OCD and Addiction

OCD is a monster. One that we feel we must constantly keep pacified out of fear that the next spike will be unbearable. My OCD is mostly gone, save a few bad days and irritating moments, but I kind of appreciate those moments because they never let me take for granted what I now have. The OCD is mostly in remission, but the habits I developed to deal with it are still around. In my desperate attempts to escape, I developed a problem with addiction, which is now the new monster I am fighting.

Drugs is a controversial topic and one I have been shying away from, but many of us know the unpleasant stigma of mental illness and I think the only way we can get rid of that is to speak the truth. I know there are many others out there struggling with their OCD and hiding their addictions, which is why I am also choosing to discuss this; because it is when we suffer alone that we truly suffer.

I began to treat myself before I knew I had OCD. I was not diagnosed until I was 21. In my teen years I developed an eating disorder. It had nothing to do with body image, but entirely about control and escaping my emotional discomfort. I think the most important thing a lot of people misunderstand about eating disorders like Anorexia and Bulimia is that they are anxiety disorders, not issues concerning low self-esteem.

I deprived myself of food to induce stomach aches which would distract me from my racing and obsessive thoughts. After it was getting out of hand, I started smoking weed. Every night, it put me to sleep, for years. Then, one fateful day in hte hospital, I was prescribed Ativan for my rapid heartbeat, which I explained was normal due to my anxiety. I started taking the drug every day because it made me feel “normal”, but I became dependent on it and the side effects were so awful I decided to get off of it. I did this safely.

I replaced Ativan with narcotics, sex, drinking and cutting. To me, it didn’t matter what the vice was, as long as it was something that changed how I felt. The one thing all these vices had in common was that they all altered my mental state, but lead me to a crash the following day.

I had gotten so used to escaping my feelings and running at the first sight of OCD or discomfort, I stopped feeling anything… anything bad, anything good. And trust me, the thought of feeling numb sounded pretty fucking good, but it wasn’t numb, it was just kinda down all the time. No joy, no color, no vibrance, just gloom.

Therapy has helped me tremendously to learn how to not only tolerate my emotions, but to accept them. I realized that my use of drugs and such was because I didn’t know any coping skills for feeling emotions, and feeling emotions was and still is scary.

Drugs still have a place in my life, like once in a great while when I am really anxious because of traveling or something, then I do take an anxiety pill, but other than that I am learning to deal with my emotions and such without self medicating.

The complication for me was that my need to compulse and need to use drugs or alcohol got intertwined (like when I cut) sometimes I felt like stopping, but my OCD brain felt like the number of times I cut was wrong, so I would cut more than I wanted to. It was weird to lose control doing what I started to do because I thought it gave me a sense of control.

The addiction monster and OCD monster can feel the same, but what I’ve discovered to help both is learning to accept myself and learning how to deal with emotions. I have also learned that when the need to cut or use comes up or the need to compulse comes up, I take a deep breath, remember what I learned in therapy like journaling, and most of the time I get through it, and the more times I get through it, the more I learn I can get through it.

If you struggle with addiction or OCD or both, you are not alone. Please seek help if you want it, because you can get through both if you want to. Stay strong.

To Keep or Dismantle My Network of Vices

I have never considered myself to have an “addictive personality”; whatever that means.  For most of my life, I could take or leave alcohol, cigarettes and food, but more recently things have looked very different to me.  I wasn’t using the classic poisons to escape my emotions, but rather self-destructive habits like starving, cutting or casual sex to get out of my conscious.   I have also noticed that when I drink alcohol, a story of regret usually follows.   I do not know if this means I would be better off avoiding my vices or just dealing with it for the time being.  After all, cutting out alcohol, sugar, sex, smoking weed and self-harm sound like a lot.  Logically, I know that I need healthy ways to cope with my emotions, but I feel addicted to my tendencies and am intimidated by the work ahead of me.  I anticipate being alone for quite a while.

One step at a time I guess.

Put the Knife Down (self harm topic – may be triggering)

i felt so much pain and if someone were to ask me what made me so sad, i dont think i couldve told them.  i didn’t really know exactly why…i just felt stressed, anxious and so sad.  “fuck it” and i went to go cut myself.  i went through all my prep and as i held the blade, i found my mind scrambling for reasons not to.  i saw the scars on my legs and though part of me wanted to add more, part of me didnt.  i always listen to the self destructive part of myself, but the next day i feel like shit and im sick of feeling this way.  i dont want to be depressed anymore.  i thought of my family and how they wouldnt want me to.  i thought of how i would soon want to wear shorts.  i thought of how my therapist told me he would never allow anyone else to hurt me and how it made him sad that i hurt myself because to him the act of harm by the self or someone else was the same.

i put the blade away and continued to cry.  i knew from therapy that this feeling would not last forever and decided i would try to tolerate it instead of harm myself.  logically i felt i might have made progress, but emotionally i felt confused.

ultimately i decided not to do it because i really want to get better.  i want to be successful in my career and my life.  i want to travel and have wonderful friends.  i want to fall in love.  i want to see the beauty in the world and feel a craving for adventure.  i know i cant have all this and harm myself too.  i cant have both because my dreams require the best of me.  they require my confidence, self love and self worth, and the self destructive coping mechanisms support none of this.

if i had gone through with it, i know it would not have meant i was a failure.  but there comes a point when a choice has to be made and i made that choice last night.  i know this means that i may cut again one day, but for the first time i proved to myself that i didn’t have to and that even though i feel wilted, there is hope.  an image i think about a lot is of a blade of grass growing through a crack of concrete.  if a little spark of life can bust through something so harsh, then i can too.

Self Harm – Sometimes Scars Are Not Worth Having

I have always felt the need to punish myself.  Even as a child in a non-practising religious family, I felt compelled to confess my sins.  Not knowing what I actually wanted was reassurance for my shamefully obsessive thoughts, I wanted justice and forgiveness for thinking the worst things ever to be thought.

It started out with food.  I would deny myself.  I would use the ache of hunger to take my mind out of the mental loops.  Even if I knew I had not done anything terrible, I still wanted to make things “right’.  I felt guilty all the time, even hearing a story on the news about something a thousand miles away.  I started piercing, over and over again.  Letting the piercing site heal and then doing it again.  I started to enjoy the pain.

Then I cut myself.  Drunk, on the floor with a blunt kitchen knife on my wrists.  I had no intention of suicide, it was just a place.  I wanted the scar.  I couldn’t stop and then my legs looked a mess.

I wear pants almost all the time now as I wait for the scars to heal; the scars I wanted as a way of proving that I had atoned.  It was not until something clicked with the help of a councilor that I realized that pain did not mean healing.  It blew my mind.  Pain did not mean healing and it was then that I did not want my scars anymore.  For the first time, I felt that I had hurt myself and that it was wrong.  I felt bad that way I would feel if someone else had hurt me.

I cant even fathom cutting myself again, until those days when I am depressed; then I feel the desire come back a little, but not even close to enough to go through with it.  I can’t accept that anymore.  It’s almost like I am two people at times.

I am now learning to respect myself and it is so challenging in some ways.  I just want to be normal.

“The OCD-Girl”: Identifying with OCD

The idea that OCD and I had this almost Jekyll and Hyde relationship defined me more than I would care to admit. Because of therapy and tending to all my health problems, my OCD is at a minimum. So much so, that I rarely see it as part of my life anymore. This was amazing; not having OCD steer my ship anymore, but it wasn’t that simple. Who was I now that my OCD was mostly gone? I had such severe OCD, that I had trouble keeping a job, few friends, and threw out stuff (opposite of hoarding). I dressed plainer than Jane, hated traveling and feared everything. Now that I was not this girl anymore, I hated my clothes, hated how I acted, hated that I had no career…It was like that movie with Val Kilmer where he plays a blind man, but gets his vision (not as extreme, but you get the idea). He was confused by shadows and mirrors and though he could see, he still lived the life of a bind person. I felt like I was still living the life of OCD and I hated it.

I am sad. At first, I felt spoiled for not being full of pure glee for my new mind, and I assumed that the adjustment period was to blame. I then realized that this sad feeling is too much. For years, I have been told I had depression and I would always deny it. For some reason, I refused to admit to it. Now that OCD is not the main issue, I feel like these other issues are coming to the surface which, though painful, is for the best.  Now I am in therapy again for the depression and continuing to work on my physical health.  That was the biggest difference for me, healing the body as a whole.

I am not the “OCD-Girl” and though it makes me a little unnerved to feel like I don’t know who I am anymore, I feel hope in knowing that I am now free to find out.

HOCD – Horrified to be gay (or straight).

I was trying to explain what this was like to a friend the other day, and it was a bit challenging.  Not only was I trying to simply define the term, I was trying to explain how I figured out I was bisexual despite my obsessions.  I came across this article that I’m not going to even try to sum up because it is THAT GOOD.

Click here to read “Sexual Orientation OCD, aka HOCD / Gay OCD – Part 1” by John Hershfield of the OCD Center, LA.

I learned a lot about myself from this piece and hope others find some interest as well.

OCD…can’t sleep

Since childhood, falling asleep has not been easy.

I dread going to sleep.  When I was little, I stayed up quietly in my room past my bed time; sometimes playing or sometimes adjusting the closet door to allow the perfect amount of light to come in.  My mom would drop me off for a sleep over at a friend’s house and I would phone her to pick me up as soon as it was time for bed.  During jr high and highschool I got into spiritual stuff, reading metaphysical books and such, and every night I would have my siblings come in my room and check for ghosts.  I breathed and said mantras obsessively.

After I moved out to live with my now-husband, sleep got easier, but it’s still a struggle.  He likes to go to bed around 11pm whereas I would rather stay up till 3am.  It seems if I try to go to sleep in the early hours, I just lay there.

I thought maybe I had onset insomnia (having a hard time falling sleep), and this could be the case.


I think maybe the problem might actually be Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome.

A circadian rhythm (functions that deal with time like temperature, breathing, kidney function) sleep disorder where a person’s biological clock does not match his/her environmental clock.  I first learned about this when reading about comorbid disorders associated with OCD.  It appears that people with OCD have substantially higher chances of also having DSPS.  I think you’ll see why:

Patients with DSPS are typically unable to fall asleep before 2am and have extreme difficulty waking up early (i.e. 7am).  When it’s time for sleep, the brain and body go through various changes like body temperature decrease, slowed heart rate and all the synchronizations that allow for a person to fall asleep.  They may lay in bed for hours trying to sleep.   Regardless of being exhausted or needing to catch up on sleep, the patient is unable to fall asleep at an earlier time than they are used to.  When sleep is reached, they are usually capable of staying asleep.

I remember driving my mom’s suburban from san diego, ca to phoenix, az to help her move.  We drove all night and hadn’t slept.  I was tired, but went through the day unpacking, and excited that I would probably fall asleep easily that night considering I missed sleep the night before.  Going to bed at 8pm made no difference and I laid there for hours trying to sleep.

The difference between Sleep Onset Insomnia and DSPS is that patients with DSPS are capable of plentiful sleep, just not at early night times and can often easily fall asleep in the morning hours, whereas people with Sleep Onset Insomnia have trouble falling asleep at any time.

I hate going to sleep because I lay there and my brain can run wild.  I think the anxiety keeps my brain stimulated which is perhaps why many people with OCD have sleeping problems.  I hate waking up early; it’s physically painful and sometimes nauseating.

I found this article (unlinkable) which describes the personality profile of DSPS:

There seems to exist a definite psychological profile for patients with DSPS. (1) an excessive defense mechanism that increases nervousness and develops neurosis; (2) a high level of intellectual aspiration with compulsivity that makes the patients feel self-defeated, powerless and disappointed; (3) a tendency to egocentric emotion, inhibition and perseverance. These characteristics may worsen social withdrawal, causing a loss of social cues in synchronizing their circadian rhythm. Thus, the phase shift becomes more difficult and a vicious circle is constituted.

Marijuana is probably the most effective sleep aid for me.  Alcohol just makes me pass out and if I wake up, it is impossible for me to fall back asleep until the early morning.  I never really gave sleeping pills a chance, as I am pretty scared of pharmaceutical drugs and their many possible side effects.  I prefer natural remedies when possible.


I don’t really know if DSPS is what is wrong with my sleep, but I am at a point where I am less interested in finding a name for what’s wrong and more interested in fixing it.

OCD Sound Sensitivity

Some sounds annoy me a little, while other sounds drive me batty!  These specific sounds are so annoying, that I get anxious or stressed to the point of agitation and anxiety.

I hate loud chewing, open mouth breathing, kissing sounds (only if it’s one set of lips like someone kissing a hand), dry skin being touched, tapping, leaky faucets and most of all ticking clocks.  I bought the coolest new alarm clock and within minutes of it being on, I took out it’s batteries.  I can’t sleep with any noise.  I think certain sounds bother me because I am already tense and it’s kind of like feeling tense or nervous and having someone poke you on the back repeatedly sending you surges of nervousness.

Being easily irritated to certain sounds is called: Soft Sound Sensitivity and for whatever reason, a lot of people with OCD seem to have it.

Most common sounds that annoy people with this specific sensitivity are: ticking clocks, animals grooming, chewing, tapping, nose whistles, and when people say the “S” sound.  For some people, it causes irritation and anger, while for others it’s more severe and can cause physical side effects like vomiting.

Some people wear ear plugs, but  I’ve never tried that.  If there is a leaky faucet, I fix it or find a way to cover the noise like with a fan.  I don’t use ticking clocks and as far as sounds that are out of my control like mouth breathing, I try to avoid that, plug my ears or drown out the sounds.  Avoidance seems to be the easiest solution for me since the problem is not bothering me all the time.  I get bothered when I hear that stuff, but I don’t hear that stuff all the time, so I can just deal with it.