The way you interpret an event makes a difference in the way you end up feeling. People with OCD may make great progress with treatment yet sometimes they experience setbacks. The way you deal with that initial return of symptoms can determine whether your lapse turns into a relapse.
The following story about Jerry and Tim illustrates how two differing perspectives on a re-emergence of an obsession led to a big setback for Tim, but had relatively little impact on Jerry.
Jerry suffers from contamination OCD. He was first referred for help when his doc noticed that his hands were raw and bleeding. Jerry confesses that he often spends an hour in his shower and washes his hands hundreds of times most every day. After 10 sessions of exposure and response prevention (ERP), Jerry’s symptoms are under control. Yet, Jerry continues to have times he worries about getting contaminated. He recalls that his treatment included how to handle these occasional thoughts. He tells himself that the obsessions are normal and to be expected. He purposely waits until the thought passes and does not engage in compulsive washing. He knows that if the thoughts get worse, that he can always return to therapy for a few booster sessions. Most days Jerry feels that he is leaving OCD behind him despite his occasional lapses.
Tim also has contamination OCD. He too washes compulsively and avoids public places. His washing takes up hours of his day. Tim visits his primary care doctor to see if he can suggest something to help him. The doc talks to Tim about different kinds of treatment. Tim chooses to go on an antidepressant to see if that will help him. Tim’s doctor reminds him that the medication can take a long time to have an effect. Tim is relieved he may get better. After about 8 weeks, his symptoms seem to lesson. He doesn’t always think about contamination and has reduced his washing.
An early flu season hits and Tim comes down with the flu. He finds himself obsessing about what might have made him sick. The more he thinks …
The other day, our grandchildren came in from playing outside all afternoon–dirt and mud covering every inch of their feet, legs, trunks, hands, arms, faces, and even their hair. They were smiling and giggling with no concern for their hygiene or appearance. Obviously, a bath was in order for all.
This incident triggered a memory of one of the “Parts of Ten” chapters from our book Obsessive Compulsive Disorder For Dummies. We were inspired to write that chapter because those with OCD so often worry about becoming ill from the slightest contact with dirt. At the same time, few people know very much about dirt, whether they have OCD or not.
Here’s five items (from out book chapter) that you may not know about dirt:
The topic of today’s blog is personal. And it’s likely to affect many folks who receive shiny, brand new computers over the holidays. So we now whimsically share a few of our thoughts about this important topic.
Chuck and I spend hours every day in front of the computer. Just since starting to write For Dummies books, we’ve written over 2,000 book pages (and ask any For Dummies’ writer–each page has lots of words!). In addition to writing books, we write articles, psychological reports, blogs, prepare presentations, and answer thousands of emails.
Here and there over the years one of us has closed a file too rapidly, inadvertently hit a delete button, or experienced system screw ups that send our work into cyberspace. Like that single sock that somehow disappears in the dryer, a chapter, page, paragraph, or word vanishes, never to be found again. And when we lose work, our minds often start churning out unhelpful thoughts such as:
Just blogging about this makes me anxious. Over the years we’ve used systems that keep our losses small and relative infrequent: online back-ups, external back-ups, back-ups on flash drives. We have several computers that we save our work on and when we are feeling particularly paranoid, we keep CD’s in our cars in case our house is broken into.
About a month ago we noticed our computers were becoming really sluggish and less stable. Time to upgrade. Okay, we told ourselves, let’s try to stay positive. A simple switch to the latest, spiffiest editions of Office and Windows. Well, now it’s 6 weeks later. We have four computers on our desks in various stages of disarray. First, this wasn’t compatible so we needed to do that. We did that and had to do more of this. Then we couldn’t find a product key number on the newest computer. After online help, hours of consultation with our computer guru, chat rooms, phone calls to computer support services, …
We love the wealth of information available to us from the internet. Because of our various interests, Chuck and I both have “Google Alerts” for articles or blogs about subjects we write about. (If you don’t know what Google Alerts are, Google it!) Many days, the shear number of suggested links and articles gets a bit overwhelming; both of us spend hours digging into the topics presented to us on these alerts. Frankly, lots of the topics are thinly veiled advertisements for various products and we quickly delete them. However, some alerts send us to fascinating research or poignant news articles.
One such article today detailed the suicide of a 21 year old woman in the UK who had battled Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and depression. The article chronicled a life that for this woman seemed unbearable. She apparently used 10 bottles of hand wash every day, and like many people with contamination fears had infected and blistered hands. She was afraid to get treatment because she feared that she might get contaminated from the facility. So, she dressed in her best clothes and jumped from the 10th story of a parking lot.
The saddest part of this story is that OCD left untreated often leads to depression. The vast majority of people with OCD or depression do not commit suicide, but the risk is certainly greater for them than others without these disorders. Sorry to bring this up during the season to be jolly, but people with OCD and depression don’t usually get better because of the brightness of the holidays. We have a few messages:
You’re going to see lots of blogs on this topic in the next few weeks. However, we recommend getting a jump on these issues early.
Do you suffer from depression, anxiety, or obsessive compulsive disorder? If so, the holidays may cause you to crash. You could find that panic attacks that had been dormant, reemerge. Or compulsions to clean, count, or arrange things uptick to the point you barely have time to do anything else. Sadness may deepen and you’re not sure why. For that matter, even if you don’t have some type of depression or anxiety disorder, the holidays sometimes create considerable stress and anxiety. Why? Consider these possibilities: