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September 2023
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Overcoming OCD

Parents’ Helping Hand May Make OCD Hand Washing Worse, Says Study

Study shows that parents actually worsen their child's obsessive hand washing.

Study shows that parents actually worsen their child's obsessive hand washing.

There’s a humorous television series on one of the cable channels called “Monk.”  The show is built out of the “Columbo” mold, only the show’s protagonist – Adrian Monk – is a bit quirkier and has a pretty severe case of obsessive compulsive disorder.

The show’s both humorous and entertaining; with Monk always cracking the “whodunit?” in 60 minutes flat, while at the same time satirizing his obsessive-compulsive tendencies along the way.

In real life, though, for those whose life is controlled by their obsessive-compulsive tendencies, it is neither humorous nor entertaining.

All of us have some OCD proclivities to one degree or another, whether it’s washing one’s hands a bit too excessively , or checking to make sure the stove burners are off maybe one time too many.  Many people live with these behaviors for all of their lives without seeking treatment, which is why the estimated 1 in 50 Americans diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder is a statistic that’s probably more like 1 in 25 Americans.

The question, of course, is how best to treat this mind-over-matter problem, where normal feelings of anxiety slowly overtake one’s life and mental processes?

There are natural treatments – which I’ll get to in a moment – but some people believe that they can accomplish the problem on their own, or through the assistance of their families, where parents or spouses can simply remind their excessive hand washing son that his hands are clean and he doesn’t have to wash his hands so vigorously.

If only it were that simple.  In fact, according to some studies on families who acknowledge their child’s OCD tendencies, acknowledgement compounds their compulsions by reinforcing the behavior.

In the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Therapy, researchers write about their observations of approximately 50 children with obsessive-compulsive disorder and how their parents dealt with their children’s compulsions.  What they found was that those parents who interjected the most in their kids’ habits – like telling their excessive-hand washing son that his hands were clean – it actually perpetuated the problem, as the child would become more and more obsessed with hand washing over the course of the study.

“You would think if parents were helping, they would be less impaired,” said University of Florida professor Lisa Merlo in a news release, the study’s lead researcher.  “But what we are seeing is that it snowballs and makes it worse and worse.”

While parents’ hearts are certainly in the right place, Merlo says that this kind of “help” validates the behavior, which is the precise wrong thing to do.

The right thing to do is to seek professional help.  When parents were advised what they ought to be doing by professionals, the kids’ – who were between the ages of 6 and 18 – behaviors grew less rigid.

Professional counseling and medical treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder are important and you should always follow your doctor’s counsel when it comes to medicating.

However, if you feel like you might have some obsessive-compulsive tendencies and that you’d like to nip in the bud now before they becomes full-blown habits, there are some natural supplements you can take that can help.

For information on those supplements and proper dosing, please peruse my article on hypochondria, which many experts believe to be a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (officially, though, hypochondria is classified as a psychosomatic disorder).  I tend to agree, as both hypochondria and obsessive-compulsive disorder thrive on stress levels.  These natural supplements help to reduce stress levels.

Please read it, as I believe as it will help you bid a fond farewell to OCD.


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