non-stop wash his hands, clean the dust, wash the carpets, clean the windows, use disinfectants everywhere, et cetera – you get the picture. Those are some of the signs and symptoms of OCD. Not to be mistaken with Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder which has pretty much the same symptoms, but it is ego-syntonic (the opposite of ego-dystonic – it feels close, natural). People with OCPD can easily rationalise their behaviours and can explain why they are doing what they are doing. Also, they seem to enjoy their obsessions, whereas people with OCD are tormented by them.

Now you have a basic picture of what OCD is. My friends knows all of the above (and more) and dead seriously asked me if it was contagious. He sincerely expected an answer. I thought he was joking at first, but alas – he wasn’t. Well, knowing what you know about OCD – what do you think, is it contagious?