Nishmat's Women’s Health and HalachaIn memory of Chaya Mirel bat R' Avraham

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Unreasonable anxiety about stains

26 July, 2014

Question:

This site is such a treasure trove! So thankful to you for running it!

I'm writing because I'm suffering with anxiety over staining issues for absolutely no reason. I keep on finding red threads, bits of tomato, brown threads, hair, or bit of red onion peel in places like the bath/shower, toilet bowl etc… I know for a fact that its not blood. It doesn't have the consistency of blood, it doesn't leave red residue on a tissue, and it's by far less than a Gris. I have kids that contribute most of these tiny scraps of garbage to the bathroom after their bath, and I have clothes that shed red threads and brown threads. We all share the same bathroom.

I never ask my rav about questions like this, because my brain knows that there is no question… I can just imagine a phone conversation: 'hi, I just found a brown piece of what seems very very much to me like a thread in the toilet bowl. It's less than a Gris.' And he would respond: 'are you asking me if a thread can make you nidda?!' I'll be together with my husband after a find like this, because I know it's fine, yet in my heart I feel uneasy, and it can consume my thoughts for days… Is this an OCD issue? Are there any guidelines I can tick off to see if it's a worthy question? My anxiety was in part brought on by a book on taharas hamishpacha that I read that said you should never rely on your own judgment, and should always call a rav with regard to staining – even if it doesn't fulfill the four criteria of size, color, background color, and item that is mekabel tuma.

I don't tend to have OCD tendencies in any other areas… Sometimes preparation for Mikva, but it's pretty controllable. Is there anything I can do to remove these anxieties? Just one more point, I am pregnant at the moment, and I usually don't stain during pregnancy, and if I stain I notice it on my underwear first.

Thank you so much!


Answer:

Thank you for your kind words.  We are happy to be of help.

We respectfully disagree with the approach of requiring women to ask questions about stains that clearly meet the halachic criteria for leniency. The Torah itself gives the woman a substantial level of credence in its discussion of niddah laws. If anything, women tend to be far more stringent on themselves than necessary. Look for information (as on our site) rather than a universal checklist — and trust yourself.

It does sound as though your anxieties about stains have been veering into the OCD range.  If you find these feelings persist, you may wish to investigate meeting for a couple of sessions with a specialist in CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) to address the issues.

Please write back with any further questions.


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