Why Worry: 'OCD has ruined my life - I spend most of my day in the bathroom'
I am from the southern part of India. I’ve been living in UAE since 2008, working as a teller at a bank. I was fine until mid-2017. In that year, I was transferred from Dubai to Fujairah and since then I have been suffering from OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). When I got a room, it was dirty and so bad that I started cleaning and since I wasn’t satisfied, I cleaned again. Thereafter, every now and then I would start washing my home and things inside. By 2017, I was washing everything, from laptop to TV, to furniture – my water bills were more than my earnings. If I felt something was not clean enough I would throw it out. I've become unable to concentrate on my life and my full day went into washing things.
My main things are 'religious OCD' concerning filth; I feel all things have come into contact with filth and I need to wash them otherwise my prayers will not be accepted and I will be punished. I am thinking so deeply about these things that I don’t know what I’m doing. In the office people think I’m crazy because I never touch office things with bare hands.
Once home, I always take a bath, sometimes this process takes up to 2 to 3 hours until I get tired. I never meet people because I would need to shake hands. I don’t go to malls because I feel they are filthy; I don’t go to restaurants to eat food because I don’t know if they are clean or not.
I tried to take leave and spend time in India for one month but things didn’t change – I was very irritated. I came back and changed my room, but I did the same things. Once I fell down badly in the washroom and one of my teeth got lodged in my lip. That day, with that wound I was in the washroom from 3pm till 1230pm next day, just in water shivering. I said this all to my colleague... He took me to a psychiatric doctor. There I spent some money – it is not affordable for me.
I lost my mother in Feb 2019 and my younger brother took it very seriously and got depressed and he died in June 2019... It hurt me a lot, it broke me. Also, I’m the son of divorced parents and was bullied for it as a child. Now I’m alone and I want to give them a good life - my OCD is becoming increasingly worse. And I have financial issues. My job is good but I have loans and other commitments. I’m unable to afford expensive psychiatric treatment…It’s only gotten worse since I got COVID-19. Although I’ve recovered from it, my health physically and mentally has worsened. My condition is worsening day by day. I don't know where to get free help. Loneliness is my big enemy, I cant keep family here due to personal family issues.
My OCD and depression is specifically due to loss of almost my lifetime savings of 200 thousands plus dirhams, I'm completely depressed. I'm unable to have food, unable to sleep, unable to concentrate on work. I live alone in Fujairah. Forgetfulness, frustration and feelings of suicide have increased.. That's why I approach you to get some psychological solutions.
Answered by Dr Ava Ghasemi (Holdich), Clinical Psychologist at The Mapletree Center DMCC.
I am deeply sorry to hear that you find yourself in such a crisis in your life! I’m equally impressed that you have reached out and written about how you are feeling in order to get some support. This is a wonderful step toward your well-being. Please accept my response as being from someone who is reading about you for the first time and doesn’t know you personally. I sense that you are feeling incredibly hopeless and unable to see the light in the future. This is compounded by the fact that you haven’t been able to access mental health services yet.
Mental health problems are real
Approximately 1-2% of the population suffers from OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and about 5% of the population suffers from depression.
Your loss of appetite, inability to sleep and suicidal thoughts are all an indication of potentially a major depressive episode.
You must see a medical professional and properly receive treatment. Even seeing a local general practitioner will suffice at this point until you can access counselling and psychotherapy. There are free mental health services available listed at the end of this post for your reference. There are also some clinics in the UAE that offer online therapy services at a sliding scale cost. The best way to find out which is to call the clinics directly and ask if they offer sessions on a sliding scale.
Access mental health treatments
OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) can be a debilitating condition for most. OCD often is highly correlated with depression. Having said that, there is treatment available for OCD. Exposure and response prevention along with antidepressants tend to be the lines of treatment for OCD.
There are many treatment modalities available for addressing mental health including but not limited to Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Ego State Therapy, Emotion-focused therapy, Humanistic/Existential Psychotherapy, Internal Family Systems, Mindfulness-based psychotherapy, Psychodynamic therapy and many more.
Most psychologists tend to integrate a few approaches in order to help the patient. No one modality fits everyone and there are individual and cultural differences that will be considered in order to come up with the most appropriate treatment plan. The most important factor is having a good rapport with your mental health professional and maybe even trying out a few different therapists until you feel you have found the right person to help you. Improving your mental health will be a journey and it will be one of the best investments you can do in bettering your quality of life. There is no physical health without mental health.
You have also gone through an incredible loss and childhood trauma in your life. Trauma can manifest itself in the ways you are living right now, with an intense need for control. Trauma can sometimes become dormant but catch up to us when we are under high stress. The priority at this point in your mental health journey will be “stabilization,” which is developing coping strategies and ways of thinking that can help you with your current situation first. Once you have internal and external resources and a safety plan and support system in place you can revisit your traumatic past with the support of a trauma-informed mental health professional.
You are not your feelings
The loneliness you experience is not your “enemy.” It is part of being human. However, what you do with your loneliness matters. People who are depressed tend to worry about being a burden on others but again it is very important to know that this is your depression talking. Your depression is currently a part of you that is stuck but this is not all of who you are. You also have an innate capacity to heal and move forward.
When we feel depressed, we interpret everything through the lens of depression. This is called ‘emotional reasoning,’ which means that you interpret and think based on your current feelings rather than facts.
Your feelings are there to signal to you that you need help. So please reach out to the resources below as well as anyone in your life who is non-judgmental and would be supportive. Identify at least 1-2 people in your life to whom you confide in. When you ask for help from a friend or family member please pass on the details to them as well so that they would know what to do.
You need to have a safety plan in place and your mental health is of utmost priority at this point. Any money lost and any financial strain can be recovered in the future (even if you can’t imagine it right now).
Please know that you are not alone. According to the Lancet Commission, Mental health conditions are on the rise in every country in the world and could cost the global economy up to $16 trillion between by 2030. Your suffering is real and part of a global rise.
How you feel today does not determine your future and try to remind yourself that there will be a future where things will be different and better. So again, please make sure you seek out medical support as soon as possible. Please do let us know how things turn out for you!
I’d like to share with you a few free resources in the UAE that you can access free of charge to receive mental health support:
- National program for Happiness and Wellbeing: Call or WhatsApp 800-HOPE (800-4673) (8AM08PM).
- Al Amal Psychiatric Hospital mental health hotline, which you can reach by calling or whatsapp 045192519 (9AM-9PM)
- UAE Suicide Prevention (exclusive for Indian Expats) Hotline: 800 46342
- In case of suicidality, please contact 24/7 EMERGENCY HOTLINE: dial 112 or 911 or go to your local emergency room
If you have questions that you would like answered by a mental health professional in the UAE, please write in to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, please let us know if you'd rather stay anonymous.
Disclaimer: This blog is a conversation and is not an alternative for treatment. The recommendations and suggestions offered by our panel of doctors are their own and Gulf News will not take any responsibility for the advice they provide.