Howie Mandel hasn’t shaken hands with anyone in eight years due to severe OCD

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Howie Mandel has written a book about his long struggle with ADD and OCD. For many years – most of his life in fact – his obsessions and compulsions ruined his life, adding all sorts of misery to his existence – and that of his wife Terry. It sounds like Howie was basically living in a prison due to all his fears and anxieties. In fact Terry said their lives revolved around Howie’s issues – which he’s finally been able to conquer. For the most part.

Howie Mandel’s lifelong battle with mental disorders nearly cost him his marriage. The “Deal or No Deal” star talks frankly about this struggles with attention-deficit and obsessive-compulsive disorders in a new book, “Here’s the Deal: Don’t Touch Me.”

“Howie’s account of his issues is brave, hilarious and heartbreaking,” a source familiar with the project, due out in November, told The Enquirer. “But he also makes it clear that the road was also a nightmare for his wife Terry, the love of his life. For years, everything revolved around Howie’s fears and obsessions.”

Howie, 53, writes that he was a germaphobe that would banish Terry to a hermetically sealed room if she had a cold and would often walk around their home wearing a surgical mask and gloves. “At times he couldn’t be touched,” said the source. “He was driving Terry crazy.” But with time and therapy, Terry ultimately helped Howie emerge from his isolation. Today he’s no longer even on medication, according to the source.

Although Howie is still a “germ freak” with a peculiar habit – he hasn’t shaken hands with anyone since 2001 – he and Terry have learned to work through the issues together. “In his own way, Howie is an amazing guy. He continues to do stand-up comedy and concert dates every year and has become a big advocate for kids and mental health issues, added the source.

[From the National Enquirer, August 3, 2009, print ed.]

I have a friend who took a trip to Bangkok to see a sick relative and developed a slow but sure case of OCD as a result. She always traced it back to that incident (which involved a severe bacterial infection) and hearing so much about MRSA. Being around her was a nightmare – you’re always walking on eggshells. It’s impossible for someone without OCD to keep up with all the rules so you don’t freak the person out.

That said, thanks to swine flu I’ve also developed a semi-case of OCD. I hold my breath whenever someone sneezes around me – or just if someone stands too close. The other day I was on the bus and this guy sitting next to me sneezed. He didn’t make any attempt to cover his mouth or sneeze into the crook of his arm. In fact he turned in my direction. I made a very loud, obviously disgusted sound and moved my hand (which he’d just sneezed on), along with the rest of my body. I clearly offended the crap out of him, but I didn’t care since a) he made no attempts to protect my health in the slightest, doing the most minimal courtesy and b) I’m pretty sure he gave me pork flu.

See that’s the thing with OCD – once it becomes severe, you become oblivious to the feelings of those around you. Nothing is as important as staying away from germs, or whatever your particular obsession is. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for Terry. The thing about banishing her to a hermetically sealed room is so extreme, and frankly so sad. Can’t you imagine having a terrible cold, and all you want is for the person you love to make you chicken soup and put a cold compress on your head? Instead Terri’s locked away in a vault until she can be decontaminated. And I can’t even imagine what it’d be like to live as Howie, with OCD that extreme. Just the thought of living like that makes me feel anxious.

It sounds like Howie’s managed to reach a reasonable level of mental health. He’ll probably never be completely rid of his OCD, but people can be around him and he can be around people. Sure he doesn’t want to shake their hands, but given all the germs and whatnot… I just consider that good mental health. But we’ve already discussed my issue.

Here’s Howie Mandel (with his wife Terry) getting his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in September. Images thanks to .

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29 Responses to “Howie Mandel hasn’t shaken hands with anyone in eight years due to severe OCD”

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  1. Snoopchew says:

    Was Terry’s wedding ring contaminated?

  2. Tazina says:

    I don’t have OCD but do not like shaking hands with anyone.. You don’t after all know where that right hand has been and if it was washed the last time it was in a bathroom…that includes anyone – even guys in a suit! And I’m not worried about urine since it’s sterile.

  3. maritza says:

    Looks like he has been right all along! Shaking hands does spread viruses!

  4. Frank says:

    Dear Jaybird, it is good that there is talk about OCD. Sadly, you misunderstand the condition.
    Firstly, OCD can be about anything, and not just fear of germs. The anxiety can also be about breaking things (computers, TV, DVD-players, dish washers, appliances), scratching surfaces because of sand, etc…
    Secondly, people with OCD need not be oblivious to other people’s feelings. They usually are, but the anxiety is bigger and they cannot control it, therefore leading to feeling immense guilt towards their loved ones. Yes, Terry was/is severely affected by Howie’s OCD, but she could have left. So do not feel too sorry for her. She made her choice, bless her. Her love is bigger than her sacrifice, obviously.
    As for you, being aware of and disgusted by people sneezing and avoiding that, is not OCD. OCD stands for Obsessive (which you are not) Compulsive (which you are not) Disorder. Avoiding public transport altogether might be.
    My best friend has very severe OCD and is completely disabled because of it, despite years of treatment, hospitalization and buckets of pills.

    Frank, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  5. gg says:

    I take it they have no KIDS …

  6. wif says:

    Thanks Frank, I’ve had friends with OCD too. It’s a horrible, isolating condition. Not just an avoidance of ookiness.

  7. BiggieShortie says:

    @ gg- actually, they do. Hearing about all this phobia OCD it shocks me, too.
    I know they have at least one teen or adult child.

  8. Firestarter says:

    Hey, in this day and age, one can hardly afford to shake hands with people! I often feel the need to don a Haz Mat suit!

  9. Frank says:

    @Firestarter: So long as you accept money (coins, paper), use other people’s phones (at work) or computer keyboard, or even touch anything in public space, there is no rationale in avoiding a handshake. Germs are everywhere.
    And thank god there are, since if we would live in a sterile world, our immune system would do freaky things.
    Even your own skin, mouth and genital & digestive tract is inhabited by millions of germs of many varieties; as it should.

  10. yae says:

    Regular flu kills more people a year than swine flu so it’s ok :) The whole swine flu thing is just to get you to buy vaccines that are owned by powerful people like Rumsfeld and Tamiflu makers. It’s a money making scam. (pat pat) You can relax now.

  11. Firestarter says:

    Frank- I realize that, I was kind of making a joke.

    My father is a doctor so I am well aware of the importance of some germs.

    Thank you for educating me nonetheless.

  12. elusive says:


    If you had seen what swine flu does to young healthy individuals who are sussecptable you would not call it a scam. That being said the same precautions should be take with all types of flus.

  13. Gymo says:

    I don’t have OCD but I do believe in sparing people the germs I picked up on my hands and being spared the same from people.
    My greatest problem and horror, was my girl friend would walk down public stairs sliding her hand down the rail, I am talking about even subway rails which has millions of touch per day and very little cleaning, then she would reach for my hand for some loving hand holding, it drove me nuts.
    There was one good thing that came from my condition, my girlfriends would think I was the most romantic guy because I would carefully bathe them before lovemaking

  14. Gymo says:

    Thinking about it perhaps I do have a mild case of OCD:
    1. If someone touches me on the skin, I feel that person’s hand there for hours, the good part of that is I can relive my girlfriend’s touch in real time for hours after.
    2. I tend to involuntarily hold my breath if someone is too close or sneezes.
    3. I never touch rails nor handles unless forced to.
    4. never willingly touch anyone unless it’s my lover. Perfectly happy to live without human touch.
    5. Wherever I go alway know where the hand washing facilities are and never touch the knobs without paper.
    6. When using someone else’s keyboard never touch mouth, eyes nor nose, then use pants sides for friction clean hands.
    7. I prefer to touch than be touched, I give a mean body massage.
    I consider myself future human.

  15. Nebraska says:

    What an interesting discussion. I had bad Ocd as a kid. I was always afraid and thought that by closing the door 50 times etc that I could prevent bad things from happening. I lived on a farm and chores were hell because of this. It is very brave of Howie Mandel to talk about this condition.

  16. Rosanna says:

    I have OCD, pure Obsessive type, the one that usually doesn’t respond to pills or therapy. In fact, I took pills but they didn’t do much. Finally, 6 months ago I realized my life was going nowhere and I tried the only type of CBT that works, but it’s VERY challenging. It has been EXTREMELY challenging but I must admit it works. At times, it can still be VERY challenging, but I need to remind myself to use the techniques I’ve learnt even if they give me a lot of anxiety when I start using it. It’s a long, hard road. And germs don’t have much to do with OCD per se, obsessions are absurd unrelenting thoughts… one is well aware they are “out” but one can’t control them. And they can involve anything under the sun, stuff like colors, symmetry, order, food, sex, or – like in my case – strategies. The only thing that is sure is that, if you let it run too far, it can ruin your life. But, there is hope.

  17. paranel says:

    He speaks of it as if he is proud of that. He could go get help. It’s not like he can’t afford it. OCD is treatable.

  18. CeeJay says:

    I hate being the gossip board police here, but I fear there’s some real misinformation being passed on here.

    O.C.D. – “Obsessive Compulsive Disorder” is much more severe than having simple fears and anxieties about catching germs.

    If you read excerpts from the book you learn that Howie has a clinically diagnosed case of OCD that involves completing many patterns routinely in his daily life…not just avoiding germs.

    Jaybird, I’m not really convinced that you have OCD simply based on the fact that you dislike germs and rude people who don’t protect you from them. If that is the case than almost all of us have OCD. There’s a reason psychologists and psychiatrists go to school for 8 to 10 years. Making a diagnosises is nothing to take lightly.

  19. b says:

    oh oh ocd…I never had any serious symptoms (that I can recall) in my past and then when our daughter was born she spent 5 wks in the NICU I developed a serious obesseion with germs. I had to wash if I touched any hard surfaces at home- with the serious culprits being the phone, channel changer, fridge door, etc, After coming home from a visit from the hospital I had to change my clothes and basically wash up to my elbows. It has lessened over the years but not gone away.
    Love Howie!

  20. Gymo says:

    In the above photo I know what Howie was thinking.
    Howie: Don’t touch the skin! Don’t touch the skin! and please don’t breath on me, please!

    Wife: I know! I know! we humans are unclean.

  21. somebody says:

    a strange coincidence : he had a role in “monk” (that detective with severe ocd)

  22. Lyla says:

    Regarding the guy who sneezed on your hand: you should have fake sneezed in his face! I don’t think you were rude at all, you were reacting to him being completely disgusting and rude to YOU!

  23. Jaybird – When someone sneezes on your hand & doesn’t get why that is disgusting, that person is being unreasonable. Just about everyone would agree on that issue, OCD or not.

    People with true OCD usually know it by their early 20s, and it’s an absolute nightmare. I speak from experience… and while I don’t know you personally, all the things you’ve said here about germs appear rather rational, especially considering that swine flu is an actual threat. Don’t worry about appearing “OCD” because you’re only taking commonsensical precautions.

  24. Annabelle says:

    Frank, I was about to say the same thing.
    That’s like saying “oh i’m feeling down today… i’ve got depression!” … Yeah, no, you don’t.

  25. fizXgirl314 says:

    i’ve got like the opposite of ocd… i figure if i’m even in a room with someone, i’ve got their germs… it’s pretty irrational to think you can control the spread of germs since there are millions of them and they are microscopics… i grew up in a poor country so we used to eat food out of the garbage… i guess that helped me get over the fear of other people’s germs… and i’ve never gotten anything worse than the common cold… probably cuz i have developed some sort of tolerance… i dunno… what i do notice is that people who are always obsessing about germs or their trite sensitives sound like they’re not having much fun and seem to generally be more vulnerable to allergies and illnesses…

    i dunno, someday i will probably catch something horrendous and eat my words… but until then, at least i don’t live in constant irrational fear…

    this is not a comment in regards to ocd, which i understand is on a completely different level than just your run of the mill germ phobia… i’m just saying that people in poor countries can’t afford to have all these trite sensitivities… we’re growing weak as humans it seems with all the bs problems we generated for ourselves… ya know, as long as you use some common sense, wash and clear regularly, you should be fine…

    in fact, my roommate who is from china is a prime example of how people in other countries are much more hardy… she doesn’t even usually wash her dishes or pots before reuse and she leaves all her food outside without refridgeration… and she’ll eat it unless it’s obviously gone bad… we just need to grow some balls or something… we can handle much more as humans than we think we can…

    ok rant over…

  26. fizXgirl314 says:

    in fact, i have a friend who’s so annoying with her trite sensitivities…

    “oh i can only drink soy milk from a tetra pack, i can only have a certain brand of milk and it has to be coupled with a certain type of food, oh i can’t drink coffee cuz it has too much acid, oh i have a fever, i’m sick i’m this i’m that… ”

    it’s like stfu dude… there’s wayyyyyyyy more acid in orange juice than coffee… there’s no reason why one brand of milk should be more “ok” than another and on and on and on… i’m just so tired of all the lame whining in this country… it’s all psychosomatic… just get over it :)

  27. Aspen says:

    I see women hovering around their children with padding and a bottle of Purell and I think, “No wonder the country has gone to sh*t.”

    I sympathize with irrational fears and acute anxiety. I was diagnosed with a mild form of OCD…”mild” was my therapist’s word…when I was 23 or 24. My obsessions are not germ-related. They are organizational and symmetrical obsessions followed by the other part of OCD…the rituals to “fix” and “quiet” the obsessive thoughts. I alphabetize things, group things, stack things, and–yes–clean things obsessively.

    This does not mean that I alphabetize my CDs like a normal anal person. This means that my CD’s are alphabetized, sorted by genre, and cleaned. No one is allowed to touch them after that. Any small shift in even one stack of them will irritate me, and I will obsess over it…to the point that there will be no sleep, no productivity, and no ability to concentrate on ANYTHING else…to the point of full-on panic attack fit-throwing…until that stack is fixed back to perfection.

    I have a housekeeper who helps me once every other week. Sometimes, after she dusts, she doesn’t put the pictures back right or rearrange the items on my desk in the correct, symmetrical and perfectly-aligned pattern.

    In my early twenties, this would’ve freaked me out to a degree that my cleaning lady would probably never come back to my house.

    Through CBT over a period of 3 years (medication did not help my obsessive thought patterns), I have stopped reacting to a glass ring on the table by scrubbing the entire house with a toothbrush and bleach water.

    It took a lot of work, though.

    Being rude or overly-fastidious about non-existent germ issues is NOT OCD…it’s just petty rudeness.

    However. Someone sneezing on you was horrifically rude. I would’ve recoiled in disgust as well, and I don’t have germ issues at all.

  28. Rose says:

    I am pretty sure my sister has OCD and a fear of germs. Honestly, I can’t really feel sorry for people with this problem because it is so annoying and she is completely inconsiderate of other people’s feelings. I have seen people on tv with the disorder who have to go stand in a big trash dumpster or go for like 24 hours without washing or have people contaminate their stuff by touching it when aren’t allowed to look. Sure these people get panic attacks but they pass. It’s instense therapy but honestly I think it works! Besides people shouldn’t have to accomodate all the neurotic demands. Sure I sometimes don’t want to shake hands or hug someone or even be around some people at all. I can kinda understand not wanting to shake hands or be touched and be cool with that but I could NEVER LOVE A PERSON WHO WAS AFRAID OF MY GERMS! I am very hands on in the love department and would rather be alone than be with someone who would make me feel so rejected and be so callous about my feelings. I as far as I am concerned these people are not helpless and they can help it. My sister concsiencely chooses to live in the problem rather than the solution and I have no desire to enable her stupid obsession. As a matter of fact she just got a prescription for Xanax from the doctor and she obsesses so much that she is actually afraid to take it. Also she will vent to me and obsess about the sanitary conditions at different places or talk about how gross it is if someone accidentally drops something in the trash and then digs in to get whatever they dropped and she always says when she is unloading her obsessive crap on me, “Yanno what I mean?” So I don’t know what she means and I am really grateful to God that I don’t know and I never want to know. Mostly I just want her to shut up and get some talk therapy and take her meds. The only thing that has kinda helped her is her Toy Poodle because she thinks everything about him is cute but she gets grossed out by his feet after a walk outside and has to clean them several times a day.

  29. Rose says:

    ugh why does this site screw up my name :(