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OCD, continual glancing at women in public. Advice?

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General & Family Physician
Practicing since : 2009
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Before my husband and I married he admitted that he had OCD. When he was young he had compulsions to complete acts or "something bad would happen". Even now, when taking sips of water sometimes something doesn't feel right and he will have to repeat the act until it "feels okay". He admitted to having unwanted sexual thoughts earlier in life. A few years before we met he was viewing porn regularly and started using prostitutes. He admitted to having cheated on me in order to have sex. We went to counseling and he is committed to the relationship, and states he has never turned back to old behavior. He made an agreement in front of the counselor that if he watches porn or has sex with a prostitue (or other) he must tell me within two hours. However, when we are in public he has a constant "looking problem". It has disturbed me to the point that complete healing (from the cheating and other behaviors) can't take place. I am beside myself. I have told him I think it is related to the OCD, but he claims he is not even aware of it. Other times he says if he is diligent of being aware of "looking" in every moment he can control it, but any distraction will make him forget and go right back to it. It is sad to him because he feels that no matter how well he does there will always be something I am not happy with, and he really has worked hard to deal with his compulsions. The problem for me is that I have started to dread going places with him. We both like to go to the gym, and to travel, and I am losing my XXXXXXX in doing so because of the constant, repeated glances at other women. I explained it might be normal to look at beautiful people, but many, continual glances are not normal (and not respectful to me). We are married now and many aspects of the marriage are quite wonderful, connecting, intimate and joyful. We both want this relationship to work. Any advice or insight would be greatly appreciated.
What steps can I take to respond to the situation in a helpful, healthy way, in order to support myself and my husband?

I am now suffering from low self esteem related to my looks, and I think it has to do with "the looking at other women".

Posted Thu, 26 Apr 2012 in Mental Health
Answered by Dr. Vidya Muralidhar 1 hour later

Thanks for your query.

I totally understand what you must be going through and it is very natural for a wife to feel like this and suffer with low esteem, one starts feeling that there is nothing wrong with the partner but with one's own self and hence the partner chose to cheat and do similar things.I do not see a reason for you to feel low , be confident that nothing will go wrong .

Your husband seems to be having OCD from a long time , which has not been treated adequately.OCD is an anxiety disorder characterised by repeated thoughts about something,so frequently that it starts affecting the daily life causing problems in inter personal relationships too.This usually gets started early and is established by the age of 30 years . These thoughts may range anywhere from washing hands repeatedly , checking doors, lights, upto even having thoughts on oprn , sex , etc . These constant thoughts lead to a compulsion for the person to put the frequent thoughts into actions.Hence they suffer from lot of anxiety and stress.

Many people with anxiety disorders like OCD benefit from joining a self-help or support group and sharing their problems and achievements with others.

It is believed that talking with a trusted friend or a family member can provide great support , but it is not a substitute for care from a mental health professional/psychiatrist.

Stress management techniques and meditation can help people with OCD to deal with their worries .

The family is very important in the recovery of a person with any anxiety disorder. Ideally, the family should be supportive but not help perpetuate their loved one’s symptoms. Family members should not trivialize the disorder or demand improvement without treatment.

OCD is a neurosis where the patient has an insight , that he is suffering from it and needs to get it treated , since your husband does not feel that he is doing things like staring at women , I feel he may be true to some extent , I suggest you to talk to him , be more comfortable , tell him that it is affecting you and convince him to see a psychiatrist for medicines and behaviour therapy .Regular sessions of counselling alone will not help without medicines if it is told that it is an OCD again.

There are chances that OCD is likely to have recurred in him , perhaps in a milder way that he is not able to accept or feel he needs some attention right now.

I would also want to tell you that ,the feeling of losing self esteem and constantly thinking why your husband is doing such things is natural , but I would suggest you not to feel this way.You must understand his problem and be a support system in solving it , you can take help from your friends and family to make you feel better .I would also ask you to stop constantly looking at him as to where he is looking or staring at , by over scrutiny even normal things may seem abnormal to you .Give it time , see the doctor and take an opinion , you have to accompany him and you must put down your worries to the doctor as well

I am sure , this could be easilty dealt with co operation from both of you and there is nothing that will stop both of you from leading a happy life.

I hope I answered your query , I am available for follow up queries as well.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: OCD, continual glancing at women in public. Advice? 15 minutes later
Before I ask my second question I must say I am touched that you are from India. This is where my husband was born. He came to the states when he was six years old. He believes this is where the OCD originated from because he was forced to leave his beloved Grandmother. He admits to having some cultural issues regarding women, and we are learning and growing everyday in regard to this. Thank you kindly for your good advice and insight. We are meditators. He is Hindu and I am Buddhist.

My second question: Is there any other self-help techniques that you can think of when we are together in public that might be helpful in supporting him (and myself), as I am beginning to shut down quite quickly.
Answered by Dr. Vidya Muralidhar 2 hours later

Thanks for writing back

I feel very happy to learn that your husband is from India ,a land known for ancient and diverse culture.

Before I give you suggestions on how to prevent your husband from starring at other women , I would want to share a few lines with you.

Have you ever not looked at a good looking man other than your husband ? Does this mean that you did not love your husband enough or that you were cheating on him when you looked at another guy ? Did it make you feel guilty anytime or did it constantly run in your mind ?

I guess your answer would be yes, you looked at someone , and that's normal to do , and no,you never felt that you did anything wrong .The same applies for your husband as well.

There are many reasons why men stare at other women, I would tell you every man would be looking at a girl/lady who passes by , as long as it limits to looking at someone and not leading to touch ,no harm. Some just look at other women out of curiosity, there would not be any reason , and after sometime they would have totally forgotten about it as well.

Hence I suggest you to remove this thought from your mind that he is doing something wrong , if you still feel a need to do something about it, here are some tips that could help both of you

1. Go to places which interests both of you , if he does not like shopping for clothes , he would automatically look at people around him , so make sure you visit places which can keep both of you happy.

2. Whenever you notice that he is getting to stare at women ,try and tell him calmly not to do so, make sure you do not make him conscious every time as it will cause anxiety and stress leading to worsening of an OCD.

3.You could try diverting his attention when you find him looking at someone, you could start talking to him about good things between the two of you , or look at other interesting things around, else move away from the place for sometime if it gets too uncomfortable

4.Talking to him after you get back home , calmly and trying to draw solutions will help, he will also understand that this is constantly bothering you and will see to it that it does not happen again.

Meanwhile engage yourself in things which make you happy, do what you feel would help you get strong, be confident , try new looks , experiment with new things , remember you are doing this for yourself and not or anyone else , life will always welcome a new change.

I hope this was of some help to you.

Wish you both a good life ahead.

Warm regards.

Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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