Amazing story from Varun Gwalani

Amazing video from Varun Gwalani! So brave of him to share his struggles with OCD, and show that sufferers are not alone. Please take the time to read his story, and watch his video. I was truly inspired by his courage and efforts to spread awareness.

https://www.thequint.com/health-fitness/2016/11/24/stereotype-obsessive-compulsive-disorder-bleak-picture-monster-varun-gwalani-mental-illness-ocd 

The other day, I heard someone say, “She kept yelling at me when my room was untidy. She’s so OCD, man.”

As someone who is actually so OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), I was understandably annoyed. I didn’t turn around and go on a tirade about how offended I was. I don’t do that when people use the term for their own purposes- Obsessive Comedic Disorder or Obsessive Christmas Disorder, or something else that’s clearly not obsessive.

I don’t do that because I know there’s no malice behind it, just ignorance.

To explain OCD simply, first remember that a large part of your brain’s job is to be a warning system, to detect possible threats, to remind you that something as simple as putting your hand to fire, or crossing the street without looking, will harm you.

Now imagine if this warning system, this most fundamental part of your brain, is broken.

Also Watch: Mental Heads: Stamping Out Stigma Around Mental Illness

With a broken system, you’re constantly scared of everything. Anything and everything around you can kill you. If not kill you, it can infect, hurt or damage you in some way or another. Most of the time, though, it’s not just you that it’s affecting. Your parents, your family, your friends, all of them are in supposed danger, if you and you alone don’t do what your broken brain compels you to do.

That’s what OCD is.

There are more than ten different kinds of OCD, and every case of OCD has a high chance of being severe and debilitating to the point that it affects everyday life.

Even those “funny” pop culture stereotypes of people with OCD tics become less funny when you pull back the curtain and see the reality. Repeated hand-washing becomes slightly less funny when your mind compels you to do it over and over again, till your skin strips off your fingers, but you still can’t stop. Counting steps while walking, or having to shower several times because of germs sounds funny, until you realise that the person doing it believes that their life physically depends on it. And why shouldn’t they? Why should you believe your brain is lying to you?

These are all symptoms of different kinds of OCD, which include morality OCD, checking OCD or sexuality OCD. When you have OCD, that’s exactly what your brain is doing. And after a point, you can’t distinguish between what is you and what isn’t. With that, we come to the kind of OCD that I have. It’s called Aggressive OCD. What does that do? Well, it’s really fun: It gives me visions of death.

So when I encounter ignorance, what I try to do instead is to the set the record straight- What exactly does being obsessive or compulsive mean?

Let me answer that by telling you the story of one day in my life.

My eyes open. It’s 4 a.m. Or is it p.m.? I look around. The curtains aren’t drawn, the sky outside is dark. It’s night. Not that it matters much to me. I had fallen asleep for a few minutes before I was jerked awake again by a stabbing. It wasn’t a stabbing pain in any part of my body; it was more like my brain had conjured up an image of my oldest friend stabbing me in the throat. I yawn.

I turn over on my cool, comfortable bed in my big house and I try not to dream of death. I’m able to stop when I’m awake but I need to sleep. I can’t control it while I’m asleep. So I’m simultaneously tensing my body in fear and anxiety, while trying to relax it enough to fall asleep.

I finally fall asleep without knowing. I say without knowing not because I didn’t know when I fell asleep, but rather that my dreams are so vivid and impactful that when I wake up in a few short hours I was more tired than when I went to bed.

I lay in bed for a few minutes, scrolling through Facebook, waiting for the noise and the chaos of my mind to surge once more. Right on cue, they do, and I get out of bed. There’s no need to “steel” myself or “force” myself to get out of bed. Do you have to steel yourself for the sun to rise? It just does. In the same way, the monster in my brain will always be whispering and screaming.

I look into the mirror to brush my teeth and my throat is cut, it opens up before my eyes. I continue brushing. I am boiled alive before I step into the shower. I step in. An image of sprawling intestines from a dead body flashes before my eyes. I eat my ketchup-soaked omelet, the reds melting together.

I am done. I have delayed enough at home. I have to go out into the world, doesn’t matter for what. The monster licks his lips with relish, a visible smacking sound resounding in my head. I roll my eyes.

In the streets is my monster’s favourite weapon: Vehicles. Vehicles off all kinds. Get in a cab and the cabbie will have a secret gun to blow your head off. Ooo, maybe it could be one of those glowing-light cabs. Brains would look so nice splattered on them.

Trains? Everyone on the train is a murderer, rapist, cannibal. Your friends will die over and over before your eyes, your monster will feed on this chaos in your brain, you will suffer. You get the picture.

I get home, staggering and drained. I start writing about this monster and I am still haunted by the inescapable fact that the monster is made in my image.

This monster is made up of thoughts that I couldn’t possibly conceive of myself, but they still come from my own mind. That is what true obsession is: An inability to control your own thoughts. It will be hammered into you every minute of every day until you wish you were numb to it, but you aren’t.

And it’ll make you want to blame yourself. Because the same place that controls all your basic functioning, is also the place that’s rife with corruption. Medicines help me. Therapy helps me. But I don’t know if that guilt and anger I still hold at myself for not being able to control something that is out of my control, will ever fade.

(Varun Gwalani is a TEDx speaker, author and mental health advocate. The First Storyteller, his second novel, is based on his experiences with Aggressive OCD. Twitter: @varunug)

The Imp of the Mind

The Imp of the Mind by Lee Baer beautifully outlines the struggle sufferers go through. Baer a leading expert in the field of obsessive compulsive disorder shares his professional and personal insights. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is impacted by intrusive thoughts.

An illuminating and accessible guide to the kinds of thoughts that create extreme fear, guilt, and worry, The Imp of the Mind provides concrete solutions to a tormenting and debilitating disorder. Including special sections on the prescription medications that have proven effective, it is “a beautifully written book that can be a great help to people who want to know what to do about obsessions” (Isaac Marks, M.D., author of Living with Fear: Understanding and Coping with Anxiety)

Some beautiful quotes from the Imp of the Mind:

The Imp of the Perverse will try to torment you with thoughts of whatever it is you consider to be the most inappropriate or awful thing that you could do. To illustrate this point, each of my patients whose thoughts are summarized below (many of whom you’ll meet in later chapters) told me that his or her particular bad thoughts focused squarely on whatever was for him or her the most inappropriate, awful, or shameful thing he or she could think of doing:3”

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Intrusive Thoughts

 

We have all on occasion experienced an involuntary disturbing thought or violent image which leaves us upset and confused — these are called “intrusive thoughts.” Aaron Harvey, who battled these on his own for over 20 years, has launched an intrusive thoughts website to help people with OCD. According to the website, as many as four out of five people experience such thoughts. However, for some, the repetitive nature of these troubling thoughts may be a symptom of certain forms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Many try to ignore these thoughts and push them out of their head, but that can make them even worse and more frequent. Attempting to repress the thoughts instead of addressing them can lead to heightened anxiety and depression, questioning of one’s character and abilities, creating isolating behavior. Often, those who are tormented by intrusive thoughts are too embarrassed or ashamed to share them or seek help. Intrusivethoughts.org delivers, through a stylish website, carefully curated facts and statistics, videos, information on different types of OCD symptoms and personal stories. It also elaborates on treatment through counseling, yoga, mindfulness and healthy eating techniques. Here, Aaron Harvey seeks to fill the void for an online community forum, which will help educate and provide support and treatment.

Aaron Harvey, a creative marketing entrepreneur, wrestled with these thoughts for over 20 years before being diagnosed. He began having intrusive thoughts when he was 13. “I started to have a lot of graphic violent images in my head that I couldn’t understand. It produced a lot of anxiety and led to panic attacks and constantly questioning my character,” he told Refinery 29. “Any time I would try to escape them, they would get more violent and more graphic.” This vicious cycle is common of many types of OCD. As it says on the website, “for 1 in 50 the fear becomes much harder to dismiss… These thoughts repeat over and over, faster and faster, making the fear we might act more real.”

Aaron Harvey credits the essay “Pure OCD: a rude awakening” by Rose Bretécher with finally providing him with some relief and hope. His suicidal thoughts and anxiety had become unbearable, leading him to search for help online. After wading through immense amounts of psychological studies and treatments, Bretécher’s article published in The Guardian was a breath of fresh air. It addressing the issue head on and with humor, “She forever changed, if not saved, my life,” Harvey told Market Wired.

Harvey saw the need for more approachable information on the disorder, and founded the not-for-profit Intrusive Thoughts, Inc. which launched the website as an “educational hub.” The site is essentially built to appeal to his younger self. “My goal is to capture me when I was 13 and I started to experience this,” he described to Refinery 29, “so that next 13-year-old doesn’t have to spend the next 20 years figuring out what the hell is going on and thinking that they’re a bad person.”

There was a clear opportunity to use my professional skills to create a resource with a youthful look and tone of voice that also humanized the experience of living with intrusive thoughts, promoted a holistic treatment plan and elevated conversations about mental health in the media,” Harvey said, commenting on the approachable and smart design of the website.

This important tool will provide relief to the many who suffer, and help them feel part of a greater community. Harvey hopes to create similar websites for all mental illnesses in the future.

Images: OscarKeyes/Unsplash, ChristopherSardegna/Unsplash, JayWennington/Unsplash, JenelleBall/Unsplash

PMS…and Anxiety

I have always noticed that my anxiety increases substantially before and during my period. A great article on this from http://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/causes/pms

How Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) Causes Anxiety

Anxiety is a unique condition. Generally it’s formed through years of experiences and genetics, and while there can occasionally be some external or physical health factors, anxiety is most often caused by faulty thought processes.

But what makes anxiety interesting is that it can also be caused by changes to the body’s stasis. Even though people think of anxiety in terms of anxious thoughts, these anxious thoughts can be affected by the health of your body. That’s why anxiety – including worries and fears – can be caused by premenstrual syndrome, or PMS.

Think You Have PMS Anxiety?

What’s amazing about mental health is that even if it’s caused by a physical change, it’s still a mental health issue. Our free 7 minute anxiety test can score your anxiety severity, and help you learn more about how to handle your symptoms.

Start the test here.

Fluctuating Hormones Cause Anxiety

PMS is often blamed for emotional changes, sometimes unfairly. But there is no denying that fluctuating hormones affect anxiety. It’s a well-known, established medical fact.

Yet even if your anxiety is caused by these hormonal changes, it can still be reduced with proper anxiety treatments.

Causes of PMS Anxiety

Both premenstrual syndrome and anxiety are incredibly complex. That’s why while many of the causes of anxiety from PMS are known, there are issues at play that may not be accounted for. Women’s bodies are all different and react differently to bodily changes. What may cause anxiety in one woman may not cause anxiety in another, or may cause anxiety in a completely different way.

But there are potential links that are known. The following are the most likely causes of PMS anxiety:

  • Cortisol Increase – Studies have shown that before a woman’s period, a stress hormone known as cortisol tends to increase. In many ways, anxiety is a form of long term stress, and stress is known to make anxiety symptoms worse. So before a period, when cortisol levels shoot up, anxiety symptoms would be expected to shoot up with them. It’s likely that women suffering from this type of PMS anxiety have lower levels of anxiety throughout the month that are simply exacerbated by cortisol, rather than PMS causing anxiety itself.
  • Cyclical Emotional Reactions – Similarly, any chronic stress is believed to make PMS symptoms worse. Since anxiety and stress sensations are a part of PMS symptoms, if you’re suffering from severe stress before your PMS symptoms occur, that stress will increase your PMS symptoms, which in turn will increase your stress symptoms and so on.
  • Fear of or Response to PMS Symptoms – Not all anxiety is caused by the hormones or PMS directly. Many women that suffer from intense PMS also start to fear those symptoms. Combined with cramping pain and other uncomfortable physical sensations, these issues can actually create their own separate form of anxiety. In these cases, PMS isn’t technically causing anxiety, but the PMS experience is leading to the development of anxiety in women that suffer from premenstrual syndrome.

In addition, simple hormone imbalance is known to lead to anxiety for reasons that are not always clear. Hormones play a direct role in the way your body produces and responds to the neurotransmitters that control stress and anxiety, so it’s likely that when these hormones have lost their balance, anxiety and stress are the result.

Combined with the sheer fear of emotional deregulation, the over-sensitivity that some women experience towards their body, and the feeling of being overwhelmed that often accompanies PMS episodes, it’s no wonder that anxiety is a common symptom in those suffering each month.

How to Overcome PMS Anxiety

Overcoming PMS anxiety is both simple and challenging. It’s simple, because there are several techniques that should at least reduce your anxiety overall. But it’s challenging, because your menstrual cycle is something you cannot control and varies in intensity from month to month.

One option to consider is any specific PMS treatments. Some of the most common solutions for PMS itself include:

  • Dietary changes, including adding Calcium, Vitamin E, Magnesium and Tryptophan into your diet, and possibly abstaining from caffeine.
  • Hormonal interventions, including the contraceptive pill.
  • NSAID pain relievers and any medications that reduce some of the physical pains of PMS (since physical pains increase stress, which increases PMS symptoms).

Still, it’s important to remember that most theorize that PMS doesn’t “cause” anxiety in a cause/effect sense. Rather, it makes the anxiety you already experience worse. In addition, even though anxiety caused by PMS is the result of physical changes, you can often treat premenstrual anxiety through the same behavioral principles that people use to treat anxiety not caused by premenstrual symptoms. The coping mechanism are the same, and often overlap.

Some examples of how to cope with PMS anxiety include:

  • Mindfulness – Because PMS anxiety often feels natural, many of those living with anxiety are unaware when they’re affected by it until after they’ve already suffered through the anxiety symptoms. Mindfulness is the practice of stopping and noticing each anxiety symptom before it consumes you, and then doing your best to calm yourself down from them. For example, if you find yourself frightened or irritable, you stop, question the feeling, and try to relax your body.
  • Journal Coping – There are several coping strategies that involve journaling (like writing in a diary). One involves simply letting out all of your emotions on paper, since bottling them up can be harmful for your ability to fight anxiety. Another involves writing out positive things throughout the month, and then when you start to feel anxious or negative, looking back on all of those positives to remind yourself that your emotions are not based on your recent past.
  • Therapies – Several therapies have been created to improve coping in women with anxiety. General counseling can be very helpful and supportive, because it gives you an opportunity to share your thoughts all month while scheduling an appointment that should give you a chance to get help for your anxiety.
  • Exercise – Exercise is a crucial part of healthy living, and an important part of dealing with anxiety caused by PMS. Several studies have linked aerobic workouts with controlling anxiety symptoms. Exercise is also a general anxiety cure as well, so it should be especially effective for those that struggle with daily anxiety.

Non-Judgement

Dealing with the discomfort of anxiety is a daily struggle. Sometimes it can feel like you are in control and other times it can feel completely unmanageable. When anxiety surfaces getting up to even carryout essential activities can be extremely challenging such as bathing, eating and sleeping. Anxiety feeds off of the fear of its victims, and wants to be noticed. It will try extremely hard to gain recognition making each thought worse then the next until it can hijack the spotlight.

How to practice non-judgment?

In conjunction to practicing being mindful and an observer of your thoughts, adding non-judgment to the equation can help a lot with diffusing anxiety. For example,

Anxiety provoking thought – “I am 40 and am still single, I will never meet anyone and will die alone”

If we look at this thought as just a thought, with no emotional response we now have shifted the paradigm to that of an observer. As an observer it is clear that there is a lot of personal judgment happening here, being hard on ones self and jumping to extremes of a bleak and lonely future. Instead of allowing the thought to consume you, try and welcome its presence maybe even if possible try and not judge the thought “I am aware of the presence of the thoughts, and do not have any opinion good/bad” or “Its okay that I had this thought, it does not mean anything”.

It can seem discouraging when anxiety seems to settle down for a bit and suddenly rears its ugly head again. The key is to not identify with the thoughts, no matter how extreme and fear provoking they become. By practicing non-judgment anxiety can no longer get your attention. Try and also remember that it is okay to have a day where you are not able to control your anxiety do not judge yourself or feel discouraged. It takes a lot of courage to not judge our fears and stressors.

Here are some great diffusion techniques that can really help:

http://www.dbtselfhelp.com/Defusing_Exercises

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Autoimmune Diseases Linked To Anxiety?

I stumbled across a very interesting study consisting of patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Both illness compromise a persons immune system.

Take a look at the following article from WebMd:

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Aug. 4, 2015 (HealthDay News) — People with inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, have an increased risk for an anxiety disorder, especially women, a new study suggests.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a group of disorders that cause chronic inflammation of the digestive tract.

“Patients with IBD face substantial chronic physical problems associated with the disease,” lead author Esme Fuller-Thomson, a professor from the University of Toronto, said in a university news release. “The additional burden of anxiety disorders makes life much more challenging so this ‘double jeopardy’ must be addressed.”

The study authors looked at 269 Canadian adults who had been diagnosed with an inflammatory bowel disease. The researchers found that these patients were two times more likely to have had generalized anxiety disorder at some point in their lives than adults without Crohn’s or colitis.

And for women, the risk was four times greater than for men, the investigators found.

In addition, people with an inflammatory bowel disease and a history of childhood sexual abuse had a sixfold increased risk of an anxiety disorder. And those with Crohn’s or colitis who reported having moderate or severe chronic pain were twice as likely to have an anxiety disorder as those with mild or no pain, the study revealed.

Although this study found an association between people with an inflammatory bowel disease and the likelihood of an anxiety disorder, it wasn’t designed to prove a cause-and-effect relationship between these conditions.

Findings were published online recently in the journal Inflammatory Bowel Diseases.

“The study draws attention to the need for routine screening and targeted interventions for anxiety disorders. Particularly among the most vulnerable patients with IBD: women, individuals who are in chronic pain, and those with a history of childhood sexual abuse,” study co-author and adjunct lecturer Joanne Sulman, from the University of Toronto, said in the news release.

The study also highlights the link between physical and mental health, according to Patrick McGowan, an assistant professor of biological sciences at the University of Toronto. He was not directly involved in the study.

“We sometimes think of the two as if they are entirely separate entities but the reality is they are intimately linked. Both involve genuine physical changes in the body and affect each other,” McGowan said in the news release.

WebMD News from HealthDay

Sources

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Artist Shows How It Feels To Have Anxiety & Depression

 

Artist Shows How It Feels To Live With Anxiety And Depression

Anxiety is not a joke. But what if a light-hearted laugh could make things a little bit brighter? British illustrator Gemma Correll draws comics inspired by her own anxieties and depression. She thinks that the best way to deal with this condition is to try to “find humour in it.”

“I honestly think that humour can be a saviour at times of distress or, if you just live with a constant level of anxiety and depression like I do,” said Correll. “I do think that people should speak more freely about anxiety,” she added. “I know that I would have felt a little better as an anxiety-ridden teenager if I knew that I wasn’t completely alone in my fears.”

More info: gemmacorrell.com | Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr (h/t: mashable)

Anxiety Comics

Anxiety Comics

 

Anxiety Comics

Anxiety Comics

Anxiety Comics

Anxiety Comics

Anxiety Comics

Anxiety Comics

Anxiety Comics

 

Anxiety Comics