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KerryClaire

My wife is in the middle of an OCD crisis, help please!

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Hello everyone.
I'm new to this so I will give you a little background information.

Myself and my wife have been together for 4 years.  I knew from very early on that she struggles with OCD and that it stems from a specific event that left her with a strong fear of getting HIV.  So her OCD focuses around avoiding blood and bodily fluids but she functions well on a daily level and her typical rituals are things like washing her hands if she's touched her shoes or the bottom of her trousers, in case she's walked where blood has been.  If we stay away and there are any stains (no matter how tiny) on bedding or curtains then she will insist I stay away from them and will stand over me when I'm near them to ensure I've not made contact.  If I have then she likes me to wash my hands.  If I refuse then arguments follow and last for hours, however, generally speaking we get by okay.  As a rule of thumb I sometimes verbally reassure her although I try to stick to only doing so once, or saying something like "Do you need to ask me that or can you work out what my answer would be?" and I try not to change my actions for her although I will avoid a "threat" unless I need to go near it to do whatever it is I'm doing.  I hope that makes sense!

My problem is that over the last 10 weeks, since we got married, she has spiraled out of control.  She doesn't know what has triggered it, if perhaps the absence of wedding stress has given her more time to worry about other things, or if it's purely coincidental.  I'm struggling to cope with the pressure this is putting on our relationship.  She is now at a point where she's booking odd days off work at the last minute as she can't face the stress of being there, she doesn't want to go out shopping etc as she will be scanning everywhere for threats, she doesn't want to eat anything that's not cooked (eg salad) in case that is contaminated, she won't eat or drink at the office, she is always asking me if she's caught her skin or a spot etc in case it is bleeding and therefore an open wound to worry about, she is finding new stains on the doors that she convinces herself are blood. 

I have no idea how to deal with this and I feel like I have lost my wife.  I have finally convinced her to see a therapist but I am worried that she a) won't be honest with them (she wasn't when she first received help when it all started 10 years ago) and b) won't commit to partake in whatever tasks they set her as she doesn't believe they will be able to help her and she feels like she spends enough time worrying about OCD so why would she spend more time thinking about it on the rare opportunity it isn't on her mind.  I also don't know to what extent to refuse to accommodate her.  Earlier today I suggested we clean the stains on the woodwork to get rid of one of the "threats".  She said yes but asked me to wear gloves.  I refused, stating that some anti-bac spray and a cloth would suffice but she wasn't happy so we didn't clean them.  She resents me for refusing to wear gloves and therefore not sorting the problem, stating that if I love her and we're a partnership, why wouldn't I do one small thing to make a tiny part of her life easier instead of harping on about not enabling her.  She speaks to me with such anger and venom and uses any situations where she has helped me in the past as a weapon, comparing how she's taken days off work to accompany me to the dentist to the fact I won't make changes for her now.  Even when I explain that I am doing everything I can to support her, spending my evenings reading up on the best self-help books, giving her hugs and talking about the good times we have, trying to come up with solutions for what stresses her out at work, it all goes unnoticed because I won't wash my hands or wear gloves at certain times.

Am I being unreasonable?  Are there times when I should go along with her wishes to relieve some stress?  Have you any ideas on how I can prevent so many arguments?  ANy help would be so much appreciated.

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Hi Kerry and welcome to the forum.

Stick to your guns. You are in the right, though she at this time doesn't realize it.

All these rituals she is doing are called compulsions. Sufferers think they have to do compulsions in order to get rid of the anxiety they feel but it's an illusion. Soon enough doubts and the thoughts of blood and HIV  return, requiring more compulsions to be done.

Worse is when sufferers get others around them to help with the compulsions. In your case there would be two people engaged in compulsions and, let's face it, there is no real point to it.

OCD tends to get worse over time. So will her need to control things. So if you start helping her with compulsions now, she will require more and more of you in the future. Stop it now.

So how can you support her? She doesn't need to see any old therapist. She needs Cognitive  Behavioral Therapy, which is the gold standard treatment for the disorder.

The hard part for you is going to be convincing her there is a problem that needs to be treated. Some people with  OCD really think they are being perfectly rational when it is clear to everyone else their behavior is irrational. 

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Thanks Polar Bear.  It's hard when I feel like my actions are causing me to lose her.  She's moved out to live back with her parents now (they are much more accommodating than myself) so it feels as though I'm seen as the bad guy in this.  On the up side she has found a CBT therapist so I guess it's just a waiting game now to see how she progresses given time. 

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