: abnormal fear of or distaste for uncleanliness or contamination
(Thank you, dictionary.com. You've been quite helpful.)
So allow me to explain. I started to worry about the cleanliness of my hands in 9th grade when two important events coincided: I started to wear contacts and I took high school biology.
I have had glasses since kindergarten, but I pretty much refused to wear them and would often lose them... on purpose.
Side story: A girl in my kindergarten class made fun of me for wearing glasses. I would come home crying, and my mom eventually sat me down and explained that there is nothing wrong with glasses, but that there is something wrong with someone who teases me for it. She told me to "handle it the way that mom would." The next time the girl made fun of me, it was in front of all the parents while we were being picked up in front of the school. In front of several mothers, including my own, I told her to "kiss my white ass." I guess I heard it in a movie, because my mom wouldn't have said that. But apparently I thought she might if the situation called for it.I finally got contacts the summer before high school started, and I was in love with them.
All of a sudden, I was getting very friendly with my eyes. Putting contacts in required poking, taking them out required pinching, and in between I was constantly touching and making adjustments.
At the same time in biology class, we learned about the immune system and agents of disease. I distinctly remember my biology teacher explaining how germs can enter our body. He said, "By now, you've probably stopped sticking your finger up your nose, but people don't think twice about touching their eyes, and you don't have as many immune cells in your eyes, so it's arguably worse than putting your finger in your nose."
I like to imagine I was touching my eye while he was saying this, adding to the horrible realization that I was making my body vulnerable to intruders by almost constantly touching my eyes.
Let's just say, this resonated deeply with me. I decided to make sure my hands were clean before I did any contact-adjusting or other types of eye-poking activities.
It was at this time that I started to realize how dirty my hands might be from touching commonly used public surfaces.
Door handles became suspect.
Bathroom sinks? Gross.
I began to delegate what responsibilities I could. I began to flush the toilet with my foot.
I started to realize that I don't have an overall aversion to all things associated with dirt or germs. It's pretty public bathroom specific. I don't mind picking up my guinea pig, who spends all his time lying around in his own dung. Actual dirt is okay too, if I'm repotting a houseplant, for instance. And touching common areas that aren't near bathrooms are okay too, even though they might be worse.
For instance, I went bowling a few months ago and had a great, worry-free time even though bowling requires you to not only touch but stick your fingers inside a ball where god knows how many hygiene-challenged salt-of-the-earth types have stuck their poo-laced fingers.
This I had no problem with. But touching the door on the way out a public bathroom? That required a paper towel barrier.
One day, I sat myself down and decided I was going to stop this. I can't waste energy worrying about what possibly dirty surfaces I've touched today. And I'm not constantly touching my contacts throughout the day any more, so why am I so worried? From now on, I'm going to open doors with my bare hands. I'm going to manhandle the sink when I turn it on instead of trying to use my wrist. I am going to stop carrying disinfecting wipes in my purse.
I have overcome! I win the war against myself! I can do anything!
(I still use my foot to flush public toilets.)