Not to be dramatic, but showering is the absolutely worst part of my day. It’s so boring that I find the whole process physically painful. Okay, fine, that might be a touch too far. It might be the second worst thing following my daily reminder that we live in a crumbling late capitalist society and my mom wants me to pay surge pricing to fly home for Christmas.
I mean, every day I’m expected to strip down in a cold, small room before I enter a cubicle where lukewarm water dribbles over my shivering body. What sick fuck enjoys this twisted grooming ritual?
Before you come for me in the comments, let me clarify that I am a clean person. I wash my legs and my butthole like you’re supposed to! (If that feels oddly specific, it’s a reference to grimy men on Reddit.) However, I hate every second of the process.
And until recently, I found comfort in the belief that I’m not like other girls! I absolutely despise basic hygiene practices like a quirky little weirdo! But it turns out, I’m not alone in my distaste for bathing. It’s actually pretty common among people who have ADHD.
That’s right, my ADHD could be the reason the process of showering is the equivalent of asking me to attend a 5th grade rendition of The Crucible and expecting me to enjoy it. (How could they possibly know the play is an allegory for McCarthyism and unfounded accusations of communist loyalties?! It completely takes you out of the performance.)
So, if I can’t make hating showers my entire personality, I can make it about having ADHD.
Why Is It So Goddamn Hard to Shower When You Have ADHD?
Once upon a time, showers were created by an evil stepmom who wanted everyone to have less fun and joy in their lives. Experts might disagree, but that’s what I believe. Why? Showering is so vulnerable! You’re naked! And cold! And then you have to go through the motions of cleaning every part of you which is exhausting and tedious and I want to spend my time doing more fun things like scrolling on my phone in bed.
To better understand why it’s so awful, it’s important to clarify what boredom does to someone with ADHD. The major symptom of the condition is the dysregulation of dopamine, which according to Cleveland Clinic, is in charge of feelings of pleasure and motivation. Basically, it’s the good stuff that reminds you why you want to stay alive (yay!). When I’m “understimulated” or bored, it feels like red ants are feasting on my body. Uncomfortable is an understatement.
And I’m not the only one who feels this way! For Theresa M., as a person living on planet Earth, there is nothing she understands more than the clear need for and benefits of showering. And as a person living with ADHD, there are few things she hates doing more than showering.
“Tasks that need to be completed daily — like brushing your teeth, taking medicine, washing your face, etc. — are difficult enough because there’s no end to them, no immediate incentive, and no dopamine spike from crossing it off your to-do list for the foreseeable future,” Theresa tells Betches. “Showering is no different, and also 10 times worse.”
Ultimately, the high correlation between ADHD and a disdain for bath time comes down to three things: executive functioning demands, sensory issues, and no “reward” for the behavior, according to Anita Robertson, LCSW, a therapist who specializes in ADHD.
Executive functioning skills are what you use to manage the adulting tasks in your life. For example, there are so many steps behind showering: having a towel handy, changing out your razor, making sure to replace the empty bottle of shampoo that you’ve been swishing water in to make bubbles to give the illusion you’re still washing your hair well after any residue of soap has left. It also requires self-control of stopping a current task to shower.
What makes these steps even harder to manage is that there’s no immediate reward for the behavior, therefore no motivation. Aka it’s BORING! BORING!! BORING!!!!
“Generally showering is removing you from something more fun and engaging so there can be a lot of resistance to transition into a less fun task,” Robertson says. Essentially, your brain is throwing a temper tantrum. Fun!
Also, you’re getting wet while transitioning between hot and cold temperatures, which is, in the words of Theresa,“a fucking sensory nightmare.” Particularly when it’s an “everything” shower and you must bring your dripping wet hair into the world with you.
“Don’t get me started on having to blow dry my hair after I wash it,” Brandi F., who also struggles with sensory processing issues, adds. “It’s too much! I have to lay down for a full 30 to 45 minutes afterwards to recover.” Post-shower naps are self-care! Someone put that on a t-shirt so I can wear it once and then forget to do laundry for six weeks.
How to Make Showering Less Boring/Hellish (Hint: Get Yourself a Metaphorical Cookie)
As someone with ADHD, I’m constantly in need of a sweet, sweet dopamine hit. I need rewards to function (yes, because of my neurodivergent brain, but also as a people pleaser who lives off of external validation). To convince myself to shower, I like to reward myself with a little treat by pairing this awful human task with something I enjoy like dancing to music. (Unfortunately, this elongates my shower time and adds a threat of danger to the process.)
So, find your metaphorical cookie to dunk in your glass of disgusting milk (calcium juice is the shower in this analogy) (yes, I referred to milk as calcium juice). For example, Nicole P. loves her suction phone case so she can slap it to the shower wall and simultaneously watch TV while scrubbing down. And Nick M. says he can’t get a sponge even near his butthole without listening to a podcast. (Well, that wasn’t his exact quote, but the podcast tip was helpful.)
If sensory issues are more of your issue, Robertson suggests space heaters to reduce temp changes when getting in and out of the shower, or using a towel warmer so your bathroom feels like a spa. I also prefer to not wash my hair as frequently to avoid wet hair on my skin (sensory nightmare alert!) so I invest in fancy dry shampoo because it’s a godsend.
And while I also love making trauma my entire identity, the big T-word can also get in the way of completing basic tasks. So, if you are trying these tips and they aren’t working, it might be a sign to get professional support. I love therapy! It’s an hour of talking about myself without anyone interrupting with personal anecdotes that are only semi-related.
My wish for all of us is that someday we’ll truly find pleasure in getting wet. Until then, I should probably up my meds.
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