Coping Strategies

Active Minds

More and more students are taking mental health challenges with them to college. This eye-opening report on mental health conducted by NAMI details the types of issues facing college students.

Many mental health disorders surface during the teen and young adult years. Couple this fact with the stress and anxiety that often come with being away at college, and you may have a recipe for disaster. My son Dan is a good example. When he left for college, his OCD was manageable. By the end of his freshman year it had become so severe he was barely functioning.

So could Dan’s downward spiral have been prevented?  Absolutely. If he had been able to be more open about having obsessive-compulsive disorder, not just with professionals, but with his peers, that would have been a huge plus. Instead, like so many other college students, he most likely believed he was the only one with serious problems. Just look at Facebook. Everyone is happy and smiling. With all of the pressure to appear well, it is easy to see how students would think that they are alone in their troubles.


OCD – Finding the Right Help

I've been an advocate for OCD awareness for about eight years now and have communicated directly with hundreds of people who either have obsessive-compulsive disorder, or love someone with OCD. I have seen great strides made in reducing stigma, as well as in OCD awareness and education, and am happy to report that I strongly believe we are moving in the right direction.

Then why do I receive email after email from people who are not getting the right help for their OCD? Either they are ill-informed and/or have been steered in the wrong direction, or they know what help they need, but just can't find good therapy. It's heartbreaking to have an illness that is treatable, be willing to get treatment, but hitting a brick wall no matter how hard you try. I've often said that I believe one of the hardest aspets of having OCD is finding the right help.

Coping Strategies

Is Thinking about Compulsions a Compulsion?

I corresponded with a young woman with obsessive-compulsive disorder who had participated in exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy and made some major improvements in dealing with her OCD. However, she still struggled at times and wasn't quite where she wanted to be - like many with OCD, she was a work in progress.

She had an upcoming vacation planned with her serious boyfriend and was determined that her OCD would not ruin this special time they had planned together. She would not avoid people, places, or things that might make her anxious, she would not apologize for no good reason, and she would not ask for reassurance of any kind from her boyfriend. In short, she was determined to not engage in any compulsions during their vacation. Things would be perfect and she'd have a great time.

Coping Strategies

Taking OCD Back to School

I’ve previously written about taking obsessive-compulsive disorder to college, where I focused on establishing a good support system for those with OCD who are embarking on this exciting, but often anxiety-provoking journey. I discussed how important communication is with all school personnel, from the dean of students to teachers. The more support the better.

But what happens when the support you deserve, and are entitled to, is not afforded you? What if one of your teachers thinks OCD is no big deal, or not a real illness? How do you deal with a situation like that?


What level of OCD Treatment is Right for You?

It’s really too bad that when you are going through a crisis you often have to make crucial decisions. It’s the worst time to have to do this because, well, you are going through a crisis…..who thinks clearly at this time??

For us, the decision to send our son Dan to a residential program for OCD during the summer between his freshman and sophomore years of college almost seemed like a no-brainer. Just to clarify: Residential treatment programs are different from inpatient programs, at least for most insurance purposes. Dan entered the program voluntarily and could leave anytime he wanted to.

Back to the no-brainer part. This program that Dan attended is world-renowned, highly regarded, and intensive. The staff assured us Dan would improve enough to successfully return to college that fall, which was his goal. Dan was not only willing to go to this treatment program, he wanted to go. He couldn’t wait to go! So why on earth wouldn’t we send him, especially when that was what all of the experts recommended?

Coping Strategies

OCD and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I)

Sleep is often a big issue for those with obsessive-compulsive disorder. In fact, in over five-and-a-half years of blogging on ocdtalk, my most viewed post, by far, is OCD and Sleep.

OCD has the potential to complicate anything, and sleeping is no exception. While most of us, with and without OCD, can relate to bouts of insomnia, sometimes issues with sleep can be directly related to obsessive-compulsive disorder.

For example, someone with OCD might be terrified of sleeping because they are convinced they will die in their sleep. So they force themselves to stay awake. Or perhaps there is an obsession directly related to one’s bed or bedroom. When my son Dan’s OCD was severe and he was away at college, he was not able to touch his mattress and therefore couldn’t sleep on his bed. To this day, I don’t know where, how, or if, he slept at night.

If sleep issues are indeed directly related to OCD, then exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy, the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) used to treat OCD, can definitely help.

However, if someone with OCD has sleep problems that are not directly related to their disorder, then ERP is not the way to go; CBT-I is.


OCD and Exciting Research

Ever hear of mGluR5? Sapap3?

I surely hadn't until this past week when some results from research conducted at Duke University were revealed.

I'm no scientist, so in the most basic of layman's terms, this is how I understand it:

Sapap3 is a protein that helps to establish  connections between neurons so that cells can communicate. In 2007, researchers at Duke University created a new mouse model for obsessive-compulsive disorder by deleting a gene that codes for Sapap3. This Sapap3-lacking mouse exhibits OCD-like behaviors, grooming itself excessively and showing signs of anxiety.


Therapists with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

When I first became involved in OCD advocacy about six years ago, I would occasionally come across articles or books written by therapists whose bios revealed that they had OCD themselves. I always found this information comforting, because at the time it was hard for me to believe my son would ever again be able to function in the outside world. If someone with OCD can come so far - from struggling with a devastating disorder to helping people with this same illness, then maybe there was hope for my son as well.

Coping Strategies

OCD, Medication and Attitude

I’ve previously written about how complicated the topic of OCD and medication can be. I’ve talked about stigma and the process of “trial & error.” I’ve discussed how there are those who feel weak for deciding to take medication, and still others who feel empowered by this decision. I’ve talked about how there is not one specific drug for obsessive-compulsive disorder, and what works for one person might not work for another. Some people find medication to be helpful, and others never derive any benefits from them, no matter how many meds they try. There are those who are plagued by intolerable, and often dangerous, side-effects, and  others who say medication saved their lives.

To say the subject of medication and OCD is an individual thing is an understatement.


OCD and Thoughts of Suicide

Suicide. It's a word that invokes paralyzing fear in those who love someone with a brain disorder. And well it should. Thoughts of suicide should always be taken seriously and help should be sought immediately.
But when you have OCD and are dealing with thoughts of suicide, it can get complicated, to say the least.

We already know that those with OCD often attach more meaning to their thoughts than those without the disorder. While most of us can acknowledge our thoughts and just let them float by, those with OCD obsess about them. Will I become contaminated? Will I hurt someone I love? Will I commit suicide?