Advice for Family Member with OCD

By Annie Lane

October 29, 2019 4 min read

Dear Annie: I'd like to hear from people who were children of a mother with Contamination OCD. My daughter's therapist determined it is a pretty severe case, but my daughter refuses to go to the recommended hospital program. Instead, she sees the therapist once a week, which is basically a whack-a-mole approach. One issue gets better and another pops up. She's had this for more than five years and refuses any medication.

My concern beyond her is for my grandchildren, ages 2 1/2 and 5. I can't go into all the avoidance and bizarre actions and behaviors, but her behavior injects a lot of anxiety and stress into their lives that they wouldn't have otherwise.

Before we knew what we were dealing with, our family would do the worst thing by offering assurances and accommodation. Her husband is totally under her OCD's control. According to her therapist, he should take the kids and leave to prompt her to really get help. It seems he can't bring himself to do that. I am afraid the kids will end up suffering from OCD as well.

I'm considering going through the court system to get the kids out of this situation.

When I brought up this concern with a therapist, she said research isn't conclusive of the effect on the kids. I don't want to gamble with their development and find out 10 years later that I should have rescued my grandchildren — and my daughter.

I'd like to hear from people who have lived with this situation as children and what would they recommend.

I want my real daughter back and for her to live her best life with her family. — Grandma Blindsided by Mental Health Issue

Dear Blindsided Grandma: Your daughter's Contamination OCD, an extreme fear of being contaminated by germs, has created a very difficult situation that is taking a toll on the whole family. You are wise to try to get help for your daughter and grandchildren. Try to remember, though, even when she is sick or in the throws of an OCD episode, she still is your "real daughter." The disease is simply taking over at that moment. Continue what you are doing by speaking with her husband and listening to any suggestions your professional therapist has.

I wish you the best of luck. So, dear readers, if any of you have had experience with family members suffering from Contamination OCD, what has worked for them during these episodes? Also, if you grew up in a household in which one of your parents had Contamination OCD, we'd love to hear about your experiences and any advice you might have.

Dear Annie: When you told "Sweet Tooth" to eat sweets with honey or syrup instead of cane sugar, I thought I should write in to share that it won't help her problem. The body recognizes all these — sugar, syrups, agave, honey, etc. — as the same thing. (It is true that the glycemic index is lower on some of these than on cane sugar, but that only means the body processes it more slowly, so you don't get the sugar "crash." It still has the same addictive effect on the body.)

Addiction to sugar is a documented addiction. The sugar (be it cane or any other kind) sets up a craving for more sugar, and things just run out of control! — Been There, Done That in New Mexico

Dear Been There, Done That: Thank you for writing in to share about how our bodies process all types of sugar, especially with Halloween right around the corner.

"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]

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