Expert advice

Dr Caroline West: GP

Dr Caroline West combines her role in a busy inner-city general medical practice with presenting, producing and writing for a number of Australian television shows and magazines. ASK ME A QUESTION

Cleaning, dust mites and anxiety are taking over my life!

Friday, March 28, 2008
Only a doctor can make a diagnosis of a medical condition, but what you describe does sound very much like a textbook example of an anxiety disorder.

I get very anxious all the time about being clean and cannot sleep at night as I worry about dust mites biting me. I am about to have a baby and I want to stop worrying and getting emotional about everything. I get anxious when people come to visit so I clean before and after they come — I don't want to but I feel I need to. I have been like this for a long time. I am so upset at how this affects me and my husband also gets upset. I cannot believe we have all these bugs that live in our beds, house and linen. My husband does not worry, but I do and now that I'm having a baby, I'm anxious that being clean will be a major problem. I need to control my mind and teach it not to think that everything is bad. When it's time to sleep, I want to go to bed not worrying about bugs crawling all over me! I don’t want to tell my husband to stop putting his feet on the couch as they may be dirty, even after he's just had a shower and we have a no-shoes policy in the house. I am emotionally drained and when I get anxious, I get the shakes, my heart races and I have to call my husband to calm me down. Any suggestion would be a big help to me, especially as my baby is due any day now. Thanks.


Only a doctor can make a diagnosis of a medical condition, but what you describe does sound very much like a textbook example of an anxiety disorder. When someone develops an anxiety disorder, they start to worry persistently and unreasonably about relatively minor things — to the extent that this interferes with every-day enjoyment of life.

Needing to clean all the time and worrying about mites and so on may be a symptom of a type of anxiety condition called obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and I strongly urge you to make an appointment to see your doctor to talk frankly about these feelings and this behaviour. The doctor will be able to make a diagnosis and organise treatment to help you. Your husband sounds very supportive, so ask him to help organise the appointment if necessary.

Anxiety disorders such as this are very treatable, often by talking to a psychologist or other qualified therapist who specialises in this area. Your GP will be able to make a referral if necessary and the cost of this should be mostly covered by Medicare.

You can find out more about mental health problems and how they can be treated by calling the free and confidential SANE Helpline on 1800 18 SANE or by visiting the SANE website or call freecall 1800 18 SANE.

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