Dr. Laura is on her way to help a couple who are dealing OCD – Becca, 39, and Dennis from Antigo, Wisconsin. Dr. Laura tells us that Obsession Compulsive Disorder – OCD – effects more than 2% of the population and many times, it has to do with cleanliness or with unrealistic fears. Becca tells us that OCD became part of her life at around age 22…and it just got bigger and bigger in her life…and became a bigger and bigger problem in the relationship. Dennis says, “Everything is at stake.” They need Dr. Laura.
Dr. Laura asks Becca about the kitchen…and Dennis says, “We do have a 5 second rule,” for anything that may drop on the ground, but Becca tells Dr. Laura that she washes her hands at least 50 to 100 times a day. Dr. Laura sits down to understand their relationship a little more. Dennis wants to be able to make an emotional connection the way they used to when they were younger. They have sex 1 every month or every 2 months…and Dennis has given up asking. Becca says she wants more romance…and not to feel like a piece of meat. Dennis wants sex. Dr. Laura says they need to get the connection back…and she sits down with Becca alone to talk about the OCD. “At 22, I contracted the Herpes virus,” Becca says. “I was very sick, sores all over…I felt like damaged goods.”
Dr. Laura tells her, “I can’t change 17 years of conditioning, but I do feel compelled to tell you that 1 in 5 people have Herpes. 80% of them don’t know it. And it’s a skin condition…” Dr. Laura asks, “When did the OCD start?” Becca tells her it started when she contracted Herpes, but really got bad when her first daughter was born. “I wouldn’t kiss her in fear of giving her the Herpes virus,” Becca tells her. “So, I wouldn’t kiss her as a baby, probably until she was 5.” What about the relationship. Becca feels they are disconnected. “When they have sex, they are disconnected,” she says. What is Dennis’s perspective? With no exposure to mental illness, he’s not really sure how to react. “I’ve learned to just let her do these things…but when she is fixated on certain things, that would annoy me….I get that it is something that it is not a choice, but I don’t see how it can be that way,” Dennis says.
Dr. Laura gives them homework. No intercourse…Yes VENIS (very erotic, non-insertive sex). Dr. Laura wants them to have a connection…and hands them a pretty little pink bag. On their video diary, Becca says, “we cheated…” and they had sex. Homework extra credit or cheating? What will Dr. Laura think?
As they go to Chicago and check into the hotel, it’s hard for Becca…”I needed to rearrange a bit,” Becca tells Dr. Laura. When Dr. Laura asks about the homework, she’s glad that they had an emotional connection and a glimpse of what they are both looking for.
Now, Dr. Laura has arranged for both of them to meet with Farah Hussain, Psychotherapist and OCD Specialist. Dr. Laura is hoping that by putting both of them through some desensitizing training will help Becca with coping with her OCD and Dennis with understanding what his wife is going through. At the exposure therapy session, Dr. Laura is hoping for some progress.
- Exposure Therapy – Reduces anxiety by forcing patients to confront the objects they fear.
First up is Dennis. The goal is to provoke anxiety in Dennis so that he will empathize with Becca. And Dr. Hussin tells Becca to tap into the logical side of her brain…it’s all ok. Dennis gets through the food with little problem…so they pull out balloons – something he was afraid and embarrassed about as a young child. This seems to speak to him. Now, it’s Becca’s turn. Dr. Hussin is going to drop a fork, and then Becca is going to put it in her mouth. “The goals is to process through the thoughts and remind yourself that you are going to be okay,” Dr. Hussin tells her. To be able to “process the thoughts and get to the other side”…that’s where Becca wants to get to.
Tonight, Dr. Laura gives them the homework –Dennis must create a romantic evening for Becca. Dr. Laura has given him $400 and an hour at the mall to get everything he needs to make this happen. After dinner, Dr. Laura wants them to continue to reconnect by having focused, passionate set. Finally, they need to figure out a sex date schedule so they have a plan.
As another test, Dr. Laura has moved them into another room…and this is hard for Becca to settle into. “I didn’t get a chance to sanitize…I was stressed out,” Becca says and Dennis comments, “I could tell that she wasn’t really there…” Becca felt anxious…not excited…so a little setback for them.
During their final meeting with Dr. Laura, she asks if they had sex…and Becca tells her, “I shut down,” and admits, they had an argument and the night did not go as planned. Becca says that Dennis had the expectations that this was going to go somewhere totally different and it was ruined by her anxiety. Dr. Laura tells them, “When you make a sex date, it’s not okay if you bailed on it and expect the other person to not be disappointed or hurt or angry…” Dr. Laura tells them, “The intentions are in the right place,” but tells the couple that sometimes they get carried away and might get tunnel vision…and not see the whole picture. Dr. Laura tells them to find a code word to say so that Dennis will know – Becca’s full of anxiety and just needs to take a deep breath and some help in getting present again. “Do the work, take it one step at a time, remember to communicate and use your code word.”
At the recheck 3 weeks later, the couple shows they are reconnecting…and making great progress.