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Dear Dr. Yael,

Pesach preparation in my house can be very challenging since my wife has some OCD. My wife has a hard time preparing for Pesach and creating a kosher Pesach without cleaning too much and making herself nuts. Please help me.


A Worried Husband


Dear Worried Husband,

For people with obsessive compulsive disorder Pesach can be extremely difficult, because of the obsessive and anxious nature of their thoughts. Pesach comes with stringent religious requirements, so this can exacerbate someone’s symptoms of OCD as the potential for anxiety is increased. Asking a Rav for parameters for cleaning in your case may be a good idea. Additionally, if you feel that the things your wife is doing are unnecessary and excessive, ask your wife if she will agree to ask your Rav and follow whatever he says. It is imperative that you help your wife strike a balance between being meticulous without letting it become overwhelming or obsessive. Here are some tips that may help.

  1. Set realistic goals for what needs to be accomplished. It is important to focus on the most important areas such as the kitchen, dining area, and other places that chametz is generally found.
  2. Help your wife create a structured cleaning plan that breaks down all of the needed tasks into manageable steps. This can help your wife not get overwhelmed and hopefully help her make steady progress without becoming overly fixated on minor details.
  3. Make sure your wife has good cleaning help and that you and the children (if appropriate) are helping her get through the cleaning.
  4. Make sure your wife is practicing self-care and is taking care of herself and not overexerting herself. Exercising is also a great way to keep anxiety at bay.

If these ideas are not helpful, please have your wife seek professional help. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the modalities of therapy that is very successful with anxiety. Your wife will learn that she can fight her anxious thoughts and replace them with rational thoughts in order to teach her brain that she does not have to overdo Pesach cleaning. Exposure and response prevention (ERP) is a specialized technique that is very successful with OCD. With this technique, people are exposed to things that give them anxiety and they need to teach their brain that they can handle the anxiety and that they do not need to carry out a compulsion (in this case excessively clean) in order to calm the anxiety. A competent therapist will be able to help your wife manage her anxiety during this stressful time. Hatzlacha with this difficult issue and with your Pesach cleaning!

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Dr. Yael Respler is a psychotherapist in private practice who provides marital, dating and family counseling. Dr. Respler also deals with problems relating to marital intimacy. Letters may be emailed to [email protected]. To schedule an appointment, please call 917-751-4887. Dr. Orit Respler-Herman, a child psychologist, co-authors this column and is now in private practice providing complete pychological evaluations as well as child and adolescent therapy. She can be reached at 917-679-1612. Previous columns can be viewed at and archives of Dr. Respler’s radio shows can be found at