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OCD, Covid19 and Despair

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My husband has suffered with OCD since he was about 6 (he's now 57).  In the 23 years we have been together he has experienced peaks and troughs in compulsions and, until Covid19, was managing these compulsions without asserting that others comply with his compulsions in order to satisfy his anxieties.

Covid19 has changed all that and I am really struggling to cope.  Husband is aware he is being too demanding but if I attempt to not enable him and his fears he shouts back that I actively want us all to get it (we have 2 children) and I want him to die.  Husband is being pretty nasty and although I understand it is hard for him, particularly at the moment, I am left not wanting to speak to him at all through fear of his reaction.  My older child has autism and OCD and has resulted in the Local Authority providing education at home for the last 3 years for medical reasons and is, therefore, home 24/7.  My younger child is at home as no school so is really missing being able to go outside (husband won't let anyone out for exercise).

I know I shouldn't be thinking of myself in all this but I can't be there for my kids and husband if I feel so mentally broken myself due to my husband's over zealous response to his risk of contamination.

I am conscious that all the arguments this is causing is not good for the kids to hear but husband just won't stop questioning everything we do.  The kids can't even go in the fridge/freezer to get food as we have a quarantine shelf which can't be accidentally brushed against.

I don't know how much longer I can take it.

Any advice? Please.....

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5 hours ago, PeaceKeeperMum said:

I attempt to not enable him and his fears he shouts back that I actively want us all to get it (we have 2 children) and I want him to die.

Hi Peace Keepers Mum,

I am so sorry that you're having a hard time right now, and I hope you do find some peace in the days ahead to help you recharge your batteries. If I am honest I don't have an answer what you should do, but I can comment on the OCD side of things.  

I have to say if anybody with OCD called me on the phone line and told me they were doing this to a partner I would (and I have in the past) tell that person that OCD is no excuse for unacceptable behaviour. Do people with OCD snap at loved ones? They do, but what you describe sounds a little extreme if I am honest, and dare I say emotional blackmail, that's not the norm for OCD in my experience. Maybe others will correct me. 

I guess right now the line we have to adapt is that anything above and beyond the government recommendation is unnecessary, and therefore nobody, with our without OCD, should expect others to do that (other than for medical reasons). 

Perhaps (when he is calm) you can show him one of the webpages on the main website where we talk about this and advise people not to let OCD dictate above the recommended guidance (i.e 20 seconds hand washing after begin out). 

Is there other family that can help you by talking to him?  If there is a member of his family he tends to listen to, could they perhaps speak to him on your behalf? If that doesn't make things worse. 

I hope you find a way to resolve.

With best wishes, Ashley


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Thank you Ashley.  The problem he is experiencing is that his usual OCD (contamination via spit or blood) is less rational than the contamination he fears he has surrounding Covid19.

Unfortunately, any concept to think rationally has completely disappeared and so I am now either stuck performing his obsessive rituals to pacify him or, if I refuse, complicit in wanting the entire family to catch it and die.

My father has been tested and confirmed to have Covid19 (he is, strictly speaking considered to be in a high risk category for sever symptoms) but, although suffered, has been discharged by the hospital to isolate.  This fact hasn't eased my husband's fears.

It seems like he has turned nasty and selfish and I don't want our children upset by the tension that now exists between us.

I am hopeful that he will start to relax a little when we have hit the peak and things start to gradually improve - I just needed a place to vent a little.  Thanks for replying - it is appreciated.

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My life is like this at the moment. I feel broken by it. My husband makes me watch his hand washing to ‘help’ him with his contamination OCD and tells me if I don’t I will be killing him. I find this very difficult as there is so much in this ritual that is nothing to do with hygiene, and I feel he has now co-opted me as a kind of enabler. He won’t open cupboards, participate in any way in normal life - I have to prepare everything for him. I have been angry and upset and said terrible things that in normal circumstances I would never say but I feel at breaking point. Like the original poster, neither me nor 2 teenage children are able to leave the house for exercise or essential services, including the week leading to school closures. It’s awful for our family, and I don’t know what to do.

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11 hours ago, Tryingtostaycalm said:

neither me nor 2 teenage children are able to leave the house for exercise or essential services, including the week leading to school closures. It’s awful for our family, and I don’t know what to do.

Hi Tryingtostaycalm. Welcome to the forum. :welcome:

We know this is a very difficult situation and the fact that life isn't normal for anyone at present isn't making it any easier. 

However, this isn't just about your husband's health any more. By stopping you all from leaving the house, even for essentials, his fears are impacting on the rest of the family to a degree which will also affect your mental health and that of your teenagers. A lot of people aren't going out to exercise and if that's their choice that's ok. But I think this is one area where you could perhaps stand up to the OCD demands and insist that if you or the children want to go out as permitted by the government rules then you're going to go - and do just that.

You don't need to be overly confrontational about it. Simply state the fact you're allowed to go, that you will take the recommended precautions. You may also wish to say that you realise this will make him very anxious and you will do your best to help him manage his fears, but you aren't prepared to sacrifice the family's health to accomodate OCD. You may need to remind him you are just as keen as he is to protect the family, but you have a better perspective on things than he does at present. 

Regarding the excessive handwashing, try to reduce the amount you get drawn into his rituals and aim (as much as possible) to avoid giving reassurance (for example that he's done it 'right' or hasn't inadvertently touched something he 'shouldn't'.) 

He must be exhausted and very scared just now. I imagine he's locked into OCD thoughts every waking moment. Encourage him to participate in normal life whereever possible as a distraction /alternative to ruminating and doing rituals. That can be as simple as getting him to talk to you while you prepare dinner, or chatting as a family while he sits with his arms folded. 'Participating' for now can mean just joining in mentally even if he doesn't feel up to touching things. (Watching tv doesn't count though as he's likely to be off in his head worrying rather than watching.)

We're here if you want to chat further. :) 


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Thank you for this very helpful advice. I will try some of your suggestions. At the moment he does not engage in family life. I understand it is exhausting and terrifying for him, but from the outside it is also so exhausting and emotionally draining for me as I spend several hours every day working through his hand washing. I feel anxious as the time creeps up for another handwash session.

Next week I’m back to ‘work’ - teaching remotely so this won’t be possible. Not sure how that will go.

Thank you again for your response. It’s good to have such a measured perspective; I feel terrible for him; Inalso manage my own mental heath and keep the family going. It’s very upsetting for the kids. Sorry for hijacking this thread. I was just relieved to find it.

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Look after yourself, Tryingtostaycalm. You're the one holding things together just now, so remember to take some time out for you (schedule it in and insist upon it if needs be) and to relax whenever possible. Going back to work is a good thing for both of you. Having nothing to do allows OCD to take over the whole family's lives more easily. When there are other demands that have to be met it's easier to refuse to get drawn into the time-consuiming rituals - just leave him to it and go to work. He'll find his own way around it and cope better than you expect, believe me.

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I’m completely new to this. My daughter (21) who has a history of panic disorder and anxiety is having a similar extreme reaction to the pandemic and has developed compulsive routines and behaviours around contamination. I’ve not dealt with OCD before and would appreciate any advice. It’s so hard seeing her suffer but when I try to disrupt or delay compulsive behaviour it cases terrible distress. I’m reading that I should try not to enable. Should I stop buying so much soap, washing powder and fairy liquid? Should I stop trying to get her to understand that her hands are clean the first time she washes them? Is ‘tough love’ required? I don’t think I can do that to her....

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