Sterile environments can be unhealthy

16th, 2012
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Housekeepers who relentlessly clean their homes; parents that make their children take a bath after they play at the playground; commuters who hold the hand grips in buses with a napkin; workers who wipe the keyboard everyday; people who won’t even touch money and are unconvinced that soap is actually clean, are considered by some people to be obsessive. Is there a way to get rid of these behaviors?
Why is it that some people think about the entire process of making toast, starting from the production of the bread, while most others can enjoy the toast they bought from a canteen without thinking about how or by whom it was made? This problem doesn’t stop with these people simply avoiding dining out. New concerns continuously emerge in the minds of such people, and the list of things to avoid expands. Are such people obsessed with hygiene? It’s not clear whether this description is suitable for them. However, it is a fact that in some cases this behavior is an obsession and in some others it is a disorder. How can you deal with this obsession or disorder?
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Hülya Çaşkurlu of Sema Hospital defines a hygiene disorder as follows: “The obsessive penchant for hygiene is the continuous belief that everything is dirty and the need to repetitively clean and wipe everything. The symptoms related to this disorder include anxiety disorder, feeling skeptical about the cleanliness of items and having obsessive thoughts.” According to Çaşkurlu, some are pleased with their situation, while others try to control their involuntary behavior. They are unable to achieve this. For instance, a person who doubts the hygiene of his or her hands after washing them may wash them repetitively.
The symptoms of a hygienic behavioral disorder are as follows: continuous hand-washing, cleaning house, cleaning everything that guests use in the house, spending inordinate amounts of time cleaning; washing each and every object that he or she thinks is dirty and being unable to use such objects without cleaning them. Although many reasons have been given as a cause for this disorder, its actual cause isn’t known. According to experts, psychological and environmental factors may cause it. A child whose parents are very neat and precise or excessively prescriptive may develop obsessive thoughts, and accordingly this child may end up with certain behavior patterns.
Dr. Çaşkurlu explains that disease-causing microbes enter the body through physical contact, the respiratory passage or the oral cavity by means of food. “Washing hands well [before and after eating, while preparing food and after going to the toilet]; cleaning food — especially foods consumed raw; being mindful of toilet hygiene — especially in crowded places; and cooking and storing foods at suitable temperatures are enough to prevent microbes from entering your body,” she says.
Contact with microbes necessary in developing immunity
People with excessive concerns about hygiene are generally afraid of being infected by microbes. But, coming into contact with microbes is necessary for developing immunity in the body. Not all microbes are harmful. Therefore, it isn’t a good idea to try to live in a completely microbe-free environment, but what is important is avoiding disease-causing microbes. Children who grow up in a sterile environment are more likely to become ill when they encounter new places. This is because their bodies don’t know how to deal with microbes and are more vulnerable to disease.
*Dr.Hasan Basri İzgi is a psychiatric specialist at Fatih University’s Sema Health Implementation and Research Hospital.
Drawbacks of being excessively clean
If one spends most of his or her time cleaning, it wastes quite a bit of time and he or she can’t focus on other work. Such a person may have communication problems with his or her spouse and children. Cleaning all the time can also leave the sufferer exhausted by the end of the day. After a while, such a person may develop physiological diseases like backaches, muscle pain and arthralgia, which are commonly seen among excessive cleaners.
What if neighbors are bothered with the noise? Switch off the water valve
Dr. Hasan Basri İzgi: Some of my patients clean their house every time they send off their guests, while others won’t eat anything at another person’s home. I have a patient who even surprises herself with her own behavior. My patient would clean her house all night long. Her neighbors became so bothered by the noise that they were switching off the water valve. However, even this wasn’t enough to stop my patient from cleaning. My patient would make her husband go and switch on the water valve so she could continue cleaning. If an obsession grows so much that it starts bothering others, it should definitely be treated. For this end, one needs therapy. If therapy doesn’t work, the doctor has to start medical treatment in addition to therapy.
Resource: Today’s Zaman

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