#12 OCD part 2 – a clarification and education

(Read Mental Health part one)
(Read Mental Health part two)
(Read Mental Health part three)

I wrote a post previously about OCD. Part of the post was to intentionally cause some confusion. So this post is a follow up to shed some light on more of what OCD is. (Read part one HERE)

First, everyone who has OCD has a different experience with it. Some experiences are similar, but there are no two people with exactly the same experience with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

I wrote the previous post as I was coming out of an OCD attack. For me that is when the obsessive thoughts get so strong that my compulsions take over and I have no control over my actions. It is a very scary thing. Not everyone experiences OCD this way. For some people OCD is acting on compulsions to try and ease anxiety. For a while, I figured that I was in a similar boat and kind of pushed away the stories that people told me. I had to have some semblance of control, didn’t I?

I recorded some of my last episode—at the request of my Neurologist—and was shocked to watch my behavior play back later, and immediately follow it up with what was going on in my head. I used to tell someone that I really trusted that I was safe. You don’t need to check on my shower, I have control, I won’t do it. But she would check anyway, adjust the temperature if needed. Sometimes she would turn off the water and calm me down until I was okay enough to rinse and get out. She did the same thing for my hand washing. She would wrestle me away from the sink and hold me until the terror went away; neither of us understanding the full meaning of what we were dealing with. Two people struggling with mental illness taking care of each other and not getting enough outside help… it wasn’t the best idea.

Regardless, I am going to try and help some of you learn about OCD today.

Now, I haven’t had a chance to read a copy of the DSM-V, but  I have been able to read a couple short essays that the DSM website has released, and I do have access to a DSM-IV. According to the information on www.dsm5.org, there are some new disorders added to the “Obsessive-Compulsive and Related disorders” including the previous, it includes: obsessive-compulsive disorder, body dysmorphic disorder, trichotillomania (hair-pulling), hording disorder, and excoriation (Skin-picking). All of these disorders present with anxiety and distress.

For today, I am just going to discuss general OCD. If you would like me to post about other disorders, please comment below or send me a message.

First, if you double check things, if you like to have things lined up just right or it bugs you when a picture frame is tilted. If you worry about getting sick or if you might accidentally hurt someone, or if you have a proper grasp on what is right or wrong. If you wash your hands a couple times or are worried about having clean dishes and floors and counter tops. If you check to make sure that the door is locked and the stove is off. None if this means that you have OCD.

According to http://iocdf.org/about-ocd/, they explain OCD in the following way:

“Imagine that your mind got stuck on a certain thought or image… Then this thought or image got replayed in your mind over and over again no matter what you did… You don’t want these thoughts—it feels like an avalanche…Along with the thoughts come intense feelings of anxiety…

“Anxiety is your brain’s alarm system. When you feel anxious, it feel like you are in danger. Anxiety is an emotion that tells you to respond, react, protect yourself, DO SOMETHING!

“On the one hand, you might recognize that the fear doesn’t make sense, doesn’t seem reasonable, yet it still feels very real, intense, and true…

“Why would your brain lie? Why would you have these feelings if they weren’t true? Feelings don’t like… Do they? Unfortunately, if you have OCD, they do like. If you have OCD, the warning system in your brain is not working correctly. Your brain is telling you that you are in danger when you are not.

“When scientists compare pictures of the brains of groups of people with OCD, they can see that some areas of the brain are different than the brains of people who don’t have OCD. Those tortured with OCD are desperately trying to get away from paralyzing unending anxiety…”

(I am not 100% positive that this quote originated from here, but they do not have a quoted source.)

Obsession (noun): an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind. –Fixation, passion, mania, preoccupation, infatuation, fetish, craze, neurosis, hang-up—

Thoughts, images, or impulses that occur over and over seemingly out of the individual’s control.

These thoughts are usually paired with anxiety, disgust, fear, etc. The obsessions are time consuming and cause distress. It is more than just a “personality trait” or someone being “anal” about cleaning. It is more than having to have things a certain way because you like it that way and more of having to have it done a certain way and be “just right” because fear and anxiety and panic take over if it is not. This is not being an ass, it is a psychological disorder—It is also not attention seeking, or weakness.

Obsessions: (some not all)

Contamination: Bodily fluids, dirt, environmental, chemicals, germs, disease.

Losing control: harm to oneself, harm to others, violent images in the mind, etc.

Perfectionism: needing to know or remember, evenness, exactness, numbers, etc.

Religious (scrupulosity): Excessive concern with morality, concern with pleasing or offending god.

Unwanted sexual thoughts: unhealthy obsession with violent or disturbing pornography or sexual acts, fear of sexual aggression towards others, etc.

Compulsion (noun): an irresistible urge to behave in a certain way, especially against one’s conscious wishes. –Urge, impulse, need, desire, pressure, duress, drive, fixation, addiction, temptation—

Repetitive behaviors or thoughts an individual uses in an attempt to neutralize obsessive thoughts or anxiety cause by such thoughts.

These actions are a temporary solution and are used to either stop the anxiety or to try and avoid anxiety provoking situations. Not all compulsions belong in an OCD category because they are not used in the same way. Those with OCD do not want to have to do these things, but they feel as if they have to.

Compulsions: (some not all)

Checking: checking and rechecking homework, housework, or work assignments to make sure there was not a mistake (excessively); over checking body condition; concerned reassurance that one did not harm oneself or others.

Cleaning: Excessive hand washing (or a certain way, or a certain number of times); Excessive grooming (showering, bathing, tooth-brushing, hair brushing, toilet routines, etc.), Repeatedly cleaning/sanitizing household items, etc.

Mental: continuously praying to prevent harm, counting to a specific number, “canceling” or “undoing” actions. Etc.

Repeating: Numbers, movements, rereading, rewriting, up and down.

Also: avoidance, asking for reassurance, and rearranging.

According to WebMD: “OCD is a potentially disabling illness that traps people in endless cycles of repetitive thoughts and behaviors.”

Though the cause of OCD is unknown, there are several factors believed to contribute to the possibility of someone having or developing OCD. It is shown that OCD can be passed on genetically. There is also evidence that untreated Strep viruses can end up causing vulnerability to the development of OCD. Trauma is another factor that can cause OCD. Things that could similarly cause PTSD, can also cause OCD; such as, Abuse, illness, death of a loved one, etc.

I am not the only one living in distress. On http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml I found some quotes from people who shared their experience living with OCD.

“I couldn’t do anything without rituals. They invaded every aspect of my life. Counting really bogged me down. I would wash my hair three times as opposed to once because three was a good luck number and one wasn’t. It took me longer to read because I’d count the lines in a paragraph. When I set my alarm at night, I had to set it to a number that wouldn’t add up to a ‘bad’ number.”

“Getting dressed in the morning was tough, because I had a routine, and if I didn’t follow the routine, I’d get anxious and would have to get dressed again. I always worried that if I didn’t do something, my parents were going to die. I’d have these terrible thoughts of harming my parents. I knew that was completely irrational, but the thoughts triggered more anxiety and more senseless behavior. Because of the time I spent on rituals, I was unable to do a lot of things that were important to me.”

“I knew the rituals didn’t make sense, and I was deeply ashamed of them, but I couldn’t seem to overcome them until I got treatment.”

I was asked recently if I could take some sort of anxiety drug for my OCD “something like an inhaler” to help me come out of an episode. The answer for me is no. Thought medications work for some people. Some cases of OCD respond to antidepressants. But most cases are treated with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, something that I have not had. –Because my therapist is a trauma therapist and is more focused on trying to help me combat my PTSD—.

OCD is like my own personal demon on my back, constantly breathing in my ear, just waiting to jump in and take control. For some people, their demon is constantly talking, telling them irrational things, making them do irrational actions so that irrational imaginary things won’t happen. I don’t know why I have my OCD demon digging it’s claws into my back. I don’t know what it is that I am trying to avoid.

I know that part of it, the part that NEEDS the scalding water, it thinks that I am dirty and someday I might be able to wash my rapist off of me. It is irrational, but it is not something that I control. My rational mind knows that I am not dirty. My rational mind knows that I am not broken… The part of my demon that need things a certain way… I think that might me control.

When I was little—I’ve had OCD my whole life, it has just evolved as I have grown—I HAD to have my room a mess. I HAD to. I knew were everything was, I slept well, and I was happier. When my father cleaned my room, without fail—and I am not ashamed to admit this—I would wet the bed and had nightmares. This happened through the age of 4 or 5. . . After that, I just couldn’t really sleep and got really sick to my stomach.

One of my things was that I could not start something and not finish it; but not quite as simple as that. I would start a book and I couldn’t sleep until I finished it. I would get sick and anxious and agitated, and I would fidget, and I couldn’t pay attention… It got so bad on a couple different occasions that I was actually throwing up—off and on—until I could finish the book.

There are so many things that I used to do, and honestly, still do. I just won’t admit some of them here. I wish I had more control, but it is going to take me some time to figure out my triggers and find help getting past everything else. Maybe someday I will share more of my life with you all, though I am reluctant to share much of what I have experienced online.

However, if you are one of my close friends and would like to know more, you should know how to get a hold of me. Just ask.

Until next time.

~The Resident Femme~

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  1. Pingback: #9 Mental Illness – Part 4: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder | Confessions of a Lipstick Lesbian