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crspears
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26 Sep 2011, 4:01 pm

I am the mother of a 21 year old son diagnosed as PDD-NOS. I see a lot of the same symptoms as AS, but he does not communicate well. He has a part-time job at the movie theater and can drive. However, he is severely hampered by his phobia about germs. Does anyone have any suggestions on how we can help him deal with this? It really affects his life in a negative way.



lostonearth35
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26 Sep 2011, 4:39 pm

I believe your son needs a good therapist to help him deal with his phobia, but it won't be easy. I have had a number a phobias myself and the way they desensitize you by exposing you to the very thing you're afraid of is like torture! I was once told about a woman where I live who was terrified of bridges and they made her WALK across this very bridge that's around a mile long and about over a thousand feet above the ground with nothing but ocean underneath. There's no way even I could do that, and I don't really have to so I won't.



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26 Sep 2011, 4:42 pm

Expose him to the reality that exposure to germs is vital for building correct immunity.

Google it....



Apera
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26 Sep 2011, 5:59 pm

And there are good bacteria. Or, deadly bacteria like E Coli live in the lower digestive tracts of every human on earth (probably) and is not only safe there, but is beneficial to digestion. There are thousands of microorganisms constantly in our environment, most of which are either harmless or cannot normally penetrate our natural defenses. Another interesting fact is that males have more acidic skin than females, which kills more germs.


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AardvarkGoodSwimmer
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26 Sep 2011, 9:49 pm

I worried about germs a lot as teenager and into my early 20s.

Two things have helped. Adding to my social skills so that things feel less out of control (although it might be tricky for a parent to coach on social skills)

And, finding out useful health information I feel comfortable sharing with others without overdoing it.

For example, the flu (fever, dry cough), which is quite a bit more serious than just a cold. So, if a child has the flu, seems to be recovering, and then relapses with high fever, that's a danger sign, because that relapse can be bacterial pneumonia. Well, I did not know that. That is useful information.
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/04/healt ... .html?_r=1

The other pattern is that a person with the flu just starts having trouble breathing. That can be either viral or bacterial pneumonia. That's almost zen simplicity, start to have trouble breathing, get some help pronto.

Both of these I feel fully comfortable sharing. And so, having rational health issues somethings helps to crowd out irrational ones (sometimes, nothing works all the day). The other thing that works, kind of the opposite is to lightly pretend I'm afraid of something completely irrational, like piranhas. Funny how the mind works. But a person can kind of light touch and game health worries.



DerStadtschutz
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27 Sep 2011, 10:56 am

Surfman wrote:
Expose him to the reality that exposure to germs is vital for building correct immunity.

Google it....


I agree with this, and let's take it a step further... Also explain to him that no matter what he does, he will always ALWAYS be surrounded by germs. They're in the air. They're on every single surface of everything everywhere. They're in Antarctica, and they're probably even inside a volcano. Germs live EVERYWHERE, whether he realizes it or not, and no attempt, no matter what it is, will entirely rid his life of germs. I don't think he should go throw food on the floor and then pick it up and eat it, or that he should never wash his hands or have people sneeze in his face or anything like that, but there's really nothing to be afraid of regarding germs. Even if there was, it's simply a fact of life that they will be around no matter what you do. If you're afraid of germs, you might as well be afraid of air too.



kx250rider
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27 Sep 2011, 12:28 pm

That's a tough call. If it is a true phobia, or an OCD issue, definitely it needs to be worked on. But on the other hand, there is a dispute as to whether or not hyper-cleanliness causes immunity problems. All I know is; I used to get 5 or 6 NASTY colds & bugs every year from touching public door handles, etc., 'til I started using those alcohol-based hand sanitizer gels about 5 years ago on a cruise ship. Since I started that, I've been getting 1 or 2 mild colds at worst. So you might say I've fallen into a germophobic pattern, but honestly, in my case, I don't see it as hampering my livelihood, and I don't irritate other people with it, if I can help it.

My wife uses it too, and she forgot once after going to the cellphone store, and she had handled all the demonstrater phones. She got a horrible stomach virus that eventually went into colitis. It lasted 2 weeks hard, and she lost 18 pounds (and she only weighed 120 before).

With all of that out on the table, I think it's all about balance and reasoning. If your son feels comfortable protecting himself from germs, I'd let him do what he has to do, but at the same time, support him in controlling it and putting it back into a category of good caution and not an OCD thing. Case in point, if he suddenly wants to wash his hands, an alternative would be to whip out one of those pocket sized hand sanitizers, and give a squirt.

Charles



crspears
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27 Sep 2011, 1:56 pm

He will not use hand sanitizer. He started having this problem after seeing a video about germs in his high school class. The teacher used a black light to show the kids the germs on everything. Ever since then, he washes his hands after touching anything and wears different shoes to go different places, even inside the house! He uses his feet to pull out and push in chairs, etc. We have been able to slow down the hand washing by telling him the certain things he touched didn't have germs on them, but we can't be with him 24/7 or even catch him before he washes all of the time. I guess maybe it will come down to getting more research about the positive benefits of germs and showing that to him.



AardvarkGoodSwimmer
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27 Sep 2011, 8:23 pm

In my microbiology class I'm taking right now (interested in science, believe in life-long learning), the professor said one of the defenses of the body is that neutral or helpful bacteria have colonized different parts of the body thus blocking the receptor sites from harmful bacteria. Examples include:

Staph epidermidis on the skin (as well other helpful/neutral microbes)

Staph aureus in throat, that is, the more benign stains (as well as corynebacterium, etc, etc)

and then, a ton of different bacteria in the gut, most of them helpful, such as helping with the digestion and absorption of B vitamins. This is one reason why after someone takes a broad-spectrum antibiotic, it's helpful to eat yogurt or take a pro-biotic. So maybe ask your son what he thinks of pro-biotics and the helpful bacteria in the gut. Then maybe ask him what he thinks about the helpful/neutral bacteria in the nose keeping out and serving as a block to harmful bacteria.

----------------------

The part with different shoes for different areas does sound like ocd. One thing that helped me was talking to myself and coaching myself and giving myself permission either way, that if I want to wash my hands, it's okay, or if I don't want to wash my hands, that's okay, too. That kind of served to de-spiral and de-escalate the situation.