Shane Larkin detailed how his OCD affected how often he washed his hands throughout the day.

By Khadrice Rollins
August 22, 2018

In a recent story from ESPN.com's Jackie MacMullan that is part of a five-part series on mental health in the NBA, players discussed if they would use medication or not to deal with mental health issues they have had to deal with during their lives.

One of the players interviewed for the piece was former Celtics guard Shane Larkin, who detailed his off-the-court battle with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Larkin explained how he tried to use medication to treat his OCD when he was younger, but the antidepressant pills he was taking killed his energy and dampened his intensity when playing basketball so he stopped taking them.

The 2013 first-round pick also detailed how his father, Baseball Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin, used to try "tough love" to help Shane get over his OCD. Shane Larkin mentioned how he was obsessed with washing his hands, and Barry would sometimes go to the bathroom and purposely not wash his hands to then touch Shane as his way of challenging his son "to get through it." Shane Larkin told MacMullan "it caused problems between us."

Larkin also spoke about one specific day where his hand washing proved to have a serious impact on how he went about his day.

From MacMullan:

Shane Larkin opens his eyes, sits up and embarks on his own tortured version of "Groundhog Day." He grabs the remote, clicks on SportsCenter and hops out of bed to wait for his "number.'' He is 8 years old, and every morning presents a new set of unpredictable parameters that are purely arbitrary. As he starts to get dressed for school -- a ritual that can last a few minutes or sometimes hours, depending on the number for the day -- he notices an image of Ray Allen flickering on his television screen. Allen, it seems, hit eight 3-pointers in a game the night before. Suddenly, a sensory message makes a beeline for Shane's brain and informs him of the number for the day: eight.

"And then I know," Larkin tells ESPN, "that I have to wash my hands eight times."

After scrubbing fastidiously, Larkin carefully picks out his clothes. But if his shorts touch the carpet by mistake, he not only has to toss them in the hamper and replace them with new ones, he must retreat to the bathroom again to wash his hands.

Eight times.

From there, Larkin attempts to navigate breakfast in a kitchen that is a cauldron of potential germs. He engages in a deft obstacle course as he sidesteps errant spills, a soggy sponge, a dirty dish. As he approaches the front door, with seconds to spare before he misses the bus (again), the family dog patters up to him, tail wagging, and licks his hand. Larkin has no choice: He heads back to the bathroom for eight more cleansings. By the end of the day, his hands are so raw from the obsessive washing, he falls into bed with bloody open sores.

Larkin said that when he took the court, his OCD essentially went away and he would not stress over germs and bacteria the same way.

"I couldn't touch the elevator button or the faucet to turn on the water because, 'Oh, that's so dirty,' but I could walk on a basketball court where guys were grabbing their armpits, digging in their nose, then touching the ball, and I'd be fine," Larkin told MacMullan. "I'd play for hours with that ball, then walk off the court and eat a hamburger without even washing my hands. It made no sense at all."

During the 2013 draft combine, Larkin says he was asked about how he would continue copping with his OCD when he was in the NBA.

The former University of Miami star recently signed a one-year deal with Anadolu Efes in Turkey after spending last season in Boston. He started his career with the Mavericks after they acquired him from the Hawks, who drafted him with the No. 18 pick in 2013. After Dallas he spent one season with the Knicks and then one season with the Nets.

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