Sugar and Spice and all things nice… what of ‘disgust propensity’?

By Rob Kelly

Sugar and Spice and all things nice…

SO, just what is the connection between muddy wellies and The Thrive Programme?

Modern life is all too trigger-happy on the germ-bashing front –  we all have an arsenal of antibacterial sprays, wipes and gels in our cupboards (and even our handbags) and some people are intent on living a super-clean and sanitised life.  Especially people with OCD and emetophobia for whom keeping clean can be a particular priority.

In our work as Thrive Programme Consultants, we notice that sufferers of emetophobia and OCD often have a very strong disgust propensity: that is a strong tendency to respond with the emotion of disgust to situations.  Dirty or disgusting things are commonly be met with a hysterical reaction of ‘eeeewwww’ and ‘gross’. People respond to a bit of muck by overestimating the risk of illness, and sufferers might even try to prevent themselves or their children from getting mucky or messy or use other ‘safety-seeking’ behaviours such as excessive hand washing or monitoring of physical symptoms.

Most of us were taught this disgust propensity by their own (often obsessive) mothers; and were brought up to be ‘sugar and spice and all things nice’ as young girls.  Identifying this as one of the root causes of your thinking problems can take you a step closer to recovery. Responding to dirty or disgusting situations with a calmer, more realistic approach can be really helpful, in place of aspiring to germ-free dazzling-white perfection and health-related anxiety.

In taking people through the Thrive Programme, we may help you to challenge yourself in the face of something ‘disgusting’, and especially if you have a daughter, allow yourself to experience a little bit of muck, mess or disorder as it will benefit your mental well-being.  We advocate a responsible approach to health, hygiene and food preparation with the emphasis on as clean as necessary, not as clean as possible, and at no point will we suggest unnecessary exposure to risk or illness.

Getting outside and getting a little bit muddy offers a host of benefits; mud is ‘just clean dirt’ after all!