Tag Archives: cbt

What it feels like to have OCD…

I have been given the pleasure to post my friends personal story around how OCD has impacted his life.

Hello world,

My OCD struggles started at a very young age. I knew something wasn’t right, but I couldn’t put a finger on it. I remember chewing gum a certain way, and I had to chew it ten times on each side of my mouth at any given time. I also remember checking, and making sure doors, and windows were locked. I also checked over and over if the appliances were turned off completely. It literally became a chore, and it gave me extra anxiety and stress I didn’t need. What struck me the most was that during school, I never really had OCD pop up. I used to place my bag on the ground without the fear of contamination. I remember being able to use a public restroom without hesitation, or anxiety. Now, it’s literally an every day struggle. People don’t seem to realize the mental strain this illness has. It can be so overwhelming at times; you just wish you didn’t wake up the next day. It can get that bad!

Through my life experiences so far, a lot of my OCD stem’s from lack of serotonin (clinically speaking), but I noticed my OCD got worse from trauma I experienced in my life. Due to the constant stress my brain went through, it just made the mental illness worse. It came to a point where I couldn’t take it anymore and I tried to end my life.  Stupid move, I know, but thankfully I survived my suicide attempt, and I am very thankful for it. The best way’s I find to deal with OCD is to tell yourself “Nothing bad is going to happen, if I don’t do the compulsion.” You just have to keep repeating this over and over in your head until it finally registers and you don’t do the ritual. Distraction is another great coping mechanism. When the compulsion pops up in your brain, just do push-ups, or put a cold towel on your face. Doing so will distract your brain, and in return the OCD will subside. Another way to cope is to join group therapy, which I did, and as a result made wonderful friends. Now we all struggle together! Also, it’s quite ok to make fun of yourself, and the illness. I find that laughter is the best way to cope, and it just takes the stress away! As they say, laughter is the best medicine.

Just remember, you aren’t alone. There are millions suffering with this illness, and don’t ever give up. Keep going, keep laughing, and in the end you’ll realize the illness makes you unique. And, it’s better to be different instead of generic. Keep fighting!

Postpartum OCD

I wanted to share the reality of postpartum OCD and how it impacts many mothers, and not talked about enough!


What It’s Like To Survive Postpartum OCD

It’s not as well-known as postpartum depression, but for new moms it’s just as debilitating.

TAWS13 VIA GETTY IMAGES

 

Three weeks after Chelsea Elker gave birth to her second baby, she was overwhelmed by a thought that also felt something like an urge: What if she smothered him?

Elker, who was peacefully nursing at the time, had never experienced anything like that when her eldest was born, and was horrified.

From that night on, however, the disturbing thoughts kept coming.

As she buckled her newborn into his car seat, Elker worried: “What if I touch him inappropriately?” As she washed dishes she’d think: “What if I stabbed him?” Elker reassured herself that of course she would never hurt her baby, only to immediately question why, then, she’d even entertain such ideas in the first place.

“It’s hard to explain,” Elker, now 29 and a mother of three, told HuffPost. “I felt like, ‘If I’m thinking it, it obviously means I want to do these things.’”

In the last decade, awareness about postpartum depression has exploded as research has revealed it affects anywhere between 10 and 20 percent of moms. Likewise, knowledge about postpartum anxiety — which could affect up to 17 percent of new moms, according to some estimates — has also begun to spread among women and health care providers. Mothers struggling with anxiety and depression now at least have some kind of name and explanation for the things they are feeling.

For the smaller subset of mothers who have postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder, that kind of broad — or even broadening — recognition of their circumstances simply does not exist. “OCD” has become a watered-down term, an acronym thrown around in conversations about that friend who’s just a bit too fastidious or who is especially germaphobic.

But for mothers tormented by the condition, it signifies something much darker — a cycle of fears and behaviors that grabs hold of them and threatens to upend their sense of who they are in one of the most grueling, vulnerable moments of their lives. And many find it impossible to open up, gripped by fears that someone will take their baby away.

“It became 100 percent of my day and 100 percent of my nights,” Elker said. “I could be having a conversation with you and inside I’m thinking 1,000 different, terrible things.”

CHELSEA ELKER
Elker had been experiencing crippling symptoms of OCD for a few weeks when this picture was taken, though she says you never would have known it looking at her smiling face. 

Inescapable ‘Intrusive Thoughts’

In many ways, OCD — perinatal or otherwise — is simple to identify. Its signature symptoms are intrusive thoughts and fears (i.e. “obsessions”) and often rituals (“compulsions”) aimed at making those thoughts disappear.

Under the DSM-5 — the most recent version of the “bible” of psychiatry — OCD was given its own chapter and moved out from under the broader umbrella of anxiety disorders. There is no diagnostic distinction between OCD that begins during the postpartum period and at other times in a person’s life, though women who have experienced anxiety and OCD in the past are at higher risk of dealing with it again postpartum.

In new moms with OCD, however, the intrusive thoughts that are a hallmark of the disorder tend to center around one thing: their babies. Suddenly, a woman who longed for motherhood may be utterly convinced that something or someone — perhaps even herself — is going to hurt her child in ways she’d never considered before, either deliberately or through carelessness.

“I had a patient who presented at five or six weeks postpartum with her fourth baby, and she had a precipitous onset belief that she couldn’t be near knives,” Dr. Catherine Birndorf, co-founder of The Motherhood Center of New York, a clinic that specializes in perinatal mood disorders, told HuffPost. “She couldn’t be in the kitchen. She had visions of taking a knife and cutting her infant’s throat — and she was absolutely freaked out by these intrusive, violent images. That’s super common in perinatal OCD.”

Moms who experience those thoughts are almost immediately overcome by shame and horror, which is the primary way experts distinguish between OCD and postpartum psychosis, a rare, severe psychiatric emergency in which new moms can absolutely pose a threat to themselves and their babies.

“OCD is what we call ‘egodystonic’ in so much as it is upsetting and exhausting to have the thoughts and do the actions you do to try and make yourself feel better,” Birndorf explained. In postpartum psychosis, delusions and hallucinations take over.

Loretta Notareschi, 40, gave birth to her daughter in 2013 and had her first intrusive thoughts — about throwing her down the spiral staircase in her home— while she and her baby were recovering in the hospital. It wasn’t a hallucination or a desire, but it gripped her imagination nonetheless. She told a nurse who reassured her that she was probably just exhausted, but before she was discharged she had to meet with a social worker.

“I was triggered by all kinds of things, especially the spiral staircase or knives,” Notareschi told HuffPost. “Bathtubs. Being in the car. I would think, ‘What if I hurt her with that?’ Or, ‘What if I hurt myself with that?’”

Over time, she began to develop what she thought of as coping mechanisms, though later she learned they were simply the hallmark compulsions of her illness.

“To the OCD mind, they seem like brilliant ways to deal with your anxiety,” Notareschi said, laughing ruefully. “I decided in the first couple of days after my daughter was born that every time I had a scary thought I would have to repeat to myself a certain phrase, which was ‘Baby face, hairbrush, duckie.’ In my mind, it was going to neutralize the thought or magically make it OK.”

LORETTA NOTARESCHI
Notareschi was also in the throes of postpartum OCD when she took this happy-looking photo with her newborn daughter in 2013. 

An Adaptive Behavior … Gone Wrong?

Interestingly, research suggests that some elements of postpartum OCD may be adaptive. A 2013 study of roughly 400 women found that 11 percent of new moms were experiencing some obsessive-compulsive symptoms two weeks after giving birth. Six months later, nearly half of those women still had symptoms, while another 5 percent of moms had developed symptoms at that point.

That study asked if women were having any symptoms of OCD, not if they met the criteria for an actual diagnosis. But it raises the possibility that the prevalence of the disorder is much higher than the 2 percent that is often cited — and raises tricky questions about what’s normal (and what is not) in the minds of new mothers faced with the daunting task of keeping a helpless newborn alive.

“One of the most common obsessions is fear about germs, and some of the most common compulsions are checking behaviors and washing behaviors,” Dr. Dana Gossett, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of San Francisco California and the author of that 2013 study, told HuffPost.

“It’s not crazy to think that if a woman has a newborn, she might want the house to be clean and for people’s hands to be clean,” she continued. “It’s not unreasonable that she would want to check on her baby frequently to make sure he or she is OK. What happens in OCD is that is carried to a point where it is no longer logical or productive.”

And when those thoughts become intrusive and frightening, mothers become understandably fearful to come forward to share what they’re going through — and to be counted.

“We know depression is common. It’s well studied and there’s a lot less stigma now than there was 15 years ago around articulating feelings of sadness,” Gossett said. “Whereas if a mom says, ‘I’m terrified I’m going to burn down the house’ or ‘I’m terrified I’m going to shake my baby to death,’ there’s so much more shame and fear.”

And it is not unreasonable for women to worry that their babies could be taken from them, she added.

“One of the challenges about OCD is that it is less broadly known, so even OBs and pediatricians who are good about screening for depression are going to be less familiar and less comfortable with these diagnoses — and how to make that distinction between psychosis — so women get the help they need,” Gossett said. Postpartum Support International, an advocacy and education group, says that postpartum OCD is the most misunderstood and most commonly misdiagnosed of the perinatal mood disorders.

That is what makes postpartum OCD so heartbreaking. Like so many other mental health issues that crop up during the tumultuous postpartum period, experts say it is highly treatable with some combination of therapy, support, medication and time. But in a culture that demands moms cherish every exhausting moment of raising young children, admitting to frightening obsessions can feel impossible.

“I didn’t want to tell anyone, because all the media tells you with stories about women who hurt their babies is that if you think a thought, you want to act on it,” said Elker, who took more than a year to recover from postpartum OCD through a combination of intensive therapy and medication and has written extensively about her experience.

“But I didn’t want to hurt them,” she said. “I was so fiercely trying to protect them that I drove myself insane.”

Pain

It is hard to put in words the distress that OCD causes; it is this weight that follows you around everywhere you go. You can’t escape it, and you can’t run away from it. Throughout the day and night these echoes of thoughts, images and sensations are there with you, the story line so vivid and crippling we fall surrender to its demands. All moments are slightly stolen because your there but your OCD is also there with you.

There has been so much I have lost to OCD, so much I fear because of OCD. I try to beat it and overcome it, but there are days where you are overwhelmed. It is important to remember that OCD does not define you, and even though our minds have turned on us we can live with this monster.

The struggle is real and ongoing; it is hard to explain how your mind can become your biggest hurdle in life. The dark lens of OCD alters reality, and forces us to want to maintain control.

It is so scary to take risks, and to feel brave enough to trust yourself and that this is just OCD. For me my OCD has manifested in a few different forms, but the best way to describe it is imagine watching a horror film over and over again in your mind, but this isn’t any normal horror film all the characters in this story are the people you love and care dearest for. You can’t do anything to stop it, and are forced to be subjected to this torture. The people you would do anything for you would sacrifice anything for you have to live with being bombarded by never ending thoughts and ideas that you can’t protect them and if you don’t engage in certain behaviour they won’t be safe. Even when you are told this is a disorder this is what the disorder does a part of you still is afraid that what if it isn’t? What if they are wrong and there is real danger? You have to ask yourself has what I have been doing worked so far? Am I happy? Maybe I should take the chance that nothing bad will happen and this is just OCD, and every doubt I have is also OCD? It is so hard to take that leap of faith but it is worth a shot to try, I still every morning have that struggle between doubt vs taking a risk. The days when I chose risk always turn out more fulfilling but it is hard to remember that when doubt feels so strong.

I have decided that life will be filled with challenges, uncertainties and pain. But along the twists and turns there will be these beautiful moments, connections and experiences that make it all worth it. We can either let OCD rob us of those moments or accept that it is going to be painful and filled with uncertainty but it is better then letting OCD win.

“In order to write about life first you must live it” – Ernest Hemingway

 

 

Choice

Dr. Steven Phillipson is a leading expert on OCD his work with patients has provided an immense amount of progression for OCD treatment. His website https://www.ocdonline.com is full of a wealth of knowledge for suffers. I have provided below an excerpt from his article “Choice”, I encourage you to visit his website and read through the articles posted.

In both the treatment of OCD and in living a disciplined life, there is no word more important than “Choice”

by Steven J. Phillipson, Ph.D.
Center for Cognitive-Behavioral Psychotherapy​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

It is unfortunate that our schools do not teach us that our brains are comprised of many systems, some of which operate with considerable independence from the others. The independence of these systems is reflected in the way individuals suffering from OCD respond to episodes of extreme anxiety. Like all human beings, those with OCD have a strong basic survival instinct and are likely to experience great distress at the prospect of leaving a perceived threat unresolved. However, when what they experience as a threat is actually a function of their OCD (and therefore, is essentially the product of misfiring brain circuitry), they still react to this perceived threat as if their very lives were in danger. A conflict of independent systems also can affect those who do not have OCD. For example, a person may have the goal of exercising, but when the opportunity to do so presents itself, she may find herself thinking, “I’ll begin tomorrow.” Similarly, when tempted, someone whose goal is to save money may find himself thinking, “Yes, but this sale is so tremendous! Look at all the money I’d be saving!” The point is that we can only make disciplined and values-based choices that challenge instinctive or self-defeating urges when we are mindful of the contradictory agendas presented to us by our brains.

 To date, the focus of my writing has been on educating sufferers and professionals alike about the various forms of OCD and the methods of behavioral treatment I have found to be effective. In contrast, this article attempts to identify the essential qualities within the patient that contribute to the success or failure of treatment. In my discussion of this subject, I will give considerable attention to such concepts as agency, mindfulness, and autonomy. Agency can be defined as the faith we have in our capacity to respond effectively to challenges in our lives. Mindfulness is the non-judgmental awareness of an experience in real time – that is, as that experience is unfolding – and an acknowledgement of our responsibility for the choices we make and/or the beliefs or perspectives we endorse in relation to that experience. The willingness of patients to be accountable for the choices they make has a profound effect both on the recovery process and the achievement of their goals in life. And finally the term autonomy refers to the choices and actions of the “Gatekeeper,” the “I” or “me” who, based upon his or her goals and values, makes the final decisions on matters of importance to the individual.

The conscious, independent behavior (physical or mental) of selecting, making and or acting upon a decision when faced with two or more possibilities: the choice between good and evil, skilled and unskilled as well as, fight or flight.

• A range of possibilities from which one or more may be selected.

• A course of action (mental or physical), object, or person that is selected or decided upon and summarily put into effect.

This writing is a call to arms! Its purpose is to inspire readers to come to terms more honestly with the choices that will be required if they are to achieve their goals in life.

Continue reading at:

 

https://www.ocdonline.com/choice

 

nOCD

nOCD is a great app to use during treatment with or without a therapist. I have been using it for over 6 months now and have really felt the impact the app has. It allows you to input your triggers, track your progress, do exposures and even share it with your therapist. I would really recommend this app to anyone who is suffering with OCD, it also gives you the encouragement to get through those tough exposures and delay the compulsion. What I also like most about the app is that you can look back and truly see your progress and if things have become less triggering for you.

The link is below:

https://www.treatmyocd.com/

 

 

Dr.Jonathan Grayson

 

Dr.Jonathan Grayson is an expert in the field of OCD, he has contributed tremendously in patient treatment. This a beautiful explanation of how it feels for someone who has OCD. It can be extremely difficult and uncomfortable opening up to loved ones about the disorder, especially since there is a lack of understanding in the mainstream media. This video is a great way to have someone engage in having a preview of what a sufferer experiences.

 

 

Politician Who Missed Work Because of OCD

https://themighty.com/2018/01/state-representative-justin-simmons-ocd/

Politician Who Missed Work to Secretly Treat His Mental Illness Releases Touching Video


 

Simmons explained that in early 2016, he experienced a significant “flare up” of OCD symptoms, and chose to enter residential treatment. This was the second time he had entered treatment for his OCD, the first being his senior year of high school. He said during his time in treatment in 2016, he focused on re-learning tools to control the effects of OCD.

“That treatment helped me to leave full and successful life for more than a decade, graduating college, serving in the House of Representatives, starting a family and more,” he said.

Politicians aren’t typically known for being open about their mental health, and few have. One notable example is Patrick Kennedy, a former Congressman from Rhode Island who wrote about his personal experience with mental illness and addiction in his book, “A Common Struggle.” Still, Simmons told The Mighty, OCD wasn’t easy for him to talk about in such a public way — and he contemplated for several months before releasing the video.

“It’s a very personal issue,” he said in the video. “It’s also an illness most people don’t understand. They think OCD is what they see on TV or in the movies. For some people, it is. But in many cases, it isn’t. It’s an anxiety issue. For example, for me, it sometimes causes me to withdraw, even from family and friends.”

But he also brought up how living with OCD has been a positive thing — and that he hopes to bring more awareness to the issue going forward. “My OCD isn’t something that stops me, it isn’t something that stops millions of other people inflicted with it,” he said. “It isn’t something that stops me from working hard for you and leading a full life with my family and friends. I’ve worked successfully for years while addressing it and will continue to do so in the future.”

No matter what side of the political aisle you’re on, we hope more politicians — and more people from every workforce — feel comfortable coming forward about their mental health struggles. No one is immune to struggling with a mental illness, and even leaders and people in power deserve to take time off for mental health treatment without shame.

Simmons said the reaction to the video has been overwhelmingly positive, and for other people contemplating opening up about their mental health to an employer, his advice is this:

My suggestion would be take your mental health seriously. Make it the number one priory in your life. If you work for a good employer, they’ll understand. I wish I could tell you most employers will be understanding, but I can’t. All I can say is take your mental health seriously. It’s the most important thing in your life.

The Challenge

The importance of challenging ourselves, even when anxiety is at its worst. We all know that feeling, of an intrusive thought coming in you try to get ignore it but it just gets louder and louder and louder, like an alarm clock that wont turn off. You try your best to not listen to the alarm, but eventually you snap and want to break the alarm clock to stop the incessant beeping. Unfortunately, you can’t just turn off thoughts, or break them and the more you try not listening to them the worse they get. The solution to these thoughts seems backwards, but welcoming and accepting the thoughts actually helps relieve the anxiety being felt.

For example:

Say you have a thought that something terrible is going to happen, you keep playing scenarios out in your head the plot always ends in a horrible terrible outcome. You become so engrossed that your heart starts to beat so fast, you begin to tremble, maybe you carry out compulsions to try and relive your anxiety and before you know it you are having a full fledged panic attack. You try so hard to ignore the thoughts, you might pray, cry or beg them to stop but they just become worse and worse, until you are on the floor trembling in fear. Eventually the panic attack subsides, and your anxiety calms down, until the next intrusive thought enters and the cycle starts up all over again. Now let’s go over this same exact situation but try a different approach, the intrusive thought comes in but this time you allow it in, you even welcome it in, this time you acknowledge its presence and you do not react. The key thing here is not reacting, no matter how intense, no matter how awful the outcome your mind is presenting you. You DON’T react, it might seem so scary, but being brave and allowing yourself to feel the anxiety come on and not fight it will prove to your brain that there is nothing to actually be afraid of. Overtime the more we react to a thought, the more our brain becomes hardwired to think that we need to be afraid of that thought, and the more that thought pops up starting a never ending cycle of fear and anxiety. The moment we decide to let go, and not be afraid of our thoughts, and allow them to be present without reacting no matter how painful resisting the urge of wanting to just completely give in and freak out (like breaking the alarm clock) is worth enduring the temporary pain for the long term benefits. This will help reverse the ingrained fear response. How to do this? It is much easier said then done, the suffocation and intense fear can be so consuming it sounds terrifying to have to sit alone and welcome the anxiety in, but the less you react the quicker the thought gets bored and leaves – you are not providing any energy to fuel the thought. Lets go back to the analogy of an alarm clock, the alarm clock is beeping this time you welcome the alarm clock in, you don’t react and you even accept the uncertainty of not knowing if the alarm clock will ever stop beeping. You are not resisting it and you are not trying to ignore it, you simply are okay with having the alarm noise apart of your life. Overtime you have become so comfortable with having the noise in the background it gets quieter and quieter, you even forget it is there at times. That is the goal with intrusive thoughts, you have to accept the uncertainty and be okay no matter how intense or horrible the thoughts & feelings being presented to you are, even if your mind tells you that you are wrong to be okay with the thought because something BAD is going to happen!!! Try your hardest to resist the urge to react, think about all the times you have been through this and nothing bad ever happened, take that risk even just once, it will be worth it. Think about all the time you gave in to its demands and the time and energy and pain it has caused you, and again NOTHING bad happened….anxiety is a monster and it may never go away but you can learn to coexist with horrible a roommate.

 

 

 

The hidden beast of anxiety…

In a new piece for the Players’ Tribune, Corey Hirsch opens up about his struggles with mental health issues. (Ryan Remiorz/CP)

A great article by

For a long time, Corey Hirsch was overcome with dark thoughts.

In a new piece for the Players’ Tribune, the former NHL goaltender opens up about his struggles with mental health issues.

At age 22, Hirsch seemingly had it all: He’d earned an Olympic silver medal with Team Canada, and, as the New York Rangers’ third goalie, he’d been part of a Stanley Cup championship. But the goaltender felt suicidal. As he describes it in the Players’ Tribune, it was a feeling of overwhelming darkness disconnected from his outer life. “Darkness. Pure, relentless darkness,” Hirsch writes. “For no reason.”

The pain was so bad that, while with the Rangers, Hirsch tried to break his hand, hoping to be sent home to Calgary.

After the morning skate, I grabbed an extra stick blade from the bin and stuffed it in my bag. When I got back to my hotel, I sat on the edge of the bed in silence and took out the blade.

My plan was to break my hand and hide the injury until the next day at practice. That way, I could go down after taking a shot, and the team would send me home to recover without knowing what was really going on. In those days, the blades were wooden and heavy as hell. I smashed the blade against my left hand three or four times, as hard as I possibly could.

The Players’ Tribune

It didn’t work. Hirsch ended up with a badly bruised hand instead, and he stayed with the Rangers right up until the team hoisted the Cup. The next day, he promptly flew home.

Hirsch’s struggles continued, and he was traded to the Vancouver Canucks. On an East Coast road trip, Hirsch pulled a trainer aside to ask for help. After one meeting with the team’s psychologist, Hirsch finally had a diagnosis: obsessive compulsive disorder.

Having a diagnosis came as a huge relief. Finally, he thought: “I am not insane. I am not a bad person. I am not weak. I have an illness, and there is a treatment.”

His key message? “A mental health issue is not a sign of weakness.”

For hockey players, struggles with mental health can be especially difficult to reveal. But Hirsch implores anyone who can relate to his struggles to find hope.

“There is a light, however faint, in all this darkness,” he writes. “There is help out there for you.”

To read more of Corey Hirsch’s story:

http://www.theplayerstribune.com/corey-hirsch-dark-dark-dark/