Germaphobe son driving us over the edge

My 13 year old son has displayed erratic behavioral traits since he was very small. They inevitably took the form of some obsessive-compulsive behavior such as

  1. Ensuring that the doormat is "straight"
  2. Cracking his knuckles to the point where they hurt
  3. Plucking at his eyebrows in the belief that they were too long
By and large these obsessions were relatively short-lived and went away within a few months time. In the interim we had always hoped that as he grew up and approached puberty this would stop happening. The reality has been quite the opposite. For over a year now he has an obsession with cleanliness. It manifests itself in the form of endless washing, the use of copious amounts of soap etc. This lurks over our heads all day but gets utterly unbearable in the evenings. He compounds the misery by always being late to start his homework, not concentrating when he does, being obsessed with electronic gadgets...

All our efforts to help him rationalize, gradually wean him out of his habits, getting him to appreciate the horrible price that the rest of his family are paying have led to naught.

Things have now reached a point where his behavior is disrupting the functioning of our family. It hurts his little sister (who is quite the opposite and completely normal), has driven my wife to sleepless nights and has lead us to even discuss divorce. We are currently taking him to a child psychologist but the experience is not very convincing. We have lengthy conversation sessions which end with the "next appointment".

I'd hugely appreciate any help and pointers from fellow parents who have lived through anything like this.
 
As I mention - we have now done six sessions with a child psychologist + psychiatrist combo. We talk, fix the next appointment and go away. To me this is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Why they do not want to suggest a therapy and want to delve deep into his childhood and our family history is beyond me. As things stand they are wasting our time while we drown.
 

susiestar

Roll With It
I have kids with varying levels of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). It can be a real struggle for the whole family. I would look for more testing and talk to the doctor about medication. We found that SSRI's (a type of antidepressant) was super effective for our son. Now there is DNA testing that will tell you what medications would be more and less effective for a person. I recommend the testing if you can. Very little helped my son's Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) until he was on medications. No child psychologist was helpful with this. It is literally a problem in the brain chemistry. You can also ask therapists if they do exposure therapy with germaphobes/Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) patients. It is a type of therapy where the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) person is exposed to very small amounts of whatever the problem is and they are talked through the experience. You need to not try this at home. It can cause problems if done poorly.
 

Copabanana

Well-Known Member
Why they do not want to suggest a therapy
Psychologists and psychiatrists have all kinds of different theories about how to look at mental illness, let alone how to treat it.

Have you heard of neurofeedback? I trained in it and I have used it on myself. Sensors are put on the head, which feedback information. The information about brainwave or eeg information is embedded in a computer game or movie. All the sensors do is monitor brainwaves. There is no electrical current.

The brain is marvelously capable of self-correcting when it sees it's not functioning optimally. This is a rapid treatment. Sometimes in 20 to 30 sessions or less. The thing is it is not psychology. So psychologists may not know about it or even pan it.

If you are interested you can send me a private message and I will give you more information. Meanwhile, you can google if you're interested in this: treatment of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) by neurofeedback. You could also google neurofeedback with children. I've done a literature review on this treatment for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) related disorders, but of course, I can't know if it will work for your child. I only know how I have responded.

My son who is now an adult has body dysmorphic disorder, which is related to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I have urged him to consider this treatment. I wish he would do it.
 

Copabanana

Well-Known Member
I found an article when I googled treatment for children with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) with neurofeedback. This is a better explanation than I gave:

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Neurofeedback
Neurofeedback
reduces these overactive brain waves to help retrain the brain and calm the over-reactivity of the nervous system, therefore, reducing obsessions and compulsions. By giving the brain direct feedback, the brain learns, over time, to better regulate itself.
 
I found an article when I googled treatment for children with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)) with neurofeedback. This is a better explanation than I gave:

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)) and Neurofeedback
Neurofeedback
reduces these overactive brain waves to help retrain the brain and calm the over-reactivity of the nervous system, therefore, reducing obsessions and compulsions. By giving the brain direct feedback, the brain learns, over time, to better regulate itself.
Thank you for this. A very useful read.
 
I have kids with varying levels of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)). It can be a real struggle for the whole family. I would look for more testing and talk to the doctor about medication. We found that SSRI's (a type of antidepressant) was super effective for our son. Now there is DNA testing that will tell you what medications would be more and less effective for a person. I recommend the testing if you can. Very little helped my son's Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)) until he was on medications. No child psychologist was helpful with this. It is literally a problem in the brain chemistry. You can also ask therapists if they do exposure therapy with germaphobes/Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)) patients. It is a type of therapy where the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)) person is exposed to very small amounts of whatever the problem is and they are talked through the experience. You need to not try this at home. It can cause problems if done poorly.
Thank you! Now that I have read up even more on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) I feel convinced that we are wasting our time with these therapists. Here, for instance, is what the Mayo Clinic website lists as typical Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) symptoms

  • Fear of contamination or dirt
  • Doubting and having difficulty tolerating uncertainty
  • Needing things orderly and symmetrical
  • Aggressive or horrific thoughts about losing control and harming yourself or other
  • Unwanted thoughts, including aggression, or sexual or religious subjects

My son demonstrates or has demonstrated the first three symptoms in pretty much textbook fashion. While the fourth may not apply I find his refusal to undergo a "sexual awakening" - he is now going on 14 - a bit strange. I broach the subject with him from time to time but he brushes it away with expressions of disgust.

Just how delving into family history and traumatic events in his past are going to help I fail to see. About the only thing the two people we are seeing at the moment have done is to "show up" my wife for being stressed and over-sensitive which, though it may be true, has resulted in us talking about extreme measures such as separation.

I balk at the idea of a 13 year old taking anti-depressants and SSRI medication but accept that ultimately that may be the only route. I am going to explore Copabanana's suggestion first.
 

Copabanana

Well-Known Member
a 13 year old taking anti-depressants and SSRI medication
I will speak for myself here. I would not have a problem with an SSRI as a temporary means to help him reduce, decrease obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. Oftentimes, people (including children) begin neurofeedback on medication or (self-medicating through the use of marijuana or alcohol or other substances) and then as the brain begins to self-regulate, they are able to stop using substances to do this. From what I hear there are specific SSRI's that target obsessive compulsive behaviors and anxiety.
 

Copabanana

Well-Known Member
About the only thing the two people we are seeing at the moment have done is to "show up" my wife for being stressed and over-sensitive which, though it may be true, has resulted in us talking about extreme measures such as separation.
How my heart goes out to your wife (and you) for this. Almost all of the mothers here have gone over the edge. When we can't help our children, or become their target something essential and basic is us dissolves. At least that has been my own experience. We are often made the fall guy by our kids, neighbors, family members and professionals. Dealing with this becomes a sideshow and it is not helpful. Thank goodness for your compassion and understanding.
 
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