Are your Thoughts and Behaviors Limiting You?

When you are literally pulling your hair out, finding yourself constantly and compulsively checking if your front door is locked, or perseverating endlessly on an experience, it may be time to explore if OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) is at the root of these behaviors.

 

Definition of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder:

The International OCD Foundation defines Obsessive-Compulsive as a mental disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), and behaviors that drive them to do something over and over (compulsions). Often the person carries out the behaviors to get rid of the obsessive thoughts.

Characteristics/Symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder:

• Repeated unwanted ideas, thoughts, or imagery
• Fear of contamination
• Aggressive impulses
• Persistent sexual thoughts
• Thoughts that you might be harmed or cause someone else harm
• Religious and moral fears
• Extreme need for symmetry or exactness

Prevalence of OCD in the United States:

• 1 in 40 adults
• 1 in 100 children

Concurrent Conditions associated with OCD:

• Anxiety Disorders
• Major Depressive Disorder
• Bi-Polar Disorder
• Attention Deficit /
• Hyperactivity Disorder
• Tic Disorders / Tourette Syndrome (TS)
• Body Dysmorphic Disorder
• Hoarding Disorder
• Autism Spectrum Disorder
• Excoriation (skin picking) Disorder
• Trichotillomania (hair pulling) Disorder
• Feeding / Eating Disorders

Benefits of testing for OCD:

While testing isn’t always necessary, a clinical psychologist may conduct psychological testing to determine the impact the OCD symptoms are having on the individual’s ability to function. A comprehensive psychological assessment provides feedback on the strengths and limitations of the individual. Psychological testing can help lead to a diagnosis and addressing the underlying factors of a problem. Following testing, accurately tailored treatments and interventions can be recommended.

Additional assessment factors to consider:

Since there can be a genetic component, a family mental health history should be gathered along with identifying what medications have and have not been useful to treat the family members’ OCD. Further exploring the family stressors that may exacerbate the OCD symptoms can be very beneficial.

A medical health history should be conducted for someone with OCD, especially in children and adolescents. Something that is quite different from Pediatric OCD is the appearance of Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders (PANDAS/PANS) in this situation, OCD symptoms often emerge as a result of an infection, such as strep. Rather than developing gradually, this relatively rare sub-type of OCD manifests as a sudden appearance of OCD symptoms in children following an infection.

FVI DIGEST: OCD CASE STUDY

Dana is a 10 year old, white, 4th grade female. She lives at home with her mother, father, twin brothers, age 5, and her 12 year old sister. She noted experiencing a lot of unwanted ideation about symmetry and germs. She also has rigid nighttime rituals that are time consuming and impact her family. She’s a good student, who’s highly motivated, but her worries about germs have contributed to her not wanting to attend school. She attempts to minimize the anxiety about germs by washing her hands after she touches what she believes to be a contaminated object. She will wash her hands up to four times repeatedly which has led to red chapped skin. At school reading and writing have become time intensive because the OCD is demanding she balance her gaze by looking at one side of a book, and then the other for equal time. She gets mentally distracted by adding up the number of letters in words and reorganizing the words based on an even/odd pattern. Teachers describe her as having attention deficit. During her bedtime routine, she includes many rigid rituals like having to say good night in both a certain way and number of times, applying lotion in a particular fashion that includes pumping the lotion bottle two times, and organizing the blankets in a certain manner. She refuses to go to sleep if her parents are not home, thus her parents miss out on social events. Prior to her parents having an explanation of OCD for Dana’s behaviors, her parents viewed her behavior as defiant and disrespectful. OCD sends out a loud message for symmetry, so if her parents kiss her on one side of her face they need to balance it with a kiss on the other side of her face. If a person touches one of Dana’s arms, Dana will then need to touch the other arm in the same place. Dana has also experienced physical complications like teeth grinding at night, stomach pain, constipation, headaches, and irritated skin.

Dana has learned to view her OCD as a brain hiccup and to not feel guilt for her quirky behaviors. She named her OCD, “stupid thoughts” and she began to boss these “stupid thoughts” back, telling the thoughts she won’t respond to them or allow them to control her behavior. Dana learned diffusion techniques to externalize thoughts and to see the thoughts come and go, like leaves on a stream, allowing her a visual image to encourage flexibility and acceptance. Another technique that assisted Dana was learning to be “in the moment” and use her senses of smell, taste, touch, hearing, and sight to let go of being the “thinking self” and learn to be the “observing self”. Virtual Reality Therapy was beneficial in assisting with Exposure and Response Prevention. Dana visualizes someone touching something that to her was “contaminated” and then the person would proceed to go to lunch without washing their hands. To help her stay calm through the visualization exercise, Dana was taught deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation. Dana was then able to utilize these calming strategies in her day to day activities. Eventually, she was able to practice Exposure and Response Prevention on her own. She is now able to touch a “contaminated” surface and not have to run immediately to the sink to wash her hands. Ultimately, Dana was able to go to school and not feel she had to respond to her obsessive thinking. Since her parents were seeing improvements in Dana they trusted she can regulate some of the distressful thoughts, which allowed Dana’s parents to feel more comfortable having date nights and trusting things would be ok.

Treatment for OCD:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the treatment modality which is the form of treatment recommended by National Institute of Mental Health, Mayo Clinic, and Harvard Medical School. CBT involves techniques related to Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy (ERP) and Cognitive Therapy. When you recognize that your behaviors may be becoming problematic and disruptive, a critical first step is reaching out to a qualified therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. They are here to help you. Break the stigma surrounding mental health by becoming more cognizant of these conditions. Once awareness exists, you can help yourself or support others in seeking out services.

OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Is There Help For Ocd?

What Happens When Pizza and Netflix is Your Way to Survive the School Year?

Dear Student,

Welcome back to school! Whether you are looking forward to it or anticipating it with trepidation, there is a high level of excitement.  A new school year brings opportunities and challenges in balancing transition issues, academic pursuits, college life, home, and family. At this point in the year, you probably have a fair amount of adrenaline (and maybe caffeine) powering you through the day.

As I send my clients off to college each fall, I emphasize one point above all else: Watch out for the October Slide! Towards the end of September, the excitement draws to an end and reality sets in. The tests are more difficult, conflicts may be arising with roommates, and the colder darker days of winter are fast approaching. The steady diet of fast food, late nights, and lack of techniques to manage your stress may make the pressures you’re feeling seem overwhelming. These factors often result in an increase in depression and anxiety. Your impulse may be to curl up in bed and binge on pizza and Netflix while waiting for the semester to end. The October Slide can be prevented with your actions in September. I’m challenging you to be proactive.

Are you up for it? Take care of your health by following the simple acronym – MEDSS and my other recommendations below.

M – Take MEDICATION as prescribed

E – EXERCISE

D – Follow a healthy DIET

S – Get sufficient SLEEP

S – Nourish your SOUL, be it in finding solace in your faith, nature, art, yoga or any activity that helps you to feel more relaxed and grounded

Develop a routine that keeps you healthy and organized. Write down your goals, and then use a planner to map out your week. Schedule your study time, work outs, and meals in advance. This planning time may seem taxing; I assure you it’s a great habit to form. It will help you to feel more focused and ultimately better.

Establish your support network. Check in with your family, friends, therapist, and mentors, even when things are going well. If you find yourself feeling more stressed or down than usual, make an appointment with your therapist. If you do not have one, seek one out before the symptoms become overwhelming. The important thing is to stay connected. If you’re struggling to make friends, find a club, activity, volunteer position, or job that will provide you the opportunity to contribute and surround yourself with other like-minded individuals.

Have fun in moderation. For some people, it can be tempting to say yes to every party, tailgate, or social gathering. Overdoing these things will wreak havoc on your health, leaving you drained, more prone to getting sick, and feeling anxious and depressed. Know your limits and give your body break. These breaks should also include making time for yourself away from technology:  your phone, social media, and video games. Recognize your own personal need for time to yourself in an open space – allow yourself that break.

Your actions right now determine how the stressors impact you as you face and conquer the challenges a new school year brings. Believe in yourself and acknowledge that others care about you and are there to help if you need it.

Parents, here are three simple things you can do to help your student right now:

  • Check in with your student about their emotional wellbeing and the stressors they are facing.
  • Offer support in helping your student establish healthy and productive routines.
  • Assist in connecting your student with professional support if that will be beneficial.

Therapists at Fox Valley Institute are offering Telehealth services to their current clients, who are away at school in the state of Illinois. You will need to verify with your insurance provider that video conference (Telehealth) services are covered. Let us know if we can be of support in any way.

Sincerely,

Cindy Baleskie, MA, LCPC

 

 

 

 

 

 

Additional information you may find of interest:

What Are The Causes Of Depression?

Depression Checklist

Some Healthy Pleasures

Social Anxiety – Overcoming Shyness