Living with a family member who is "conte... - My OCD Community

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Living with a family member who is "content" with having Mysophobia


I've a family member (lets call them A) who suffers from severe Mysophobia since the start of the COVID outbreak in March. A is convinced that the home is full of germs causing them to avoid touching all surfaces in the house, walk (sidle around the house) in a set route, take 30 mins to wash their hands, take 2-hr long baths, avoid doing any house chores and the list still goes on. It has been 9 months and A's condition continues to worsen. It has gotten to a point long ago that it has disrupted A's daily life and also the lives of the family members. The family members, especially the parents, are distraught by A's condition. A's parents have tried talking to them about their condition, but any reassurance and advice they give always goes over A's head. A is well aware of their condition and seems to be "content" with their current situation and shows no signs of wanting to get better. When their condition is brought up (always gently at first) they become extremely defensive and hostile. When questions about A's condition are asked (to understand their situation better), they give nonchalant answers and excuses which are very infuriating for the family. After that, the situation always escalates to shouting fights that doesn't make any positive progress. Another thing I should mention, it also seems A is selectively(?) Mysophobia, where they are ok with certain things being dirty, such as their laptop and their phone while everything else is dirty to them.

We are at loss at how to handle this and our lives for the past 9 months have been highly stressful. Since talking doesn't seem to be working, we have resorted to pretending A's condition doesn't exist to live a "semi-happy" life. However, we know this will not work for the long term, as rows happen usually twice a month.

For those who have family members with Mysophobia, what are your methods of reassuring and helping them? And is being "content" with Mysophobia a normal thing? We'll appreciate any advice or sharing of experiences. A's condition is starting to tear the family apart and personally, seeing the parents suffer is heartbreaking.

17 Replies

It seems to me that household chores should not not optional if A lives in the house. I don't know how old A is, but who is paying for A's computer and phone? If chores are not done, then privileges should be removed. If A's parents are paying A's bills, then they should stop unless/until chores are done. If A is a working adult & unwilling to do chores, then A should pay some rent. We had a similar issue with a young adult (not with mysophobia) and a friend noted that she didn't want to be a tenant who paid rent, but she also didn't want to be a family member, who helps with chores. It sounds harsh, but we eventually had to ask her to leave. If you live with other people, unless you are bedbound and unable to wash a dish, you have to be either a family member or a tenant. You can't opt out of everything.

A is a young adult living with their parents. They're still very much reliant on the parents. We have taken this into consideration before. The parents haven't done so yet, but it was mentioned before to A that her privileges may be removed if they don't do the house chores. However, it didn't seem to have an effect on A. We're not sure if A is going through the teenage rebellious phase or A just believe the parents won't have the heart to remove their privileges, so there's no reason to change... But you're right about not being able to opt out of everything. We have set restriction for A, like giving them a time limit for washing hands and bathing, but A just ignores them.

It sounds like a very tough and frustrating situation. Unfortunately, A is at an age where her parents might be the last people she might want to confide in. I wonder whether some books or videos on OCD could be helpful to A and her parents. I have a video made by/about youth with OCD. I'd be happy to mail you some resources if you'd like.

Yes, please. That would be super helpful. Can mail the resources through chat function of this forum? Thanks in advance!

I would strongly recommend that you (yourself) get some expert advice from an OCD special therapist. It will help give you insight into how A may be feeling and how to approach getting help.

Yes, I do plan to seek expert advice on OCD, but I'm finding it hard to find a governmental OCD association in my country. We are not financially capable of seeking any form of privatised medical or psychological therapy at the moment, but we may go into if A's condition continues to worsen further. Thank you for the advice!

I'm wondering if A just seems content to avoid treatment since exposure therapy can be scary to think about. I have contamination OCD and I do some ERP but I find the idea of fully delving into it scary.

Yes, that could be the case. A isn't very knowledgeable about their condition, so they might not have heard of ERP , but they have very strong reactions when the parents try to gently expose them to surfaces in the house (that are clean). As a person without contamination OCD, I can't say I understand what you're feeling but I can imagine what it must be like :( If it's not too stressful for you, can you elaborate on your experience with ERP, such as how you handle your anxiety when you're doing ERP? I suppose A will eventually go for exposure therapy, but they are so averse to being in contact with even things in the house that we don't know how to get them started, unless we physically force them, which is quite harsh.

Its been weird for me the things I've done for exposure therapy haven't really made me anxious, I just expected them to so I'd avoid them. I end up avoiding a lot thinking things are dirty. Some exposures I've done are touching the floor, touching the floor than eating a cracker, using the work bathroom, washing dishes without washing the sink first, having a shower without spraying the shower first, wearing pj's for two nights instead of just one, wearing a shirt twice, touching my dirty laundry, taking a mask from my dirty laundry(there wasn't much in the basket) and wearing it(this one did raise my anxiety a bit). Generally whats supposed to happen with an exposure is your anxiety is supposed to go up and than with the passing of time and without compulsing come back down.

BlackOnyx in reply to BlackOnyx

Oh I should say I sometimes distract myself when doing ERP which might be whats keeping me from getting too anxious.

Thank you for the input. Reading down the list, I can understand why ERP would be scary to delve into. I hope ERP has gotten less stressful for you now.

Thank you.

Check out "the OCD Stories" with Stuart Ralph... podcast and on you tube. There are many episodes and they are powerful in relating real life stories from patients and providers! I can't overstate how helpful they have been for me in understanding my son with OCD, and understanding the right treatment...ERP, ERP, ERP! We wasted many years until now. It not only informs but offers GREAT HOPE in overcoming the misery of OCD.

Thank you for the information and the hope you have given us by pointing us in the right direction! From my understanding and input from BlackOnyx, ERP can be very stressful. How did you coax your son to start ERP?

He saw some of the IOCDF presentations at the august zoom conference. He understands it is the definitive treatment for OCD and has started virtual treatment thrü NOCD. He has stepped away from it fairly early ... his complicating factor is substance use. So, He has not significantly committed yet to ERP. It's been difficult but has NOT changed my understanding that the key is ERP !! We will persist. Please explore The OCD Stories podcasts...try episodes 252 , 253, 256 to see if anything rings a bell for you. I won't be able to coax him..he needs to commit and without desperation in order for it to work.I pray that he focuses on the end result and feels empowered to complete ERP.

Thank you for your insight. I understand it's a struggle for your son as well as you, the family. I pray with all my heart that your son gets through ERP smoothly and recovers soon.

Recently, I have been taking time to listen to a few podcasts and watching videos by IOCDF. So, in a video, a mother of a son with OCD said her therapist told her the support a family gives is counter intuitive to OCD treatment. However, they didn't elaborate further on this, so I'm assuming they meant doing the natural thing of protecting the son from his OCD by keeping things that triggers his compulsion away. As a mother, what are your thoughts on the statement? How did you support your son during the time he was going through treatment?

I believe the statement means that the family tried to comfort and assure their child, trying to alleviate their stress.this would not only mean empathy but also playing along with the compulsions and enabling the compulsions. For example if the child washed hands compulsively, providing supplies and helping them. My understanding is that This is counter to OCD therapy because the point of the therapy is that the patient needs to PREVENT the compulsions, and accept that whatever they think might happen can happen. This retrains the brain to know that the danger it thinks it perceives actually is no danger. I gained most insight about ERP by attending the virtual IOCDF conference in august, and My son is at the front end of his treatment so I'm learning day by day. I can't help my son because his obsessions now are with relationships, all his compulsions are in his thoughts. He mostly refuses to discuss it. I can't force ERP because it wouldn't be effective. OCD is often filled with shame, and patients prefer not to share. Best help now is loving him, my reading and podcasts to better understand him and figure how to get him in proper therapy!

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