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OCD and (Not) Housekeeping

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This is my first post here, so let me start off by saying, "Hi!" :)


I have had (usually) mild to moderate OCD since I was a teenager (I am now 40); my symptoms most often manifest in the form of fixating on germ contamination...being infected by someone else's germs or spreading my germy-ness to other people or things.


After experiencing chronic stress the last two years, my OCD symptoms now seem to be prominent in my life rather than background noise.


In addition to excessive hand washing, I am having a real problem completing basic household cleaning tasks. For example, I don't want to touch anything I think is dirty, I fear that if a "contaminated" item touches something else, then that new item will then be contaminated as well as anything else it touches, and so on. So...I avoid housework and the anxiety it triggers.


I have very recently stared seeing a therapist to work on OCD and depression.


Even so, I was wondering if anyone has had any experience with these particular OCD symptoms. If so, how did you manage them?


Additionally, I am contemplating taking medication for OCD, and I would like to hear your thoughts about that as well. On the one hand, I would like to give the CBT a chance before trying medication simply because I really need to know how to manage my thinking and avoid/alter catastrophic thinking patterns; on the other hand, I wonder if I may need help with this particular episode since it seems so strong. Frankly, I'm exhausted by the anxiety.


I look forward to reading your responses. Thanks!

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Hi Fenestra --


And welcome! As you can tell by my avatar, I'm not the one with clinical OCD . . . my 14 yo son has it.


And yes, though he's not responsible for the household cleaning (just keeping his room picked-up), I think the "chain of contagion" type OCD is pretty common when contamination OCD is an issue. When my DS's contamination OCD was bad, he definitely didn't want anything "dirty" touching something "clean," even if there was zero possibility of the "dirt" becoming a permanent part of the "clean" item. I would think that housekeeping responsibilities would become pretty complicated at that point, since the whole point of cleaning is to remove the "dirt" or "germs" where they don't belong, but by doing so, you necessarily have to "collect" them somehow . . . on a rag, in a vacuum, etc.


Your therapist should be able to help with this, probably best through exposure therapy (ERP) where you'll be asked to "cross contaminate" some items in your home and become more habituated to the anxious feelings that might stir up. Over time and multiple exposures, the anxiety will tamp down, and eventually fade more or less away altogether.


As for meds, you and your therapist and doctor are best suited to figure that out. But we have found them to be helpful; they can help take the edge off of the anxiety so that your therapeutic "homework" is a little easier to follow through with, and thereby you recover more quickly.


In lieu of prescription medication, have you ever tried SAMe? I've heard some really powerful things about how well it has worked for some with depression and anxiety. We've just begun to try it with our son, so we're still awaiting to see what impact, if any, it has.


All the best,



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  • 2 months later...

The every day clutter is my main problem - and I am a little OCD about liking things neat. So with kids here are some things I have done to help control it.

-I have a few desk organizer type things on my kitchen counter to sort out mail, bills to be paid, to do item (RSVPs) etc. I keep my to-do lists and phone book there too. Home goods has a ton of nice wood and wicker ones.

-We have a pottery barn style bench with baskets underneath by the front door. This holds the kids shoes, school stuff, my purse. We also have a row of hooks for hanging jackets.

-I have light color floors and a lab so my floors are always a problem. I vacuum often for the dog but my WHITE kitchen floor shows everything (It was in the house when we bought and I can't wait to change it!). I think that using the Swiffer Wet some how makes my floors get dirty quicker. Like it leaves a film or something that things stick to. So as easy as it was to use that I find just mopping every week (more like every other) with water and vinegar or sometimes Mr. Clean keeps the floors a lot cleaner. I love the pp idea about spraying the floor with her own solution! I am going to try that. Lets just say I do a lot of spot cleaning (often with a baby wipe!) when some one is coming over.

-I don't leave dirty dishes in my sink overnight and I run the dishwasher every night. Empty it first thing even though it is one of my most dreaded tasks. If not it's too easy to get backed up with dirty dishes everywhere and the dishwasher still needing to be unloaded.

-I do a load of laundry almost everyday. And I make sure it's put away too. That's another thing that builds clutter easily if it gets backed up.

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