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Husband1908

How to help wife who doesn't want treatment

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Hi everyone,

Would love some advice please. My wife suffers from contamination OCD. It started 12 years ago when an immediate family member of hers died. It got worse over the years to fairly severe levels (Like I was being told when to put items, and what I should and shouldn't touch in the house) till 2017 when she finally got CBT therapy via our GP. Since then her symptoms dropped about 50%. However it's still ongoing and every single day we have some discussion or argument driven by her OCD. Every day there is a conversation about what is clean or dirty etc. There are things around the house, either single items or a small pile of things, that I can't touch because they are dirty and need to be cleaned. I can't do anything with those because then I'm giving in to the OCD.

We have a toddler and I'm concerned about the effect - particularly the creation of new rituals to do with the little one. To be honest she's been very good not to do anything excessive with our toddler, but I'm highly sensitive to check for excessive hand-washing of the little one for example.

The problem is also she doesn't want to get any more help, and doesn't think it's a big enough problem. Even today she was saying what's "normal" is different for everybody, so she defends it very strongly.

I'm exhausted by it all to be honest. In addition there are other behaviours stacked on top, like coming to bed very late at night every night between 2am-4am and not sleeping well as the little one gets her up at 7am. I won't mention them all.

If I mention what's happening, or try to help her manage any of her behaviours, I get told I'm being controlling. I guess I'm just trying to live in a more balanced fashion but she doesn't see it that way.

Are they any counselling I can get for myself to help me deal with this all? Thank you in advance.

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Hi Husband 1908 and welcome to the forum. :welcome: First, it's good news that CBT helped reduce the symptoms by 50%. Not such good news that progress has now halted.

There are 3 issues here:

1. The effect on you

2. The effect on your toddler

3. The misery your wife must be experiencing.

If her way of doing things had no impact of the other 2 family members then she'd be fine to defend her position and decide for herself where 'normal' starts and ends. However, you are all suffering as things are.

You can approach your GP regarding counselling; a place/person to offload to and someone to help you see how you can manage your feelings about the situation. Or there may be a family member you could talk to? Having someone else in the family circle aware of the situation can add weight to your suggestion to restart therapy.

There are several examples of twisted thinking mentioned above which you should feel free to challenge. 

16 hours ago, Husband1908 said:

There are things around the house, either single items or a small pile of things, that I can't touch because they are dirty and need to be cleaned. I can't do anything with those because then I'm giving in to the OCD.

It's not you 'giving in to the OCD', it's your wife giving in to the OCD by insisting the piles are dirty. You could try challenging her on that and help her see how her OCD fears have twisted the logic.

16 hours ago, Husband1908 said:

If I mention what's happening, or try to help her manage any of her behaviours, I get told I'm being controlling. I guess I'm just trying to live in a more balanced fashion but she doesn't see it that way.

Another twisted thinking example that can be challenged. It's her OCD that's controlling all your lives. Your attempts to change things back to a more balanced/normal life are about taking back control from the OCD, not from her. You can counter allegations of being controlling by asking which whether she'd rather be controlled by her OCD fears or take back control of her own life by getting more therapy.

The late nights and poor sleep will also affect all of you. The best you can do there is probably leave her to her rituals and get some sleep yourself. Don't fall into the trap of staying up to help her finish the tasks she's set herself or enable her OCD in any way if you can avoid it. (Hard, I know.)

The biggest leverage you have is the effect this is having on your child. This isn't a healthy encvironment for your toddler who will be picking up the general anxiety vibes and the idea that mum has 'special' rules that dad is afraid of breaking. That does have a knock on effect on the child's behaviour and psychology, however much mum's with OCD deny it to themselves. If you can get her to see that the chances are high she'll be motivated to get more therapy and improve things.

Good luck!

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