Group Therapy

I did not like group therapy one little bit. The one time I went was because my therapist recommended it. The group consisted of OCD sufferers and some of their family members, along with those suffering from hoarding and trichotillomania.  I sat very uncomfortably in my chair.  Everyone took turns sharing stories an venting.  I did not benefit from this because I really did not want to vent.  I would have benefited more from hearing tips and ways to succeed. Group therapy is free in many places and may be a good option for some, but I did not like it.

Click here to watch my video post about Group Therapy on my youtube channel.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

I only went through a month of cbt because I didn’t see a counselor until my final semester of college and each student was only allowed 8 visits per semester.  Going to the therapist for the first time was horrifying.  It was helpful to talk about my OCD though.  She taught me that OCD is not my fault.  I blamed myself for my OCD, believing I must have done something to deserve it.   I told her I felt scared of getting help because I have had OCD for so long, who would I be without it?  We discussed acceptance and possible solutions in dealing with OCD.

We started cognitive behavioral therapy (a type of psychotherapy in which the patient confronts his/her fears to learn how to deal with the anxiety) near the end, mostly because I kept putting it off.  I was terrified.  I also doubted its efficacy.  She started by having me resist compulsions for very small things at my home.  I didn’t really do the assignments she gave me.  I did at the beginning, but as they got more intense, I stopped.  She wanted to do an exposure (when a patient confronts his/her fear without compulsing) with me so we decided a relatively small but significant one would be to unlock my car door, sit inside, get out and lock it once, then walk away.

I walked next to my therapist and breathed while she told me to breathe.  I was upset.  My teeth chattered, I talked a lot about nothing, got dizzy, hazed and felt nervous.  She kept telling me to breathe and asked me to rate my anxiety at each increment of a few minutes.  We got inside and she told me that I hid my anxiety well.  I said thanks.

Exposures are not easy, but they are not supposed to be.  I am glad I did it though; it made a lasting impact.

I recommend cbt when you are ready.  It’s scary, but it can work and give you important coping skills.

SSRI’s

I have never tried one.  After my first visit with my therapist, she referred me to the college psychiatrist.  I told her I had no interest in drugs and that I wanted to try other options first.  She insisted I keep my options open so I went to see her.

The Psychiatrist listened as I described my OCD.  She said:
“I am shocked you have not been diagnosed until now with such severe OCD.  I don’t like to do this on the first visit, but I would like to prescribe you zoloft”.

I brought up all of my concerns.  My fear of commercial drugs, fear of side effects, fear of becoming a zombie and getting addicted for life.  I told my therapist I didn’t want to lose whatever edge OCD gave me.  I have always been like this so if drugs could take away my OCD what else would it take away?  Great, so now I don’t want to be cured?…

I purchased the bottle, but never opened it.  The rate of improvement in symptoms from these drugs are not really impressive.  CBT has a much better track record without the side effects.  CBT is not on my to do list either.  I am doing this on my own.  I did learn some coping skills from CBT and it has really helped me since.  And back to the SSRIs, I am scared of of them, though I recently watched the season 6 premiere of House M.D. and House brings up the same concerns about taking anti-depressants.  He agrees to take them when his therapist assures him that he won’t lose himself, that Van Gouh would have still been just as creative, but with both his ears in tact.

I guess I am more open to the idea at this point, but I feel like I’ve got things under control by other means and SSRIs still seem too extreme.

OCD Forums

That night I decided to look up OCD online, I ventured into a forum (social phobia world) and wrote a little about myself to get some feedback to see if I might have OCD.

I got some comforting responses and browsed the forum daily for quite a while.  I found it both good and bad.  

Pros:

  • It was nice to remain anonymous
  • I got all kinds of feedback to my questions 
  • I learned there are many others out there who suffer from OCD
  • It’s free

Cons:

  • I became obsessive about checking the forum
  • Some of the other posts were very descriptive, causing me anxiety

Finding resources online is a good way to reach out, but use caution.

Marijuana

This solved my eating disorder.  Marijuana stimulates the hypothalumus, which means it stimulates hunger.  As far as OCD is concerned, this drug acts almost like a focus breaker, and getting a break from a thought I’ve had for hours is paradise.  Some people get paranoid, but for me, tv is an easy fix to that because it’s very easy to get distracted and change your thoughts to something else.  It also is the best sleep aid I’ve ever used.  I also prefer this to pharmacologicals because it is natural and there is virtually no risk of addiction.

There is a lot of propaganda out there about marijuana, and most of it is totally ridiculous and untrue.  I recently watched a film called “The Union: The business of Getting High” which is great to see if you are nervous about trying it or if you want to learn anything about it.

Here is a link to an article by BBC:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4338634.stm

Also, here is a great link to a page detailing the myths and facts about marijuana (includes sources)

http://www.drugpolicy.org/marijuana/factsmyths/

Kava Kava – the Tranquilizing Tonic

Kava Kava is a root from the Western Pacific, taken in America in the form of a concentrate or tea to alleviate stress, anxiety and insomnia.  It’s classified as a tranquilizer and studies show it is more effective than placebo in treating short-term anxiety. It tastes like spicy dirt, but it works very quickly.  It is very mellow and just sort of brings about a sense of relaxation.  I take it rarely, but when I do, it’s usually at night when my anxiety is lurking.  I don’t take it often because I believe everything in moderation, plus as I mentioned, it is very mellow and not super strong, but it does help.  It’s natural and can be found at most health stores.  If you decide to get it, I recommend the regular concentrate, not the alcohol free one.  For some reason alcohol free tonics are just not as potent.

I went on vacation to Kona, Hawaii a few years ago and my now-fiancé and I discovered a kava bar so of course I had to see what it was all about. The bartender had a huge bowl of kava kava tea which looked like dirty milky water and numbs the tongue. My fiancé chugged it like a pro, but I sipped it, having trouble with the taste. Many locals sat around, relaxed, like they had been there all day. My fiancé’s eyes were soon bloodshot and then we took off to the beach. I felt very relaxed and definitely buzzed, and my stomach felt very content as well, unlike alcohol, which sometimes irritates my stomach. We swam in the beach and it was awesome!

hawaii beach

Click here to watch my video post about Kava Kava on my youtube channel.

Caffeine = Panic Attack

I have a sinus arrhythmia/tachycardia (speedy heart rate) and since teenhood, my doctors have said “no caffeine!”  I have found that my anxiety goes up when I do have it.  It makes sense though, I mean the last thing someone with OCD needs is a stimulant, right?  I have decaf when I order coffee and I still drink tea.  I have found that for me personally, the caffeine content in tea is not high enough to warrant a problem. I also rarely need a “jolt” of energy as I am anxious much of the time and usually feel pretty “awake”.  When I need energy, I go for fruit juice or tea.

My heart rate is typically too fast at rest. When my adrenaline spikes due to anxiety, with any added stimulants like caffeine, I most likely go into a panic attack. I get dizzy and fall over, convulse, my jaw and hands lock, and I wait till it’s over. The first time I experienced a panic attack was quite intense. I thought I was dying. I was driving with my then-boyfriend when suddenly, my vision faded into black with random color spots. It almost looked like a rainy dark night with ambulance lights off in the distance. I fell to the driver’s window, still without my vision and an overwhelming sense of guilt. I thought I had killed someone, seeing flashes of what I thought could be an ambulance near a car accident.   My then-boyfriend had grabbed the wheel and we coasted to the sidewalk.  When I came back around, I had no idea what had happened to me, and I cried for hours wondering if I really had killed someone. I went to the doctor who diagnosed me.

I experienced panic attacks every few days and was no longer allowed to drive at night.

At that time, I worked at a movie theatre and drank a lot of soda, but when I gave up soda and caffeine, my panic attacks started to fade away.

They vanished when I met my fiance. I think this is because I feel calm with him, and having a comfortable, stress free environment helps a lot.