OCD: a Resource Page

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (sometimes also called Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder) is a condition that causes severe anxiety and can significantly impact a sufferer’s ability to function on a daily basis.

OCD is most visibly characterized by compulsive behaviors. Rituals and compulsions vary and run the gamut from barely noticeable to the casual observer to extremely disruptive or debilitating. Failure to perform rituals or compulsions can cause severe anxiety, trigger panic attacks, and often spur catastrophic thoughts. This leads to a vicious cycle – compulsions are performed as a response to anxiety; performing them leads to more anxiety, which leads to an increased need to perform more rituals.

I can only speak to my own personal experience. I am not a doctor, and not an authority on the topic. What I can do is present what I’ve learned through gaining control over my own OCD compulsions and discuss what has worked (and failed miserably) for me.

Growing up, I truly and honestly believed I was the only one who had this condition. OCD is very isolating. Fittingly, it’s often referred to as the “cult of one” because of it’s tendency to encourage isolation – most OCD sufferers, myself included, don’t want anyone else to see them performing their rituals. Sometimes, it’s not much of a jump to question if we’re sane at all.

The International OCD Foundation notes that:

 In other words, OCD is telling your brain, which is telling your body, that the only way to relieve anxiety is to perform rituals.

Anxiety is your brain’s warning system.  When you feel anxious, it feels like you are in danger.  Anxiety is an emotion that tells you to respond, react, protect yourself, DO SOMETHING!

On the one hand, you might recognize that the fear doesn’t make sense, doesn’t seem reasonable, yet it still feels very real, intense, and true…
     Why would your brain lie?
     Why would you have these feelings if they weren’t true?
     Feelings don’t lie…  Do they?
Unfortunately, if you have OCD, they do lie.  If you have OCD, the warning system in your brain is not working correctly.  Your brain is telling you that you are in danger when you are not.
When scientists compare pictures of the brains of groups of people with OCD, they can see that some areas of the brain are different than the brains of people who don’t have OCD.
Those tortured with OCD are desperately trying to get away from paralyzing, unending anxiety…”

My ritual was picking at my skin. It started with my face. I’m not sure exactly when, but I suspect it began after a traumatic event that happened when I was about ten years old. Prior to that, I’d been known to pick and bite at my fingers and cuticles relentlessly. My attacks on my skin gradually spread from my face to my arms, then to my shoulders, and eventually to my chest. By the time I was a teenager, it was a rare day when my skin wasn’t a sore, bloody, scabby mess.

Oblivious to the fact that OCD is a real condition that was treatable, I spent most of my young adult life believing I was the only one with this problem. I isolated myself from others, believing honestly that no “normal” person would do these things. What was wrong with me??

A turning point came midway through my first year of therapy when I reached a breaking point. After the millionth time of falling into bed after viciously picking at my skin all day, I reached for my laptop and googled “skin picking.” I discovered that what I did to my skin had a name: dermatillomania. I also discovered that I wasn’t alone. In finding those two revelations, I found hope.

For more information on OCD:

http://www.ocfoundation.org/

For more information on dermatillomania:

http://www.skinpick.com/

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