Fake Hand

What if living with OCD could be oh so easy?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Obsessive hand-washing is the norm these days! But for those with obsessive compulsive disorder, repetitive tasks like hand washing can take over their life.

Typical OCD treatment comes in different forms: virtual reality, pills, or…DIRT?? That’s right –  a common method is to get dirty on purpose, and resist the urge to clean. However, this can be stressful for the patient. Is there a better way?

Baland Jalal from University of Cambridge and colleagues thought so. They revived an old psychology trick called the fake hand illusion. How does it work? The patient’s real hand is covered, and a rubber hand is placed nearby. The doctor brushes each hand. Soon, the patient subconsciously thinks the rubber hand is their real hand. The doctor then dirties the fake hand. 

Results? Patients felt less stressed while undergoing treatment. Feeling calm is important for the therapy to work properly. Jalal believes this simple, low-cost method could replace traditional techniques. 

As for my own arachnophobia. . . I don’t think a fake spider would help!