Tag Archives: cbt

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)

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

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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The Beauty in knowing nothing…

What does paradigm mean? In the dictionary paradigm is described as a framework containing the basic assumptions, ways of thinking, and methodology. Every individual possesses a way of thinking that has been molded by our personal beliefs. Our personal beliefs are formed over time through our relationships, our upbringing, culture and our education. We don’t even realize that our perspective is being formed over time, and as we age it is sometimes even hard to pinpoint why we believe in something. We become protective of these beliefs and have difficulty when they are challenged. Why do we respond with such emotional conviction towards defending our principles? One of my favorite quotes is when Socrates describes being wise: “I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing”. This really resonates with me in that it shows the importance of severing the emotional ties with our personal beliefs. This allows other possibilities to surface and limits the emotional impact our thoughts have on us. This also enables us to not be so protective of our views. The route of anxiety comes from the worry of the unknown, and the fear of the “what if”. I know for me personally, a lot of my anxiety is caused by my biggest fears coming to life, “what if I am a bad mother” or “what if I get fired and can’t support my family?”, “what if my health never gets better?” and so on… I use Socrates words to challenge anxiety-provoking thoughts, I do this by reminding myself that I don’t know what will happen and that is okay. I now try to welcome the many different possibilities life has to offer.

The idea of accepting the unknown is extremely scary. Anxiety sends us on a cycle of agony and seeking reassurance. It is not easy by any means, trying to strip away and re-train our mind from conditioned behavior. On the plus side our minds are extremely malleable and adaptable. When we actively try to change a habit we are able to do it, but it takes daily discipline and conscious awareness. There is no finite timeframe where this is achieved. For me it is still a daily practice, something that I will follow for the rest of my life. Some days will be easier then others, but the hardest is the beginning transition. Anxiety loosens its grip the less attention it gets, and overtime its voice turns into a whisper.

OCD: Alternative to meds…

OCD is an anxiety disorder where a person has obsessive thoughts and compulsive activity. An obsession is an unwanted and unpleasant thought, image or urge that repeatedly enters a person’s mind, causing feelings of anxiety, disgust or unease.

When I was researching tools for my anxiety I stumbled across a concept called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity refers to the brains ability to form new neural connections, and its ability to adapt to changes. I was fascinated by this concept, particularly in the works of Dr. Jeffery Schwartz; he brilliantly illustrates his work in his book “Brain Lock”. His breakthrough discovery showcases that through self-guided practices we can change the neuroplasticity of our brain. Patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder practiced his four-step cognitive behavioral method; these patients underwent PET scans before and after implementing the four-step technique. The results were groundbreaking he showed that something physical the brain can be changed by something non-physical the mind.

He scanned OCD patients, and found their brains were overactive; he then scanned their brains after implementing the four-step method and found their brains restored itself to a normal response. The reason why this is so groundbreaking is that through actively trying to change our response to anxiety or compulsions we truly can rewire our brains response.

Watch Dr. Jeffery Schwartz explain his method in the following video:

 

It is important to note that not all people who suffer with OCD can deal with their situation without the use of Medication. Medication can play a key role into making sufferers live a more fulfilling and manageable life.

Art Therapy

World of Psychology

3 Art Therapy Techniques to Deal with Anxiety

Art therapy can be valuable in navigating anxiety. It can become another healthy tool in our collection whether your anxiety is occasional or chronic. One big benefit of art therapy is its ability to calm the nervous system: When we’re focused on creating, our attention shifts away from worrisome ruminations.

“When our attention has shifted, our nervous system can begin to regulate. And we can have more access to the rest of our brains, thoughts, emotions, empathy and compassion,” said Doreen Meister, MA, MFT, a mindfulness-based, expressive art and depth psychotherapist in Oakland, Calif. This lets us process more difficult experiences, she said.

Art therapy also lets us express ourselves nonverbally, which helps us move away from our thoughts to see a visual expression of a situation, Meister said. This “can provide more distance from the situation; it can be containing and allow for a different perspective.”

Plus, “the simple act of creative expression connects us with an inner sense of vitality,” which can be invigorating, she said.

Below, Meister shared three activities from art therapy to help us explore our anxiety and access calm.

Anxiety Expressing Itself

This is one of Meister’s favorite techniques because it combines paying mindful attention to your body while drawing intuitively. She suggested doing this exercise when you’re feeling anxious.

First, gather the following: blank paper of any size; drawing materials (Meister likes to use oil pastels); tape; and any favorite materials. Tape the paper to your surface. Close your eyes. Check in with yourself, and notice how anxiety feels in your body. Notice where in your body you feel anxiety and how you know it is anxiety.

Next, open your eyes, and pick a color pastel (or whatever drawing utensils you’re using). Close your eyes again and draw a continuous squiggle without lifting the utensil from the paper. Do this “as if anxiety is expressing itself on the page. Stop when the movement [or] expression feels complete,” Meister said.

If your mind tends toward judgment or control, use your non-dominant hand. Now look at the squiggle you made. Turn the paper from side to side until you see an image emerge. “It might not make sense [but] try not to think too much about it.”

Using other colors or materials, develop the image. Then free-write for five minutes. You might write about the process of drawing your anxiety or the image. Or you might ask the image these questions: “What do you want me to know? Why are you here?”

According to Meister, anxiety often acts as our protector, so your responses might be: “I’m keeping you safe;” “I’m keeping you safe from difficult feelings;” “I’m making sure you do the right thing;” “I’m making sure you don’t end up on the streets;” “I’m making sure you won’t get hurt.”

A Collage of Calm and Safety

This exercise is about “creating a visual reminder of a safe place,” Meister said. “It’s helpful to soothe fear and vigilance.”

Gather blank paper, magazines, old photos, markers and a glue stick. Take several deep breaths. “Let yourself take a trip down memory lane, remembering any times that you felt ease, safe or pleasant.” This might be a location or with a person. If you can’t recall a memory, “imagine a location or person that would be relaxing and pleasant.”

Begin looking through your magazines. Cut out images that capture your attention and remind you of the memory or feeling of ease or pleasure. “Try to let the images choose you rather than seeking out the ‘right’ image,” Meister said.

That is, pick images that you’re drawn to even if they don’t make sense or fit in with what you’re thinking. Maybe you have “an inner feeling of like or attraction.” Maybe you linger longer on this image, whereas you move on quickly with others.

Once you have a collection of images, arrange them to create an overall image or metaphor, which speaks to what it’s like to feel safe or at ease.

After you’re done, you can use the image as a reminder of safety and serenity. “See if you can imagine yourself in that safe or pleasant place and what it feels like in your body; evoke all your senses to really embody the feeling.”

What Anxiety Looks Like

For this exercise use any materials or art-making techniques you like. You might paint or draw your responses. Or you might create a collage. Meister suggested considering these questions:

  • If anxiety had a body [and] personality, how would it look? How would it talk? What would it say? What does it care about?
  • What does your body [or] life look like under the grip of anxiety? How would it look if anxiety was no longer present?

It can sometimes seem like anxiety is the ultimate enemy. It just feels so uncomfortable, maybe even terrifying. Plus, it might prevent us from doing things we really want to do. Art therapy can help us get curious about our anxiety and better understand its motives. It can help us access calm, reminding us that ease is actually within us.

I also recommend the Color me calm books!

Color Me Calm: 100 Coloring Templates for Meditation and Relaxation

by Lacy Mucklow, Angela Porter (Illustrator)

Tips for Anxiety…

A great article by the Huffington Post about Anxiety Tips!

People with anxiety disorders often face a sense of worry or dread and spend hours ruminating over worst case scenarios, which can get in the way of professional goals, personal relationships and a good quality of life. But there are ways to cope.

Here, experts offer their best techniques to work through situations that might drum up anxiety, which may help you or someone you know keep worry or fear at bay:

1. Put your worrisome thoughts on a schedule.

If you are going about your day and notice anxious thoughts, identify the thought stream and then postpone thinking about it until later, Ricks Warren, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan, told The Huffington Post. Warren calls this technique “worry postponement” or a “worry scheduling” skill, which can be very effective.

For example, you might be at a movie and find yourself becoming anxious about an upcoming work presentation. To postpone and schedule, pause and metaphorically put that whole worry on a shelf. Say to yourself, “I’m not at work right now. I will think about this tomorrow at the office.”

Later on, when it is time to consider what was making you feel anxious, you might consider discussing the issue with someone you trust.

MONICA RODRIGUEZ VIA GETTY IMAGES

2. Develop a “catastrophe scale.”

Draw a line on a piece of paper. Write the number zero at the beginning of the line, 50 in the middle and 100 at the end. This is what Warren calls a “catastrophe scale.” Then ask yourself, “What are the worst possible things that could happen?” Write those things down on the side with the highest values.

“When you think about a child dying, or a terrible accident, it helps people put things in perspective,” Warren said. “Not everything gets a 100.”

Being late for a job interview or a blunder at a party are unfortunate events. But, as Warren hopes you’ll come to believe, they’re not scenarios you should be terribly hard on yourself about in the scheme of things.

The goal for the rating system is that you eventually break down what you’d need to do in order to cope with it. This could be rallying a supportive group of friends, making a phone call or simply working out to reduce your stress and let it go.

3. Break big projects into small tasks.

Worry and anxiety can find their way into the workplace, showing up in the form of procrastination, says Keith Humphreys, professor of psychiatry at Stanford University.

“[People with anxiety] often want to show up on time, wanting to complete the work. Anxiety is what paralyzes them,” Humphreys told HuffPost.

Humphreys suggests breaking down overwhelming projects into the smallest possible task.

Small goals are effective for those dealing with social anxiety as well. If going to a party feels overwhelming, don’t worry about becoming the life of the party. Just set one small goal such as greeting the host, or talking to one person you do not know.

SHANNON FAGAN VIA GETTY IMAGES

4. Prove your anxiety wrong.

Research from the University of California, Los Angeles’ Anxiety and Depression Research Center found that when people with anxiety expose themselves to their anxiety trigger, it actually helps them cope better. By showing yourself that the worst didn’t happen, you’ll minimize the fear you experience.

For example, say you are afraid of riding the subway and your worst fear is that you’ll get stuck for ages without help. Head underground with your worst fears in tow. After you ride the subway, without getting stuck, you successfully disprove your worst hypothesis. This can be an empowering exercise, Warren says.

5. Force your body into a state of calm.

Your body already has a built-in stress reliever, it’s just a matter of tapping into it.

“Focus on your breathing, put your feet flat on the floor. Smile even if you don’t feel like smiling,” Humphreys advised. “Tense your muscles then let them go, then tense them again and repeat. Relax your body and a lot of people will find your emotions will follow.”

ASCENT/PKS MEDIA INC. VIA GETTY IMAGES

6. Cultivate acceptance about your anxiety.

According to Warren, there’s a big difference between accepting your anxiety and accepting yourself as someone who experiences anxiety.

“People put themselves down for being anxious,” he explained. “Accept yourself with anxiety and notice that you’re not alone.”

And it’s true: An anxiety disorder is the most common mental health condition in the country, with nearly 40 million American adults experiencing it over their lifetime. It’s critical to cultivate self compassion about your condition.

“Support yourself with anxiety, just as if a friend was there supporting you,” Warren said.

7. Remember that anxiety disorders are highly treatable.

“If it’s serious and you’re paralyzed with anxiety everyday, there are mental health treatments that really work,” Humphreys said.

And if you are not experiencing this condition, but know someone who is, try to be as empathetic as possible to what he or she is going through. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 25 percent of people with a mental health disorder feel like others are understanding about their experience.

Above all, it’s important to remember that you deserve to feel calm and healthy. Despite what your anxious thoughts might lead you to believe, the stakes are a lot lower than you think.

“We would worry a lot less what other people thought of us if we knew how rarely they did,” Humphreys said.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/7-tips-to-actually-manage-anxiety-on-a-regular-basis_us_5862b420e4b0de3a08f640e8?ir=Canada&