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My Boyfriend’s OCD Is Taking a Toll on Career

by Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

From India: My boyfriend has severe OCD problem. He does not pose a problem to me but I have noticed behavioral problems in him owing to this which have destroyed his family, relations and career.

He is afraid of certain places and people in our city and often stays cooped up in his room to avoid the things. Talking to him I have discovered he is afraid of certain people who he thinks has supernatural powers which can harm him. Thus he avoids both them and the places or things they are remotely associated with. He refuses to go to these “dangerous” places and avoids anyone who visits these places or meets these people including his parents. He even avoids using transport that come or go to these particular places. He has elaborate bathing rituals in which he purifies himself.

He has devastated his career as he is afraid to do anything. He has strong reasoning which he uses to discover some connection to the things he is afraid of. Example: His classmate works in a company where the person he is afraid of worked and he is afraid that in some way he will be affected. I feel pity and wish I could help.I tried exposure therapy as suggested by a local psychologist but he always makes an excuse not to do it.

Will changing the city help or should we consider rehabilitation?

The most important thing he can do is see a local professional for advice. Some people are able to confine their anxieties to a certain place or certain situations. They manage their worries by eliminating what’s worrying them. That is called “compartmentalization.” That technique works well when the fear is focused on something specific and rare. For instance, if a person is afraid of blue parakeets, he can avoid being around blue parakeets. It’s harder to compartmentalize when the fears extend over many issues in many places — as is the case with your boyfriend. A local professional can help determine whether your boyfriend is able to compartmentalize his OCD to his current location. If not, he needs to understand that he can’t manage the problem by hiding in his room and avoiding life. Instead, he needs treatment to help him learn skills for managing his fears so he can manage his life.

What concerns me most is that you indicate that he isn’t willing to engage in his treatment. The OCD is clearly interfering with his life and relationships in significant ways. It is not likely to go away without treatment.

If he won’t take his treatment seriously, you have a difficult decision to make. Are you willing to spend your life with someone who becomes increasingly isolated and unemployable? I hope the two of you will have a very serious discussion about this.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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