A forced wash is a serious mental disorder. The excessive cleansing ritual arises from the fear of germs. Everything important about symptoms, causes and treatment.


People with a washing compulsion suffer from the pressure to repeatedly cleanse their body and especially their hands excessively. The constant washing should keep away bacteria and possible diseases. The washing compulsion often takes so much time that people can no longer pursue their professional and social life. Read here, as all important information about washing compulsion.

ICD codes for this disease: ICD codes are internationally valid medical diagnosis codes. They are found e.g. in doctor's letters or on incapacity certificates. F42

Product Overview


  • What is a washing compulsion?

  • Cleanliness that makes you sick

  • How to treat a washing compulsion

What is a washing compulsion?

Washing compulsion is a very common form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Those affected suffer from the fear that they could become infected or contaminated by being touched by objects with an illness. The fear of bacteria, but also feelings of disgust are great. For example, you avoid touching the door handles with your bare hands or shaking hands with others. However, if you come in contact with a dreaded object, wash your hands, your whole body, or your clothes repeatedly and thoroughly.

They always follow a very specific ritual, which they meticulously adhere to. A single mistake is enough to rekindle the unpleasant thoughts and restart the obsession.

A washing compulsion usually develops gradually. Experts suspect a combination of genetic factors, a fearful personality and a traumatic experience or unfavorable educational methods. Already children can suffer from a washing compulsion. A forced wash in children often occurs after a death in the family, after illness or after the divorce of the parents. Then the washing compulsion becomes an opportunity to regain the lost sense of security.

At first, the compulsive acts are only occasionally carried out, with time the rituals are repeated more and more often. Because the action takes only short-term fear. Soon doubts arise again as to whether germs could not be on the body. The thoughts are only about the fear of pathogens. The washing compulsion takes the lives of those affected increasingly. Many sufferers can eventually no longer fulfill their everyday obligations, for example their profession. They have lost control of their behavior. The sufferer is aware that their fears are exaggerated and therefore they are ashamed of their constraints. Many withdraw from friends and family.

Cleanliness that makes you sick

The fear of bacteria is widespread. Even people without washing experience the idea of ​​bacteria uncomfortable and many people clean and wash excessively. Cleanliness is often intuitively linked to health. To some extent that's true. Our immune system is designed to cope with common pathogens. In fact, excessive hygiene can even harm. By the constant washing and the repeated washing and disinfecting the skin is strongly stressed. It dries out and cracks form. Through these entry gates pathogens easily enter the body where they cause inflammation (eczema) with itching and pain.

How to treat a washing compulsion

It is important that people with a laundry need professional help. For from their own strength, the constraints can rarely cope. As with all obsessive-compulsive disorder, experts recommend Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, during which the patient is confronted with their fears. In addition, medicines can also be used.

Part of the therapy is that those affected touch as many objects as possible, without subsequently washing their hands. The confrontation exercises are initially a very big challenge for those affected. Over time, however, patients learn that despite the contact with bacteria, nothing bad happens to them. The fear is thereby slowly reduced. The therapist accompanies the patients in their confrontation until the affected person alone is able to perform the exercises alone.

obsessive-compulsive disorder

A forced wash is one of the common forms of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Further information on causes, diagnosis and treatment can be found in the article obsessive-compulsive disorder.

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