Dear Dr. Archer,
My problem is not with me, but with my father. He is 55 years old and has a habit of constantly washing his hands and feet. Because of this, he spends long hours in the bathroom and ignores his daily work.
We are in serious trouble, because at this time he's the only working member of our family. It would be a great help if you could provide some valuable, psychological suggestions which would stop him from using up all the hot water and wasting so much precious time because of it. Thank you.
Your father sounds like he has OCD, meaning Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This is an anxiety disorder which can be very difficult and confusing.
Symptoms include obsessions like cleanliness and rituals like repetitive cleaning/washing many times a day. Also, along with OCD usually comes depression.
If your father does have OCD, in his mind he is not wasting water or time. He has an overwhelming urge to clean his hands and feet, and that urge will consume him until he washes. And it will happen again and again.
OCD is an anxiety disorder, and it sounds like your dad is already under an incredible amount of stress, being the only person working to support the family.
It takes hard work to overcome OCD, but it is possible. I advise that he see a psychiatrist and get evaluated. There are several treatments for this condition, including meds and certain therapies.
Bottom line: he needs to be evaluated by a competent doctor who can make an accurate diagnosis and begin treatment, whether that's medication, therapy or both.
In the meantime, have him follow my suggestions in How Can I Snap Out Of Depression? If the family is getting upset and trying to make him stop washing, it could make the problem worse.
Get the medical help and be supportive of your father. And if possible, get employment yourself so all the burden isn't just on your father's shoulders. Good luck.