I have been happily married for 25 years. “Mike” is a wonderful husband with a flaw — his personal hygiene. He showers only once or twice a week, and then when he does, he’ll put on the same dirty pants he wore for the past three days.
I have asked him, numerous times, to bathe more frequently and to change his underwear and socks daily, whether or not he bathes. (He knows I don’t mind doing laundry, so that’s not his excuse.) He comes home from work and doesn’t change out of his dusty clothes, and then he sits on the furniture, leaving dirt and body odor. He can’t smell it, so he thinks I am oversensitive and overreacting. I am so frustrated and at my wits’ end.
Annie, I know he reads your column every day and hope he will recognize himself in this letter. I don’t know how else I can get through to him. Please help.
Your husband may be depressed, as poor personal hygiene is a symptom of self-neglect and can signal a major depressive disorder. Or he may just be lazy. If he seems mentally healthy otherwise and he truly thinks you’re just being overly sensitive, then I’m guessing it’s the latter. Beyond affecting your love life (as I’m sure this has), there are other serious consequences. When a person doesn’t shower often enough, his skin becomes hospitable to bad bacteria and vulnerable to all sorts of infections.
He should be showering three (or more) times a week if he leads a sedentary lifestyle, daily if he works out or does manual labor. And he should be wearing a fresh pair of underwear every day.
If he doesn’t believe you and me, have him consult his physician. He can either get into the shower or get into the doctor’s office.
Iaman 18-year-old freshman at college. I had a wonderful high-school experience — varsity volleyball, tons of friends and two wonderful parents. I worked hard and got good grades.
During my first semester at school, I have started to constantly worry that I am going to get sick and die. The other day, I had a headache and was convinced that I had a brain tumor. I went to urgent care and asked whether I needed an MRI. The professionals there said that there was nothing seriously wrong, that I was probably dehydrated.
I am constantly washing my hands for fear that I will get sick. It is starting to affect my concentration in class because every time I get a cramp or a pain in my stomach, I think I am dying. I want to enjoy myself and go back to not being preoccupied with getting sick.
— Wanting to Stop Worrying and Start
Make no mistake; moving away from home for the first time is a big deal. It’s very natural for teens to feel anxiety during their freshman year of college. But as you’ve recognized, your anxiety is more intense than the average student’s. Your preoccupation with getting sick — which is known as hypochondria — could be your way of dealing with that.
Consult your college counselor, and practice more positive self-talk to help cope with these thoughts when they come up. Your mental health is extremely important, and I’m glad you realize that.
He should be showering three (or more) times a week if he leads a sedentary lifestyle, daily if he works out or does manual labor.