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It is really frustrating living with a germaphobe JAWM


SquirrellyMama
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Our son is getting over a cold, he sounds so much better, but my dh still won't let him sit on the couch. He has to sit in a chair that can be sanitized or on the floor. He was allowed out of his room yesterday, finally.

 

I'm afraid we are all going to end up freaking out over germs.

 

Kelly

Would he be comfortable letting ds sit on the couch wrapped in a washable blanket?  I'm sorry  :grouphug:

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Would he be comfortable letting ds sit on the couch wrapped in a washable blanket? I'm sorry :grouphug:

No :( I'm glad he's allowed out of his room again.

 

My dh is just so terrified of getting sick. I think getting sick would be better than his stress over getting sick.

 

I don't love getting sick, but at least I can stay in bed all day with an excuse :)

 

Kelly

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Is he immunocompromised? I've spent some winters wearing a mask to protect myself from others during cold and flu season.

 

 

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Nope, not at all. He's actually not sick very often. And, his company offers awesome sick time. There isn't a limit.

 

I'm very careful about spreading germs, and try to stay home when we are sick, but this is so frustrating :(

 

Kelly

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I'm so sorry. I got that way to an extent in grad school. Learning about all of those rare infectious diseases- I couldn't even touch someone else's dishes or cups without wanting to vomit. I never went completely OCD but it got very close for a bit. I got over it but I know I was less than a joy to be around then. You are a wonderful wife though to be sticking with him through it. It's tough dealing with the irrational thoughts behind it and maintaining your sanity too. (((Hugs))) Anyway, I know it's a JAWM so no advice- just commiseration from someone who was once the pain in the butt on this front. There is hope! 

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I'm so sorry. I got that way to an extent in grad school. Learning about all of those rare infectious diseases- I couldn't even touch someone else's dishes or cups without wanting to vomit. I never went completely OCD but it got very close for a bit. I got over it but I know I was less than a joy to be around then. You are a wonderful wife though to be sticking with him through it. It's tough dealing with the irrational thoughts behind it and maintaining your sanity too. (((Hugs))) Anyway, I know it's a JAWM so no advice- just commiseration from someone who was once the pain in the butt on this front. There is hope!

It's great to hear that it is something that can be over come. It's been going downhill for several years, and he finally recognized it this year. That was a great thing since he agreed to counseling.

 

Kelly

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You said JAWM...so I will agree that it is frustrating.

 

However, if your husband does has OCD, does it help you to recognize that his brain literally functions differently than yours? 

ocd.stanford.edu/about/understanding.html

discovermagazine.com/2013/nov/14-defense-free-will

 

OCD is a physical disability. Please try to have the same patience with him as you would have with someone trying to function with one arm, or with diabetes, or with dyslexia. 

 

:grouphug:  :grouphug:  :grouphug:

Edited by MercyA
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It's great to hear that it is something that can be over come. It's been going downhill for several years, and he finally recognized it this year. That was a great thing since he agreed to counseling.

 

Kelly

 

I had to snap myself out of it because I saw where it was headed. For me it started out logically. Here's a silly example, but for anyone wondering how this goes, for instance- public bathroom floors are dirty. Shoes walk on public bathroom floors. But then, the brain pushes it further- wait- my untied shoes just touched the sides of my dirty public bathroom shoes. I had to tie my shoes. I touched those filthy shoe laces. I probably just contracted dysentery and need to wash my hands NOW! We're all going to die......and then so on. It's like a feedback loop. I still have "quirks" as my dh calls them. Like I don't like my cutlery to touch the table top in a restaurant. I won't take it out of the napkin until I have an app plate or something to set it on. But at least now I EAT in restaurants (far too often), so I let myself have a pass on that. It's finding the level of risk, common sense, and sanity. I hope he is able to find that. It's a fine line of taking a logical risk into a storm of what-ifs and coming out in a very dismal place. 

 

I'm going to honestly say that having kids helped break it for me. I guess that is as a mother though it's more in the trenches kind of experience than a lot of dad's have. I think after a while as a mother your give-a-damn breaks (for some of us on the lazier side :) ) and it's simply difficult to maintain that level of paranoia after a while. I also figured out that well, it's a lot harder to break a kid, or likewise contract many diseases than one thinks, in addition to other personal spiritual growth and things relating to fear that I won't bore you with. Not sure if that's helpful but that was my experience in a very brief nutshell. 

 

All that to say- I can see both sides of it, and sympathize with you both. I'm glad he's getting help- it's really a hard place to be for everyone involved, even the kids I'm sure. They don't understand either. Don't be afraid to talk to someone yourself. It's a lot to cope with. I had panic attacks and all sorts of things in my early 20's over this stuff. It's hard for me to believe now- seems like another life time. I wipe snot noses without a second glance and let the kids eat dropped cookies off of our floor occasionally........long road, you know?  :)  But I gave my parents and husband at the time a really rough ride for a few years sorting all of those things out myself. I think a lot of was a fear of loss of control.....but I'm sure that varies by person. I never had counseling for it, so a lot of self diagnosis, but that was my experience. 

 

Feel free to vent here anytime. It's a nice outlet when you have to bottle it up IRL.  :grouphug:

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You said JAWM...so I will agree that it is frustrating, and I am sure my husband would heartily concur. :)

 

However--I have OCD. I have wiped off groceries before, I admit. If your husband also has OCD, does it help you to recognize that his brain literally functions differently than yours?

ocd.stanford.edu/about/understanding.html

discovermagazine.com/2013/nov/14-defense-free-will

 

OCD is a physical disability. Please try to have the same patience with him as you would have with someone doing their best to function with one arm, or with diabetes, or with dyslexia. It is not easy. We do not enjoy being this way, trust me.

 

Medication has been life-changing for me. Feel free to PM me if you would like.

 

:grouphug: :grouphug: :grouphug:

I really am trying to be patient, that's why I posted here. I really can't lay it on him.

 

I can't say I would really call him OCD in any other area. I think it has to do with stress.

 

Kelly

Edited by SquirrellyMama
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I'm usually ok, but the wiping off the groceries got me tonight. He also scolded ds13 for getting him sick. I told him not to say that since he's also been around sick people at work. I really get frustrated when it affects the kids.

 

This summer we were at the zoo, and the kids touched a railing on a bridge. You would have thought they had licked the railing.

 

Kelly

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I really am trying to be patient, that's why I posted here. I really can't lay it on him.

 

I can't say I would really call him OCD in any other area. I think it has to do with stress.

 

Kelly

 

I understand, I really do, but a person can have OCD that does just affect one area of their life (for example, fear of germs/contamination). Your post about the railing at the zoo makes me think that he probably does have OCD. 

 

Maybe check out the symptoms here and see what you think? (Most people with OCD will only have a few of these, not all of them.)

iocdf.org/about-ocd/

Edited by MercyA
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I'm sorry. That sounds really frustrating. My mom was always a bit of a germaphobe, but it got a lot worse when my brother joined the army. She couldn't control that her son was jumping out of airplanes, but least she could control the cleanliness of her house. She's gotten a better since he got out of the army several years ago, but it's still worse than before he joined. It gets worse when she's more stressed out too.

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I'm glad he's seeing someone.

 

Sounds like there may be a clinical OCD component.

The only area I could see OCD is in his schedule. He also doesn't handle change well. There hasn't been a lot of change lately. He's having a hard time with the fact that the kids are growing up. Our oldest will be 16 soon.

 

I'm glad he's seeing someone also. This has been building up for years. It was good that he finally recognized it.

 

I think it was when he used his knuckles to pick up a soup bowl because someone else had touched it.

 

Kelly

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I understand, I really do, but a person can have OCD that does just affect one area of their life (for example, fear of germs/contamination). Your post about the railing at the zoo makes me think that he probably does have OCD.

 

Maybe check out the symptoms here and see what you think?

www.webmd.com/mental-health/obsessive-compulsive-disorder

 

My OCD gets much worse with stress and/or tiredness.

I get what you are saying now. I guess it didn't look like the way OCD is usually portrayed. But, nothing is the same for everyone.

 

Kelly

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The only area I could see OCD is in his schedule. He also doesn't handle change well. There hasn't been a lot of change lately. He's having a hard time with the fact that the kids are growing up. Our oldest will be 16 soon.

 

I'm glad he's seeing someone also. This has been building up for years. It was good that he finally recognized it.

 

I think it was when he used his knuckles to pick up a soup bowl because someone else had touched it.

 

Kelly

There's some confusion with regard to OCD because we use the term colloquially to mean something different than it means clinically. You're husband's obsessive and debilitating fear of germs does sound very much like clinical OCD, which is an anxiety disorder. Edited by maize
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I am sorry you are dealing with it.

 

I hate it for your son who is confined to his room when he is sick. I mean, the poor kid already feels bad!

I really wish there was a way to work around this. When my dd and I had the flu a couple years ago he didn't want us out of the bedroom for almost 4 days after we were feeling better.

 

I wonder if he'd talk over some ideas with his therapist about that.

 

Kelly

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Would he consider wearing gloved and a face mask while your son is sick (so that your son can spend his sickness outside of his room and sitting on the couch)?  If it would satisfy his germaphobia while only inconveniencing him (instead of others) it might work as a solution.  I imagine he feels a ton of guilt about restricting sick family members' movements because of his own disability.

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I want to say that I'm not trying to bash my dh. It's been extra frustrating since it's winter, and a couple of the kids had colds which really ramped up my dh's anxiety. The kids are getting yelled at a lot. Fortuneatly, they are old enough to recognize this isn't normal.

 

All of this gets my own anxiety going.

 

Kelly

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Would he consider wearing gloved and a face mask while your son is sick (so that your son can spend his sickness outside of his room and sitting on the couch)? If it would satisfy his germaphobia while only inconveniencing him (instead of others) it might work as a solution. I imagine he feels a ton of guilt about restricting sick family members' movements because of his own disability.

I don't know. I'll have to ask. That might be an idea he would accept.

 

I guess I never thought he felt a lot of guilt. Maybe that's where the anger and yelling come from.

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I don't take it as bashing. My own husband suffers from mental health difficulties including anxiety and OCD; they are not moral failings but rather brain malfunctions.

 

Unfortunately, while the afflicted person is the primary victim of the disease, family members become secondary victims. This is one reason it is absolutely crucial that the person affected get professional treatment. You and your children are living under abusive, controlling conditions caused by your dh's illness. That is not healthy for anyone.

 

While OCD tends to be resistant to medication, the supplement NAC (an amino acid and very safe) has shown some promise in clinical trials. Might be worth looking into in addition to therapy. SSRI's used to treat anxiety can also be beneficial.

 

I'm sorry all of you are suffering from this. I have a great deal of empathy for both your husband and the rest of the family and hope he is able to get effective help.

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The stress might be too high for him to process guilt; I know it is like that for me when I am super stressed (although I do not express stress as OCD).  It's like, there are too many inputs and all I can do is try to reduce the inputs until they are at a level where I can relax enough to sense other people and their needs.  Generally I can still logically recognize that I am not acting rationally, though, and that I must modify my behavior to impose on others as little as possible.  If someone gave me an alternate solution that satisfied the stressor while at the same time not adding the stress of imposing on other people, I'd jump at it :)

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I don't take it as bashing. My own husband suffers from mental health difficulties including anxiety and OCD; they are not moral failings but rather brain malfunctions.

 

Unfortunately, while the afflicted person is the primary victim of the disease, family members become secondary victims. This is one reason it is absolutely crucial that the person affected get professional treatment. You and your children are living under abusive, controlling conditions caused by your dh's illness. That is not healthy for anyone.

 

While OCD tends to be resistant to medication, the supplement NAC (an amino acid and very safe) has shown some promise in clinical trials. Might be worth looking into in addition to therapy. SSRI's used to treat anxiety can also be beneficial.

 

I'm sorry all of you are suffering from this. I have a great deal of empathy for both your husband and the rest of the family and hope he is able to get effective help.

 

 

that's very well said

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I really wish there was a way to work around this. When my dd and I had the flu a couple years ago he didn't want us out of the bedroom for almost 4 days after we were feeling better.

 

I wonder if he'd talk over some ideas with his therapist about that.

 

Kelly

 

Hopefully I'm not violating the rules of JAWM, but I do hope it's a therapist that specializes in OCD. He's going to need to dig down into the actual fear I think. What exactly is he afraid of? So he catches a cold? So what? Then what happens? Does he get sick and lose his job? Does he die? What is the path that his brain is taking in root from these fears? There is something deeper beyond that fear of germs and that's what they need to sift down to. Masks and gloves might help for now, but it's honestly slapping a bandaid on something that goes much, much deeper. I think that's what Mercy and others are getting at. It's manifesting about germs, but it's really completely about something else. It could just as easily have manifested about cleaning the floors, or washing his hands, or counting stairs. 

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The book Brain Lock is a good one for dealing with OCD.

 

(ETA though I also agree with the reviews indicating that the approach suggested can be too narrow in some cases; a therapist experienced in treating OCD would be best, along with appropriate medication).

Edited by maize
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Hopefully I'm not violating the rules of JAWM, but I do hope it's a therapist that specializes in OCD. He's going to need to dig down into the actual fear I think. What exactly is he afraid of? So he catches a cold? So what? Then what happens? Does he get sick and lose his job? Does he die? What is the path that his brain is taking in root from these fears? There is something deeper beyond that fear of germs and that's what they need to sift down to. Masks and gloves might help for now, but it's honestly slapping a bandaid on something that goes much, much deeper. I think that's what Mercy and others are getting at. It's manifesting about germs, but it's really completely about something else. It could just as easily have manifested about cleaning the floors, or washing his hands, or counting stairs.

I completely get what you are saying. My theory is that it is work related. What he's thinking exactly... I don't know. Maybe, he'll get sick, lose his job, and we won't have any money.

 

I know it isn't really about the germs, but the underlying problem is going to take time to process through. We really need some compromises with the germ issues in the mean time.

 

I can stop getting frustrated with wiping off groceries and other things like that. I really need him to relax in the house even if someone has a cold.

 

Kelly

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You might try talking to him about it.  If he gets sick will he lose his job?  Does he not have sick leave?  Does he think he cannot work if he is sick?  (I understand thinking you can't work if you have the flu, but with a cold most people who work at a job without sick leave just suck it up).

 

possibly it is beyond reason.  When I am stressed out sometimes reason works and sometimes I am deaf to it.

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I agree with a PP who said it sounds like he has a textbook case of OCD. Every single description of his behavior (for example, not wanting to touch a bowl someone else touched ) literally screams OCD to me.

 

I would actually recommend that he start by seeing his family physician rather than a therapist, unless the therapist specializes in OCD. Just talking about his fears isn't likely to help. 

 

Your fear for how this will affect your family is a very valid concern.

 

:grouphug: to you and your family.

Edited by MercyA
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I completely get what you are saying. My theory is that it is work related. What he's thinking exactly... I don't know. Maybe, he'll get sick, lose his job, and we won't have any money.

 

I know it isn't really about the germs, but the underlying problem is going to take time to process through. We really need some compromises with the germ issues in the mean time.

 

I can stop getting frustrated with wiping off groceries and other things like that. I really need him to relax in the house even if someone has a cold.

 

Kelly

 

Part of me wonders if it's somewhat more difficult for him to verbalize because he's a guy. Particularly if he's a man of few words. I mean, I'm a gabby gal and it wasn't something I could verbalize to anyone really, so I imagine it's even harder for men who typically aren't stellar about discussing feelings. (Making generalization about your dh I know, but I don't think most men talk about this stuff to the extent women do.) Honestly this is probably one of the few times I've ever talked about it myself. 

 

My heart goes out to you though. I wish I had a simple suggestion that could help, but I don't. Be kind to yourself is all I can say. You're basically dealing with a chronically ill person at this point, just without the kudos that come along with it in a more traditional situation. Unfortunately people don't get the same kind of support when helping one deal with mental struggles that they do if say someone has an operation or something. It would be wonderful if you could take the kids and visit Grandma or something a few weeks without him, I'm sure simply to get a break. It's hard when you're wading through something with no end in sight so I think you have every right to come here and gripe. 

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I agree with a PP who said it sounds like he has a textbook case of OCD. Every single description of his behavior (for example, not wanting to touch a bowl someone else touched ) literally screams OCD to me.

 

I would actually recommend that he start by seeing his family physician rather than a therapist, unless the therapist specializes in OCD. Just talking about his fears isn't likely to help.

 

Your fear for how this will affect your family is a very valid concern.

 

I take an SSRI and it works beautifully.

 

:grouphug: to you and your family.

I would be wary of any therapist who hasn't picked up on the OCD factor. The family practitioner may be a good source to find someone else. Someone who specializes in anxiety and OCD.

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This has been really helpful. I really wasn't looking at it from an OCD angle. They may have talked about it. I'm never sure how much I should ask. He's not very talkative about struggles.

 

I wonder if OCD has always been a problem, and I haven't seen it.

 

I do understand mental health struggles. I've been dealing with anxiety for many years.

 

 

Kelly

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I want to say that I'm not trying to bash my dh. It's been extra frustrating since it's winter, and a couple of the kids had colds which really ramped up my dh's anxiety. The kids are getting yelled at a lot. Fortuneatly, they are old enough to recognize this isn't normal.

 

All of this gets my own anxiety going.

 

Kelly

 

:grouphug:

 

The kids know it's not normal, but have you discussed the clinical reality of it?  I'm sure it's hard, regardless, but understanding just how UNintentional it is can take out some of the sting.

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Would he consider wearing gloved and a face mask while your son is sick (so that your son can spend his sickness outside of his room and sitting on the couch)?  If it would satisfy his germaphobia while only inconveniencing him (instead of others) it might work as a solution.  I imagine he feels a ton of guilt about restricting sick family members' movements because of his own disability.

 

I was going to suggest a face mask also. Then if he doesn't buy into it offer gloves and if he still doesn't go for it, add a paper gown. 

 

When one of our kids was immuno-compromised, anyone who was sick stayed in our camper parked in the driveway (in good weather) and wore a face mask when they entered the public areas of the house. But I agree that it would be easier on everyone if your husband just wore a mask whenever he's concerned.

Edited by Pippen
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This has been really helpful. I really wasn't looking at it from an OCD angle. They may have talked about it. I'm never sure how much I should ask. He's not very talkative about struggles.

 

I wonder if OCD has always been a problem, and I haven't seen it.

 

I do understand mental health struggles. I've been dealing with anxiety for many years.

 

 

Kelly

I have always gone with my husband to some of his therapy appointments--partly because that way we can work together on issues that affect both of us and partly so I can provide additional information and perspective to the therapist. Also so that I can make my own judgments about the effectiveness of therapy being offered (some therapists are very good, some are a waste of time, some are just a bad fit for the patient).

 

It would probably be helpful if you could share with your dh's therapist the extent of the issue and also its far reaching impact on the family. It is quite likely that they are not getting the full picture from your dh. I doubt, for example, that your dh has brought up the irritability/yelling, the quarantining of family members for minor illness, or that he has been able to accurately portray the extremity of his behaviors in general. Most people don't have the self insight to do that and if they do recognize the full extent of their issues they are ashamed to lay it all out to someone else. The fact that it took your dh this long to recognize that there was any problem at all suggests that his perceptions are not to be trusted. The therapist can't help with something they don't know about.

Edited by maize
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Just want to thank you for this thread.  Guess you can say in a way I relate to your husband and my husband doesn't understand why I stress so much about passing germs.  I know I have some OCD tendencies, am the germaphobe (in some cases only), and I need to try to do a better job trying to verbalize how these things stress me out just so that we are communicating better.  

 

Again, thanks.  This has been helpful.  

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