A woman with obsessive-compulsive disorder says negotiating with her fiance helps her with her extreme fear of germs

  • Allison Raskin has lived with obsessive compulsive disorder for 29 years.
  • She has intrusive thoughts and compulsions about her environment being germ-free, which can make dating difficult, she said.
  • Now living with her fiancé, Raskin said giving herself grace and asking for help has changed her life for the better.

Allison Raskin watched as her fiancé carried his suitcase into her house. When the side of her suitcase brushed against his trouser leg, Raskin froze.

His mind swirled with thoughts of where the suitcase had been, like the filthy shed in his backyard and airports full of germs.

“Can you wash your pants?” She asked him.

Raskin, a 33-year-old writer and content creator, was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder when she was four years old. She told Insider that she has spent most of her life navigating intrusive thoughts and compulsions, mainly about the contamination of her world and the fear of being alone.

What is obsessive compulsive disorder?

Obsessive compulsive disorder is a largely misunderstood condition in which a person has recurring and unwanted thoughts, ideas, or sensations that feeling compelled to stop through a repetitive action or compulsion, according to the American Psychiatric Association. Someone with OCD feels the need to act on compulsions, such as washing their hands, checking something, or counting to a specific number, so much so that it interferes with their daily functioning and social life. If they don’t act on it, they feel extreme distress, according to the APA.

For Raskin, his obsessive thoughts and compulsions revolve around germs and pollution. As she dated in her twenties, she noted how her OCD and her anxiety affected her ability to feel secure in romantic relationships. But it wasn’t until she started taking antidepressants again at age 25 and going to therapy that she, Raskin, was able to challenge her intrusive thoughts and feel safe enough to experience the uncertainty of dating without spiraling down, she told him. to Insider.

Now she can tell herself, “My fiancé isn’t his pants,” and better deal with the discomfort of her intrusive germ-related thoughts without always having to act on it, Raskin said. She told Insider that she wanted to document her personal growth for others who could relate, while also offering advice. Raskin wrote “Thinking too much about yourself: Navigating romantic relationships when you have anxiety, OCD, and/or depression” a book that is part memoir and part self-help, which was released in May 2022.

Raskin told Insider that she still has days of poor mental health where her intrusive thoughts—“If I touch the dirty floor, I’ll die,” for example—seem too overwhelming, but she’s also happily engaged to a partner. More importantly, she said that she is happy with herself.

Obsessive thoughts about contamination made the early stages of dating agonizing, Raskin said.

Psychological experts have yet to identify the causes of OCD, or why certain people develop specific compulsions, but they believe it could be related to a combination of factors including the environment, genetics and brain chemistry, according to the study. National Institute of Mental Health.

In her book, Raskin said she was diagnosed after an extreme strep throat landed her in the hospital. Doctors told her the infection altered her brain chemistry and she became obsessed with “debilitating neuroses, self-loathing, and depression that followed me into adulthood.”

Although she was able to manage her symptoms in her professional life, always did well in school and landed a job at Buzzfeed in 2015, Raskin said her love life revealed the depth of her compulsions.

She said that the early stages of dating were a mental battle. She couldn’t bring herself to have sleepovers with a new love interest because that meant dealing with germs in her home, or her love interest watching her act out her compulsions in her own home, Raskin said. . She struggled to share the extent of her obsessive thoughts and dating compulsions, fearing saying too much too soon and being judged.

When someone became her boyfriend, Raskin said that her anxiety (which can often be related to OCD) kicked at full speed. She would stay up all night wondering where they were or why they weren’t responding to her text messages, and then she would be convinced that they were either hurt, dead, or didn’t care about her at all. She said that getting older, going back on antidepressants and going to therapy regularly helped her move away from extreme thinking that would influence her unhealthy behaviors.

Instead of telling herself she was a “terrible person” for acting compulsively, Raskin began to “allow a lot more grey” into her life. She began to recognize the things she wanted to change, like how she got over obsessive thoughts about cleanliness without feeling the need to vilify herself for a slip, she told Insider.

When your OCD ‘flares up,’ self-compassion, medication, and support from your fiancé help

Raskin said she has lived with her fiancé for a year and it is still a “continuous push and pull” with how navigate your OCD symptoms.

For Raskin, the key to finding helpful ways to deal with his intrusive thoughts and compulsions began with practicing self-compassion, he told Insider. Now that she is more at ease with herself, she finds it easier to be honest with her loved ones, such as her fiancé, about what she is experiencing at any given time.

On days when Raskin feels stressed or overwhelmed, she says she has trouble challenging her obsessive thoughts. When that happens, she tells her partner, “Today is a really bad day for OCD” so they can have open communication about it. Her partner gives her more space than usual to act on her compulsion or talk about obsessive thoughts, she said.

When Raskin feels good, she said she challenges herself to keep from acting on her obsessive thoughts. She said she finds it helpful when her partner also challenges her in a nice way, such as telling her when asking him to wash her pants or clean something of hers in her house seems like too much.

“Talking about what I want him to do, while acknowledging that it’s my mental illness and knowing that it’s not a fair question, takes some of the pressure off,” Raskin said. He said he used to avoid vocalizing his obsessive thoughts and compulsions to him, but noted that “talking about it more openly takes away some of the power.”

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