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Lotty78

Am I making it worse??? Help

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Hi all. My 15 yr old son has an issue with compulsive handwashing which is now reaching epic proportions and is becoming debilitating.  He started off just using tonnes of shower gel etc and washing hands, never washing products off. It wasn't too frequent whilst he was at school but since the holidays it has gotten worse and he is now obviously distressed but can't stop. He is now using anything he can get his hands on from washing up liquid to shampoo/conditioner to soap. He has now created rashes in his elbow creases from not washing stuff off (his hands were already red raw). I had suggested using anti bac hand sanitizer when we were out as he was becoming distressed about not being able to wash his hands on holiday. I am trying to get him to the GP for help but am concerned that in the meantime if we continue to buy "washing products " soap, hand wash, shower gel, etc  we are just facilitating his obsessive destructive harmful compulsion. My husband has just said "I agree but I can't watch him sob". I'm convinced we are not helping. My son has said he doesn't know what has triggered this compulsion and it is not necessarily a cleanliness anxiety as isn't a clean, tidy person in his other daily tasks etc. Help... I'm at my wits ends to know what is best. 

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Hi Lotty :)

I'm sorry to hear your son is struggling with so much at the moment, I've had cleaning compulsions and used to go through loads of hand wash too. 

From what I have read, it wouldn't be the right thing to cut off your sons access to hand wash or reassurance from you at this point in time. His washing and any avoidance as well as reassurance he might get are all compulsions that feed the problem, but they can't just be withdrawn. Doing so can cause conflict within families that is unhelpful. What you need to do is to see a gp and ask to be referred for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). 

CBT will help you all to come together to fight OCD with the same tools. You're bound to feel awful watching your son make his hands and elbow creases red, it will also be costly and affecting your family in more complex ways. He can get much better, he just needs a good therapist and plenty love and support. 

There are OCD-UK young ambassadors and the charity has a young person's guide to OCD booklet that you could email the charity and request, I'm sure the charity would be happy to post you a copy :)

I also recommend the self-help book Break free from OCD, it's a book written by some of the UKs leading authorities on OCD, as a way to understand what CBT entails, it has things your son could work through also. 

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I totally agree with Gemma. I too went through a similar period like your son. It's horrible but I think it would have been made worse if suddenly I was deprived of my compulsions. I think it needs to be worked through gradually and properly with proper CBT work. I would definitely get the book Gemma's recommended, even if you just start with reading through it so that you understand how CBT works, and you'll have a greater understanding when your son starts to work through the process.

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I did the same at his age. Entire family would need to be in counseling. 

If he doesn’t want to change you can’t make him. 

The Boy Who Couldn’t Stop Washing is a great book for you not him. Good luck. 

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I will add that people with OCD are no more neat and tidy than the general population. That is an unfortunate fallacy. 

 

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