Tea cups OCD
An older woman entered my office one day and proclaimed she came in ready to work. She said, “I’m getting too old and too tired to keep up all the rituals I have about cleaning.” She admitted she had obsessive fears about germs and washed items excessively in her house. And so therapy began.
She focused her energy on resisting the urges to compulsively clean. When she was unable to resist she had to “undo” her cleaning by deliberately getting the items dirty again. One example of this was that she had to touch the floor with the dish towel and use it the next day to dry dishes. Tolerating anxiety and uncertainty is a cornerstone of treatment. Whenever she faltered I reminded her she was “too old and too tired” to keep doing so much work.
We knew her therapy was successful when her granddaughter came to visit one weekend. The little girl was setting up for a tea party and told her Grandmother that the tea leaves were already in the antique tea cups. What she was seeing was dust in the teacups! Grandmother laughed and enjoyed the party. No more excessive cleaning for her. She had plenty of energy to enjoy her children and grandchildren now.