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Lizzie203

OCD and fear of plagiarism

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My 17 year old daughter has been under CAMHS since the summer for OCD, and we have seen an improvement in time spent hand washing and showering since she has started CBT. However, she is still crippled by the thought her clothes etc may be contaminated ( I regularly find myself washing clean clothing that has been dropped on the floor / has brushed up against somebody before being put on ), or that she may be eating something that may contain allergens that would trigger anaphylaxis in someone else. 

Now that her prelim exams are round the corner, there is also the fear of accidental plagiarism. She understands the course material but her answers no longer make sense, as she is so busy trying to put them into her own words - even changing appropriate terminology. Both my daughter and I have spoken to her teachers and one of the deputy heads who moderates for an exam board, but nothing can overcome her fear of writing something that could somehow be construed as plagiarism. She has refused to use study guides, revision websites and even her school course notes, as she worries that she won't remember where the information came from and whether she had converted it into her own words. 

Does anyone have any experience of this - my daughter tells CAMHS that everything is ok at school so they don't appreciate how big a stress this is to her. Will the CBT be applicable to all aspects of her OCD or is there likely to be a difference to the approach for contamination and for fear of plagiarism. 

Thanks. 

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Hi there Lizzie,

I'm really sorry to hear that your daughter is struggling so much with plagiarism worries and fears about her clothes being contaminated. It's great that she's had improvement in the other areas she's struggled with, like hand washing and showering and hopefully with further help from CAMHS they can begin to address these other problems with her. 

It sounds like your daughter's OCD focusses a lot on risk and potentially doing something wrong, these are both problems that are common for many people with OCD. You're right in thinking that plagiarism may need a slightly different approach to contamination based problems but provided the CAMHS team are aware of these worries they should be able to adapt the CBT to them. Do you think your daughter could explain her worries about plagiarism to the CAMHS team so they could try to help her with them?

Gemma :)

 

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Thanks for your reply Gemma.

It has been a difficult weekend - she did manage to bring up her fears regarding accidental plagiarism during her session with CAMHS, but came out in despair as her counsellor 'just didn't get it'. She struggles to talk about any of the issues related to OCD with anyone, so it may be that she wasn't clear in expressing her concerns. I think we need to go back to school and hope that they can feed into CAMHS as fellow professionals.

All the other improvements we have seen seem to be unravelling as we are now only days away from her first exam, I guess this is to be expected. 

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I'm not your daughter's age but I've had this same anxiety as an adult learner - and also as a tutor giving feedback to students (what if I've helped them too much?!). So I've had the experience that your daughter has, not the one that you've had as her mother. I didn't know I had OCD then. It might have helped me to have known that the kind of person who worries about plagiarism is the least likely person to plagiarise (a little nugget I got from reading 'Break Free From OCD'. I've seen my "brand" of OCD best described online under the label of moral scrupulosity https://www.sheppardpratt.org/news-views/story/moral-scrupulosity-ocd-part-one/ so that maybe worth a read as it helped me to get some language to make sense of what was going on with me and that can help with communicating with others about it?

Have you been watching any of the recordings of the OCDUK conference? There's a useful one on there about what can trigger a relapse just as you're making progress https://www.ocduk.org/conference/conference-map/main/ocd-may-try-to-creep-back/ and I would suspect that the stress of exams plus the context of what else is going on in the world would make it hard for your daughter.

If nothing else, to get through the exam period, maybe go into "mental health first aid" mode  while avoiding giving her reassurance (which will help and then not help). What makes her discomfort feel easier? For example, these short guided meditations (5 to 7 minutes) I've found really helpful when I'm in the middle of a panic and if she finds them soothing (the meditation for working with difficulties hits the spot for me most times) could be helpful to listen to before going into an exam https://www.uclahealth.org/marc/body.cfm?id=22&iirf_redirect=1 Or it could be about making every effort to get plenty of good quality sleep, curl up on the sofa with a blanket, or for her to tell a good friend she's feeling rubbish and it would cheer her up just to hear about what's going on in their life (not to talk about what it is that's stressing her).

 

 

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Thanks for your post, Darwinia. I'm sorry I have only just picked this up, the links are really useful, and may well explain why things worsened with the onset of exams. And have again with the worsening of covid restrictions. 

It's good to hear from someone who has first hand experience of what my daughter is going through, particularly as her teachers and CAMHS counsellor don't quite get it. The article on Moral Scrupulosity describes her so well, and will hopefully give her some help in communicating her fears over accidental plagiarism (and yes, she is the last person who will ever plagiarise !!).

I think it will help for us to also formulate together a 'mental health first aid' plan for when things get tough - there may well be no exams now this summer, but there will be other stressors, no doubt. 

Thanks again 🙂

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