Luke had always been uneasy around germs. For a long time, it didn’t cause any major inconvenience, although he had noticed it gradually worsening over time. But as Luke’s life became more stressful, he noticed his fears started to take over his life.
He knew he had developed OCD
Sometimes, the feeling of being dirty just felt unbearable. He began to develop specific fears around his family members getting seriously ill. He feared the possibility that he could accidentally do something to put his family at risk by touching objects he thought were dirty. He obsessed more and more, leading him to develop problematic behaviors he thought would prevent his fears from coming true.
He spent a lot of time compulsively washing his hands.
He repeatedly washed his clothes and had strict rituals for using the washer and dryer to make sure no unexpected germs contaminated the washing process. As his compulsions grew, so did his fears. He began to feel tremendous guilt for what he saw as his carelessness for possibly putting his family at risk. This led him to developing strict expectations and rules for himself to ensure his family remained safe.
These rules spread to his family members themselves, meaning he demanded they also follow his rules for their own well-being and to help appease his anxieties.
This put a huge strain on his relationship with his wife as she tried to be supportive but felt growing frustration that she was being forced to do things she deemed unnecessary.
For example, he wanted her to clean things in a certain fashion and in a certain order to prevent ongoing contamination. In time, Luke felt only he could “properly” clean certain areas and items. Luke began limiting activities his family could do in specific rooms, to the point where home life seemed to consist more of preventing germs than actually relaxing and living in their home. As family discord grew, Luke began to recognize his demands were growing increasingly burdensome and unfair. He saw how he was negatively impacting his family, but the alternative of getting rid of his rules seemed too risky and the anxiety felt unbearable. He was trapped with little to no hope for the future.
Finally, Luke found Anxiety Solutions and wanted to try Exposure Therapy. He began seeing us for treatment.
He saw a significant drop in his fear of germs, and he no longer felt the need to wash his hands or objects excessively.
We worked with Luke to help him see how OCD had convinced him he was protecting his family, when in reality his compulsive behavior was unintentionally damaging many aspects of their lives. We began to address his rigid behaviors and rules to develop more flexibility and tolerance around the uncomfortable feelings which for so long had led to compulsions. We talked about how compulsions actually make the anxiety from OCD worse.
We showed his family what to do at home to help him better and how to handle his rules.
It was amazing to see the positive impact this had, and how relieved and hopeful his family was to be working together to beat OCD.
Luke began to willingly confront his fears and obsessions without compulsive behaviors. He became able to more clearly identify when OCD would twist or exaggerate whether something was really dirty or dangerous, leading to a greater sense of self-confidence. He loosened the restrictions on his family, which created a more peaceful home life. Luke even got to the point of feeling completely comfortable in situations that used to cause him severe anxiety.