All About OCD

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

At long last... our hotly anticipated show on Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). We promoted it a couple of weeks back, but then couldn't get the right guests, so we moved it, and no small number of our listeners were frustrated with the change. Understandable, particularly if order is a major concern in your life. A lot of us think we've got a touch of OCD — see my list-making entry for one of my little obsessions — but true OCD can be a lot more serious than list-making and worries that you left the coffeemaker on. Do you have it, or does someone you know? How does it change the way you live your life?

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I would love to know if there is a local bay area (east bay preferred) 12 step group or something similar for people suffering from OCD - whether it's mild to severe cases.

Do you know of any?

Sent by Stephanie | 3:08 PM | 9-6-2007

A couple other examples of OCD in the media would be Michael J. Fox's role as the visiting doctor with OCD on the tv show "Scrubs", or Jack Nicholson's character in "As Good As It Gets." It helps to make people aware and get people talking about OCD.

Sent by Nicoel Clark | 3:19 PM | 9-6-2007

I may hae a mild case of OCd, a checker and repeated for over 40 years. I cut my actions and worries about 20 years ago by one day asking myslef: What is the worst that can happen if I don't perform one of my rituals; I answered myself: I could die! I decided, I would take my chances, and if I died, so be it. Since then, I minmimally perform my OCD rituals and am able to stop, when I catch myself beging one of my counting/checking rituals.

Regards,

Dennis McCowan
St. Louis

Sent by dennis mccowan | 3:22 PM | 9-6-2007

My OCD has always, thankfully, been minor and manageable (double- or triple-checking, counting, etc.) A few years ago, however, compounded by a depression, it took a very dark turn into fighting off the compulsion to hurt myself and/or others--one I fought 24 hours a day for a few months. There were two things that helped: (1) The fact that there is more literature (and openness) about OCD out there helped me recognize that these thoughts were part of my OCD--they weren't really *me*--and therefore could be treated as much; and (2) Prozac & CBT.

Today I'm fine, though I do often worry about relapses--but I survived it once and I have to believe I can do it again.

I think the moral of this story is, the more that people talk in public about Whatever It Is They Have, the better off other frightened people, who do not know what is going on, are.

Sent by Kristan | 3:25 PM | 9-6-2007

I hate the TV show Monk. I have suffered from OCD my entire life (hoarding, checking) and I think it makes fun of a serious disease. Would a show making fun of a developmentally challenged person who struggles with dressing himself everyday be allowed to air? I don't think so.

Sent by Jon | 3:27 PM | 9-6-2007

Is there any good treatment for hoarding OCD? I haven't heard of anything that works. jan

Sent by janhambleton | 3:27 PM | 9-6-2007

Barbara's husband (the weed-picker)sounds like he has a textbook case of ADHD, not OCD...

Sent by Benjamin Sykes | 3:27 PM | 9-6-2007

There are good things that come from OCD behaviour as well! My husband has been diagnosed OCD. He is a superior musician. His OCD tendencies allowed him to master and excell. My son has inherited some of his natural talent, but will never be the musician his father is. The unrelenting drive to conquer a task makes him exceptional and miles ahead of any competition. I will probably always struggle with his inability to multi-task...but am proud none the less of his abundant ability.

Sent by Sheila Scotti | 3:27 PM | 9-6-2007

Waht about OCD in children? I am a teacher starting the year with a child who has OCD, ADHD, and Tourette's. He is gifted with a very high IQ. Any ideas for helping him?

Sent by rob | 3:29 PM | 9-6-2007

I am worried that my girlfriend has OCD. She often cannot control her actions, and looses control over her legs and her hands in moments of stress. She has often complained of not being able to deal with odd numbers or even numbers that have odd numbers in them (eg 14). She has had Depression, eating disorders, and anxiety. I am wondering how I can get her help and or diagnosed. She feels attacked when I attempt to help and becomes defensive. Also, I am wondering are there medications that might allow her to calm down enough to start to work on some of her underlying issues. Any help is much appreciated. Thank you.

Sent by Paul | 3:33 PM | 9-6-2007

I think symptoms of OCD can arise from enduring a trauma. Severe traumas are blocked out, but fears from them can begin to arise in hazy forms years later, once people become more empowered to feel as adults. Trauma overpowers people from feeling fear while it happens. Arranging one's life and social situation so one feels more safe and protected can help diminish fear. If I have an urge to check that I locked something, for example, I realize I need to feel more secure when I do lock it. Then, I feel calm and open enough to remember locking it. Now I make a point of asking myself if the situation is safe when I lock it. I feel a sense of light in my mind that tells me "yes, it's safe." I spend time feeling this. After taking that necessary time to care for it, I don't have to go back and check again later.

Not everyone likes to view mental disorders from the perspective of trauma recovery. However, people who do want to address traumas should be allowed to do so. Many psychologists deny repressed memories of terror, which I think can damage people who want to face recovering from them.

Biochemistry results from the body's responses to the environment, so there is always the chance that OCD has environmental factors, even if a person is predisposed to react in a certain way. People deserve freedom of choice to view and address the problem in their own way. Psychologists must be open enough to different perspectives, and to the existence of trauma, to allow patients to do this. No one has the ability to determine what traumas a person may have suffered as a child -- certainly not a psychologist who wasn't there as a fly on the wall. Allowing people to define their own selves and their recovery is respecting their personal boundaries, rather than violating them.

Sent by Irene | 3:33 PM | 9-6-2007

@Jan - I have dealt with my hoarding this way: I boxed up everything I hoarded, and put it in a storage unit across town for a year. At the end of the year, I had not needed anything that I had kept, so I took a truck over to the storage unit, emptied it out, and took it to the dump.

Sent by Jon | 3:35 PM | 9-6-2007

Stephanie - I started treatment in the East Bay @ Kaiser, and while I don't think they have 12-step groups they seemed to have a good referral service. You might want to try there or other hospital organizations.

Sent by Kristan | 3:36 PM | 9-6-2007

Would you please talk about hoarding as part of OCD? I hope this wasn't discussed earlier.

I believe my now elderly father, who also has an explosive temper and has not been diagnosed for depression, has hoarding OCD.

Sent by Jill | 3:37 PM | 9-6-2007

I have OCD with reading, for instance have to read things over and over again as well as indentify the letter A in my reading. Is there any connection between OCD and ADD. Are the separate or can they be considered as feeding each other in some way or another.

Sent by Orlando Sanchez | 3:38 PM | 9-6-2007

I hate that I lost the phone number at times like this!

My 15 year old granddaughter spins compulsively. At times it can go as long as 40 minutes. She says it helps her focus better. I have noticed she has other movement - that she is always moving. Is this a form of OCD? It is getting to the point that it is interferring with her life and function, who do we go to for help?

Sent by Sally Renata | 3:39 PM | 9-6-2007

As a teacher I try to find information that will not only keep me informed about conditions that students may have but keep the students in the classroom comfortable with the student with that disease. In that light, I was able to find a marvelous book "Kissing Doorknobs" detailing one young girls struggle with OCD. This book is wonderfully readable, insightful and instructive for both children and adults

Sent by leslie | 3:43 PM | 9-6-2007

This message is for those of you with refractive (unresponsive to treatment) OCD. For 37 years I tried psychanalysis, psychiatry, counseling and more drug regimens than I can remember. Nothing much worked for me. Finally, in some desperation I familiarized myself with studies and anectodal evidence of the effectiveness of small dose morphine for OCD patients.

Time-after-time, Psychiatrists and Family Physicians rejected my request for a trial. After many years, accompanied by sheets of Internet data one doctor finally said "yes" ... but.

The DEA will not allow morphine to be dispensed for psychological issues. In order to get a trial of morphine the doctor must ostensibly be treating a physcial injury. In my case, the drug was given for arthritis (which I have in my neck).

Low dose morphine has been the best treatment for my OCD, oops, I mean my arthritis, by far. Wonderfully helpful. I take a 15 mg of MS Contin timed-release tablet in the morning and at night. A new theory is emerging as to the catalyst of OCD and the relationship of the body's opiod receptors is key in the studies. If you've taken seratonin reuptake and noradrenalin drugs, Anaphranil, and been to therapy, and are still miserable, work hard to get a trial of low dose morphine. Alternately, ask for the drug Tramadol, which works like morphine but is not a true opiate. Your physcian has less DEA oversight with Tramadol than with morphine. Don't despair, make the medical system work for you!

FXB - Oregon

Sent by FXB - Oregon | 3:51 PM | 9-6-2007

I am a 27 year old doctoral student studying Clinical Psychology in the Bay Area (CA), and I had the chance to listen in on part of this discussion. I found that most of the information disseminated was on track with what is being taught in the field, however I wanted to comment on one glaring issue that came up for me: Repeatedly, I heard the guests or callers referring to people who suffer from this disorder as "Obsessives" or "Obsessive Compulsives." I think that we need to understand that while a person might be suffering from this often debilitating disorder, they ARE NOT the disorder. If we can remember to maintain some amount of respect for the human behind the disorder I think it will help not only the people that are suffering, but also those who may or may not be affected in other capacities. Compassion is key. Thank you.

Sent by Meagan | 3:52 PM | 9-6-2007

It's important to consider the clear differences between OCD and (similarly named) Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. Where it seems we all have obsessive and/or compulsive personality traits to varying degrees, some to the point of disrupting normal daily life. Yet, it's a whole different issue from primary OCD. Reading the DSM-IV-TR for specifics is one place to gain some perspective. I have found many doctors do not acknowledge or clearly differentiate the two which makes the tendencies and traits no less disruptive or distressing. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has helped me create stability.

Sent by Joan | 4:02 PM | 9-6-2007

When I was young, I noticed that I learned quickly and painfully from experience and those experiences set the stage for my OCD. By the time I was in college, the cost of tuition and therapy and eating was killing me, so I decided that I had to get over/through the OCD by myself. It was difficult but in time I was able to divert my attention away from those compulsive thoughts and focus (sometimes hyperfocus)on other things. Today, a few decades later, I am married with four young adult children and all six of us have OCD, plus A.D.D. My kids seem to learn fast from experiences as I did and it comes out in their behaviors. However, in my experience, those who are willing to "out it" and get over it, have a far easier time coping than those who do not. In the long run, the effect of outing the problem is that it seems to have an overall calming effect when dealing with all the other stresses that life throws at us. Those who hide it and deny it suffer much more. It is difficult to confront, but well worth it.

Sent by Beth | 4:06 PM | 9-6-2007

My 11 year old son was diagnosed witih OCD two years ago. It is sad to see him struggle with crippling thoughts. Therapy with CBT and ERP has been very helpful. We have benefited mostly from Dr John March's book TALKING BACK TO OCD.

Sent by pat | 4:12 PM | 9-6-2007

In response to requests for help for individuals with OCD or their families there is NAMI(The National Alliance On Mental Illness.)This national grassroots organization with over 1200 local affliates provides education, support groups,resources and advocacy for individuals with mental illness and thier families. Visit www.nami.org to find your local affliate as well as a wealth of information on Mental Illness.

Sent by Ellen | 5:01 PM | 9-6-2007

For hoarding OCD -- have you tried gaining insight into why you have a strong desire to hold onto things that you feel are valuable? I want to hold onto valuable parts of myself and my experience. I feel sometimes powerful interactions with others prevented me from feeling my valuable feelings. These methods work for me to gain a deeper understanding of my feelings: meditation (alone or with a group), yoga, acupuncture, exercise, breathing and relaxation exercises.

Re: the case of a partner with anxiety -- People who feel pushed toward treatment can build up defenses to protect their own private boundaries. One non-confrontational way to introduce someone to treatment is to begin to explore more ways of relaxing yourself. For example, if you take up yoga and meditation, without even asking your partner to join you, s/he will notice your example. People naturally role model off of other people.

If you truly just want to relax yourself and let the other person be free, the relaxation will spread to the partner as a result of the interaction of your own energy. People's energy radiates six feet out from their bodies. If you share the same space, your energy will affect each other. Any person can take the initiative to bring in more relaxed energy. If you develop very strong powers of relaxation because someone else is bringing in anxiety, you will become very powerful at developing your own abilities.

I am not a doctor. This is what I have found to work for me. People consult doctors for medical advice.

Sent by Irene | 5:05 PM | 9-6-2007

A little more on hoarding -- I find sometimes things I own remind me of feelings I have. For example, sometimes the things come from a time when I was in a certain relationship or time of my life that I haven't fully felt my way all the way through. Sometimes these feelings are powerful. I do not recognize them all clearly or quickly. It can take me a long time to face them. I allow myself to keep the things until I am ready to address the feelings. I pay a little extra in storage costs, but I feel that honoring my life process of growing through feeling is worth it. I don't mean to enter into anyone's space by asking questions about their habits. So, I decided it may be better if I just say what I do and how I feel, as I did here.

It is said the state of the space one occupies reflects the state of the mind. If I have collected a lot of stuff in my apartment, I think I have a lot of memories or feelings that I am saving until I am ready to address them. I am OK with storage, mental and otherwise. I think it plays a valuable function in human life. Storing things mentally allows me to learn from the past for the benefit of my future, however long it takes me to finish the lesson. I wouldn't throw out a textbook that I am still interested in learning even though I haven't had time. I also don't throw out things that remind me of my past that I still want to grow from.

Sent by Irene | 5:25 PM | 9-6-2007

Re: Meagan's comment

OCD does not need to be named anything else to relieve those who have it of some derogatory name. If the shoe fits...

You may feel uncomfortable with the reality of the situation, however, that does not mean the people who are actually afflicted with it have any sort of problem with the name.

My daughter is now 10. She has OCD. She is also a A+ student. A soccer player. An animal lover. A sister. The list goes on and on. Do you really think it will make her life easier if you label her something different?

In the realm of 40 minutes we need to address things in its most basic sense so that we can cut through the "feel-good" verbiage and try to get down to the core of the issue.

Sent by pam lemon | 9:24 PM | 9-6-2007

I was so glad that NPR took the time out to address OCD. I have struggled with OCD all my life and it has at some moments been crippling and at others been managable. I fully understand that I will never totally be rid of the disorder but did have a question after the conversations I heard today. The doctor referred to expose treatment. I perform different rituals every day, one day it may be the photo on my coffee table that I have to move back and forth and the next day that same photo wont bother me at all but it will be something else. I perform rituals every day, and only repeat the night time rituals that I have had all my life, that consist of getting in and out of bed until it " feels right," and then crossing myself four times afer prayer. Im not sure if this expose treatment would work for me because Im afraid that because I do not have any set rituals that exposing myself to one wont change the fact that I will just pick up needing to move something else around. Are there any treatments for someone like me that doesnt fear particular things, but whos rituals change from day to day? My rituals are fear based I feel that if I do not perform them something horrible will happen to my family or myself. the second that I dont move an object back and forth, or repeat something I get a very vivid image in my head of what will happen to my family or myself, and these thoughts drive me to carry out the compulsion. If you have any ideas for treatment for me without the use of drugs please let me know. Thanks.

Sent by Megan | 9:47 PM | 9-6-2007

As a long time sufferer and patient of OCD I have two indespensible resources to offer that have helped me tremendously with my recovery. Those are the OCD Institute at McLean Hospital in Belmont, MA (a Harvard teaching Hospital) which offers the most advanced treatment available for OCD and secondly the Obsessive Compulsive Foundation (OCF). I hope this can help someone as much as it has helped me.

Sent by Clayton Sanders | 12:04 AM | 9-7-2007

Re: teacher looking for classroom supports for student with Tourette, OCD...
The website for the Tourette Syndrome Association has lots of info on what to do in the classroom, and it is applicable to many mental and neurological disorders.

Sent by Mom of a boy with TS & OCD | 12:39 PM | 9-7-2007

Looking for a good handbook that covers how FAMILY members can cope with an adult OCD sufferer...in this case, one who is not yet open to medication as a possibility....

Sent by MLB | 8:40 PM | 4-30-2008