Living with OCD
As I sit on the train, I am counting to six in my head. I am also slightly panicking that I just wrote that down for the first time because no one knows that six is my lucky, unlucky obsessive compulsive number.
I try to do everything in sixes. To name a few, I get into bed on a six, I take six steps before I sit down and I will only close a book every sixth page. This may sound crazy to some people, but to me if I don’t do everything on a six I am risking my family’s health.
In my head, I believe that if I were to get into bed on a five, (10:05) my family may not wake up. I know it is strange to think that I can control the future and the destiny of my family, but in my head I truly believe this and anything I can do to keep my family healthy and safe, I do.
This is one of my many compulsions. Obsessive compulsive disorder is a disease that is characterized by unreasonable thoughts or fears (obsessions) that lead to compulsive behaviors. OCD usually centers around a theme and for me that theme is health. I obsess all day about my health and my family’s health.
OCD is a painful, hard thing to live with. Thinking that I am responsible for my family’s health and that one step off can lead to something bad happening, is a very scary thought. However, being in cognitive behavioral therapy has helped me develop skills to live a better life. There is no cure for OCD but there are many skills that can help.
One type of CBT that I find helpful is ERP (exposure and response prevention). ERP works by helping you confront your obsessions and resist the urge of carrying out your compulsions. For me, I have tried to get into bed when I want to without looking at a clock. I then sit there uncomfortable thinking that something bad might happen to my family and that I wasn’t doing anything to prevent it. My therapist asked me to write down my thoughts during my panic and I remember writing that if something bad happened, it would be all my fault. I laid in bed anxious until I fell asleep and in the morning I was happy to hear everyone was safe.
Facing your fears and obsessions helps take the power out of them. Giving into your compulsions makes the fears even scarier than they already are.
You may be getting a lot of information and not sure what to trust. You may also be worried about unknown side-effects in the short term or the long term. How can I, as a psychologist, help?
“Cognitive behavioral therapy delivered online, or virtual CBT, appeared non-inferior to CBT delivered in person for health anxiety, according to results of a randomized non-inferiority clinical trial published in JAMA Psychiatry. A health economic analysis also showed a lower net societal cost with the online format. Read the full study by Axelsson, Andersson, and Ljótsson et al. (2020) […]
Maybe a friend’s recommended it or you’ve read about it in the New York Times. What is cognitive therapy any way and what’s all the hype about?
Cognitive Therapy was created by University of Pennsylvania psychiatrist Aaron Beck in the 1960s. At the time it was created, cognitive therapy marked a radical departure from the dominant therapy, namely psychoanalysis. Interestingly, Dr. Beck was in fact trained in psychoanalysis and developed cognitive therapy in the course of testing the psychoanalytic theory of depression—anger turned against the self. While interviewing depressed patients Dr. Beck observed distinctive thinking styles and thought patterns rather than self-directed anger…