Medical Questions » Psychiatry Questions » Question No. 828
Question:A friend of mine has an overwhelming fear of contamination and spends hours a day washing his hands and taking showers to the point where he cannot work. What can be done to help him?
Answer:I am very concerned that your friend suffers from an obsessional neurosis. This is a psychiatric condition that requires treatment by a supportive specialist psychiatrist as soon as possible. The longer it is left before appropriate treatment is commenced, the harder successful treatment will become. The first step is to take your friend to his family doctor, using a pretext if necessary to get him to attend. It is often worthwhile warning the doctor beforehand about your concerns. Hopefully the GP will be able to convince him to accept referral on to the psychiatrist. Further treatment will involve the use of medications, psychotherapy (analysis to find out why he has these fears) and behavioural therapy (training him to avoid the compulsive behaviour) to rid him of his unreasonable fears and his compulsion to wash himself. It will take several months, and possibly years, to control the problem adequately. Some patients require continuing management by doctors for the rest of their lives.
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