The natural desire to avoid contact with germs can sometimes go too far, as with repetitive and frequent hand-washing. For those who struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), this fear of contamination and habitual washing becomes an obsession. However, contrary to expectation, an obsession with hand-washing is less about the fear of germs and more about the fear of change.
Recent research published in Scientific Reports explores the underlying problem of cognitive inflexibility and ways to treat the particular obsession of ceaseless hand cleansing. Scientists used an innovative smart phone app to examine the effectiveness of technology-based intervention as opposed to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or pharmaceuticals. The personalized app is designed to replicate a CBT process called Exposure and Response Prevention, so that the patients can gradually reduce levels of fear and ultimately diminish habituated responses.
The results were quite promising after just one week of use. Members of group one (control) were video recorded while completing a series of systematic hand movements, while members of group two (experimental) were recorded in the process of a thorough hand washing. The third group (experimental) were video recorded while in the midst of exposure to a seemingly noxious substance such as vomit or feces. Participants of both experimental groups reported diminished anxiety and a decrease of obsessive hand-washing after one week of using the smartphone app. If you or a loved one struggles with OCD, this technology might be just the answer you are looking for. Click on the research link below for more information.