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17 September 2014
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Case Studies


Occupation: Housewife
Disorder: Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Stephanie washing her hands
Stephanie is so afraid of germs, she can't stop washing her hands
Stephanie is terrified that her baby son Jake will be kidnapped. This obsessional fear makes her carry out compulsive rituals designed to protect her son. Stephanie finds it particularly difficult to take Jake out of the house in his pushchair.

Irrational fear

"When I come to traffic lights or stop signs, I have to keep my eyes on Jake. I'm scared that someone's going to take him," says Stephanie.

But her fear is not confined to the outdoors. Stephanie sets elaborate traps around the house by taking everyday objects like videotapes and leaning them against the wall for intruders to knock over. She hopes these will alert her if a stranger is in the house.

In Stephanie's mind someone is always lying in wait to kidnap Jake - even when she is at home with the doors locked.

Stephanie cleaning the carpet
Stephanie scrubs her floor clean to protect her son from germs
Stephanie knows her thoughts are irrational, but they are beyond her control. Protecting Jake from every conceivable danger makes her life torture.

Avoiding contamination

Stephanie also has an extreme fear of contamination. She thinks she will pick up fatal germs and pass them onto Jake. This makes her conduct elaborate cleaning rituals to get rid of germs from the house and her body before she touches her son.

"I wash my hands continuously. I know I have to stop myself, but it's like my feet are moving towards the sink and I have to," she explains. Stephanie's hand-washing ritual consists of a complex series of steps that have to be performed in exact order. She has to perform this ritual exactly three times.

Stephanie has 'OCD galore' according to her therapist

Fixing OCD

Stephanie's doctor Elna Yadin says she has 'OCD galore', with a bit of every classic symptom of OCD. Elna is helping her overcome her fears by learning to confront them. The therapy involves letting Jake touch things that are dirty, like the wheels of his pushchair. Stephanie's husband Kurt is exceptionally understanding of her condition and is always on hand to support her through the treatment.

Despite Stephanie's severe symptoms, her therapy proves a success. She is now almost cured of her obsessive-compulsive behaviour. Stephanie continues to stay at home to bring up her baby son Jake.

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