Twin Sisters With Severe OCD Have Died In A Possible Double Suicide

Sara and Amanda Eldritch had long-term, severe obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD. The twin sisters died on March 30, in what police say was either a double suicide or murder-suicide.

On March 30, Sara and Amanda Eldritch were found dead in a car near Royal Gorge Bridge Park in Colorado.

The Doctors / Via

The twin sisters, who were 33 and from Broomfield, Colorado, had appeared on the daytime talk show The Doctors in 2017 to discuss their severe symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD.

OCD is an anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts and compulsive rituals. It can include obsessions — such as cleanliness or a desire for symmetry — and compulsions, or rigid behaviors that must be performed, like washing your hands dozens of times a day.

In recent years, the sisters and their mother had talked publicly about how OCD affected their lives. About three years ago, the twins underwent deep brain stimulation (DBS), a treatment used only when other OCD treatments have failed, which they discussed on the show.

The women died of gunshot wounds, although it's not clear if it was a double suicide or murder-suicide, the Fremont County Sheriff's Office told BuzzFeed News. "After further investigation and results from the autopsy, this appears to be an isolated incident," they said in a statement. "There is no threat to the public."

The sisters' OCD symptoms started in childhood, and they had tried many treatments.

The Doctors / Via

“When they were toddlers, putting on their shoes or socks was a long, drawn-out process because there couldn’t be any wrinkles in their socks and their shoes had to be tied just a certain way, and that process could go on half hour, 45 minutes, an hour,” their mom, Kathy Worland, said in a 2017 interview on The Doctors. (Worland did not respond to an interview request from BuzzFeed News.)

The sisters said on the show that they began cleanliness rituals in middle school, and by their early twenties were taking showers that lasted up to 10 hours, and would use an entire bar of soap.

They began to lose friends. “When it takes you all day to take a shower, you are never going to meet them somewhere," Sara said in the 2017 interview.

“It’s a cold, miserable, agonizing shower," Amanda said in an interview with 9News in 2016. "We used hydrogen peroxide and alcohol. There was one point we were using so much hydrogen peroxide on our faces, it turned our eyebrows orange."

The rituals were painful, debilitating, and exhausting, and did not relieve their symptoms, they said. "It hurts a lot — it’s ridiculously painful,” said Sara. “And it’s just something I did, like I had no choice. The OCD is saying, 'Do this, do this,' and I’m like, 'OK, OK, I’m doing it.'”

"It’s like listening to somebody who is holding you at gunpoint — you absolutely have to do what they say, " Amanda said. “We’ve tried all the medications — we’ve been on medication since we were 12.”

The twins couldn't work, travel, or touch other people (including each other or their mother) due to the condition.

They eventually underwent DBS surgery. The treatment seemed to help, according to their 2016 interview.

9News / Via

The family had tried every available OCD treatment, including hypnotherapy, counseling, and more than 20 different medications, which sometimes helped but didn't alleviate the symptoms.

DBS is most often used as a treatment for movement disorders like Parkinson's disease. It's an option for people who have OCD that doesn't respond to any other treatments. During the procedure, electrodes are implanted into the brain and connected to a battery-powered neurostimulator that is inserted under the skin near the collarbone.

“The deep brain stimulator electrodes, they inhibit an area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens, and by inhibiting that area of the brain the anxiety doesn’t build to the level it was building before," their surgeon, Dr. David VanSickle, said in an interview with The Doctors. "That allows them to deal with these obsessions and compulsions more normally.”

The treatment was performed at Littleton Adventist Hospital in Littleton, Colorado.

After the treatment, the twins were able to reduce their use of rubbing alcohol and peroxide, and shorten their shower time. “It's the first time in my life that I can actually look at my anxiety and be like, 'Oh wait a minute, this is actually a ridiculous thing to be doing and I can stop being ridiculous now,'" Amanda said in the interview with 9News.

On Christmas Day, the twins were able to hug their mother. "Without the surgery that never would have happened," Worland said in the 2017 interview. “It's the best thing that’s ever happened to me in a very, very long time."

Friends have set up a GoFundMe page for Kathy Worland.

About 2 million people in the US have obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Overall, about 1.2% of adults in the US have OCD in any given year. Symptoms can start in childhood, and the average age of onset is 19, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

It's more common in women than men, and symptoms cause severe impairment in 50% of people, moderate impairment in 35%, and mild impairment in 15%.

A person is typically diagnosed when their obsessions and compulsions disrupt their ability to go to school or work, cause major distress, and take more than one hour each day to complete.

You can read more OCD patient stories or share your own at the APA site.

To learn more about coping with OCD or to find a doctor who can help, check out the International OCD Foundation and the American Psychiatric Association.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, you can speak to someone immediately at or by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.