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Does my mother have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

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I am confused about whether my mom has OCD. She keeps cleaning the bathrooms and rooms of our house despite a tennis elbow injury and muscular pain in her back.

She does not do this every day, but yes, she does it very often. She seems very anxious when she is cleaning and does not pay attention to anything else. This has been consistent for many years. No improvements or worsening of cleaning habits.

Please suggest what I can do about it. I want my mom to heal from the tennis elbow injury, but it is really difficult as she is not resting and cleaning most of the time.

This question was submitted by 'Rishit'

mark tyrrell

Mark says...

Hello Rishit and thank you for writing in.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder [OCD], like most conditions, can be on a spectrum or a continuum. So some people find their every waking moment consumed by thoughts of, or actually carrying out, their obsessive ritual, whilst other people just over-clean (or whatever the ritual might be) now and then or when they feel particularly stressed or anxious.

So we don't need to label your mother as 'an obsessive compulsive'. It might be that sometimes she experiences some OCD-like symptoms and behaviours.

People tend to 'trance out' when they act compulsively, which corresponds with what you said about your mother not paying attention to anything else when she is cleaning. Another trance-like feature of compulsive behaviour is losing track of time, which is part of the reason why people can clean for hours sometimes.

For some people, this trance element to compulsivity is what makes it so compelling. If they feel overwhelmed or stressed, then entering the OCD trance may supply them with an element of escapism from worries. There is also often an element of the OCD meeting the need for a sense of control (although, ironically, often it becomes uncontrollable in itself). Sometimes, the need for control that is driving compulsion takes on a superstitious element in which the person feels that by carrying out their ritual (whether it be cleaning or something else), they can avert something bad from happening.

If your mother is more likely to unnecessarily clean when she is more anxious to the detriment of her tennis elbow, then she needs to firstly be aware there can be another and better way of dealing with stress. And secondly, she needs to implement steps to change this self-destructive behaviour. Depending on your mother's level of insight, she may either react defensively and simply state that her level of cleaning is required or she may accept that she could do with some time out and healing time for her elbow, not to mention do with not being controlled by a compulsion. You could check out this short blog (written for therapists, but I think you'll find it informative) on why I use hypnosis to treat OCD.

Your mother could certainly benefit from using other ways to zone out - ways that are relaxing and enable her elbow to heal. And if she is open to the idea that her cleaning may be on the obsessive side, then she could use the 'Stop Obsessive Cleaning' download.

Your mother is lucky to have you looking out for her welfare.

All my best,


watch icon Published by Mark Tyrrell - January 26th, 2015 in

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