I’m concerned about my 21 yo sister. She recently returned from a trip to France with a friend. I’ve noticed some odd behavior patterns that began when she returned home. She excessively washes her hands and can only use a tissue or washcloth to do so. And she also uses a tissue to open a door as well. And she’s also been very irritable and “snappy” with family too. She showers daily also. I’ve thought as though she might be suffering from OCD but she doesn’t have enough repetitious behaviors for a diagnosis of OCD. And I’ve also thought of germophobia as well but again she doesn’t suffer from any of the physical symptoms for that diagnosis either. Could you please give me your perspective or conclusion to what she could possibly be suffering from??? And help is greatly appreciated!! Thanks

A. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a realistic possibility. Sometimes a change in life circumstances can trigger an anxiety disorder. Perhaps something about the trip or her return home triggered her anxiety. People with OCD engage in ritualistic behavior when they’re feeling anxious and out of control. The rituals help make them to feel as though they are more in control of their environment. It temporarily feels good to engage in the rituals but in reality it only worsens their condition.

While OCD might be a possibility, only a mental health professional who interviewed your sister could provide a definitive diagnosis.

If you and your sister are close, and you feel comfortable, perhaps you can suggest that she be evaluated by a mental health professional. Tell her you’re concerned and that you’ve noticed a change in her behavior. You can also inform her that you have been researching mental health disorders and believe that she could benefit from mental health treatment. I’m not certain how she’ll react when you approach her but it’s always worth trying to help a loved one. OCD is a very treatable disorder. Medication and psychotherapy could help her immensely and prevent her symptoms from worsening. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle
Mental Health & Criminal Justice Blog