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Quirky Actors Make It Interesting On Television, But OCD Can Be A Nightmare For Those Afflicted

Written by: Dean Nelson, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight thin their area of expertise.

 
Executive Contributor Dean Nelson

Television actors may glamorize OCD, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, on the screen, but it is not fun or laughable if it is you who suffers from the affliction. I know this firsthand as I have experienced its deleterious effects since childhood. It has been an ongoing struggle for me to manage the symptoms and the accompanying stress.

Woman obsessively washing her hands

The International OCD Foundation describes OCD as:


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder that affects people

of all ages and walks of life and occurs when a person gets caught in a cycle of

obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive thoughts, images,

or urges that trigger intensely distressing feelings. Compulsions are behaviors an

individual engages in to attempt to get rid of the obsessions and/or decrease

distress.”


Thoughts, images, or impulses are obsessions that occur repeatedly and are experienced by the individual as outside their control, leaving them feeling helpless and vulnerable. Most people with OCD abhor these intrusive thoughts, images, and impulses and make significant attempts to avoid them.


No one can control all the thoughts that enter their brain. A constant stream of thoughts is experienced by most, if not all, people. After all, you cannot predict what your next thought will be. They enter your awareness much like hunger pangs. You don’t attempt to invite the sensation of hunger; it merely presents itself to you at various times.


For someone with OCD, it is not the random, innocuous thoughts or urges that cause distress. It is the repetitive, intrusive, undesirable ones that concern them. For me, the constant urges to count, arrange things in a particular order, make verbal or guttural noises (tics), hold my breath, and tap my fingers or feet in specific ways are what haunt me and most of the seventy million other people suffering from this humiliating affliction.


Behaviors like these can be embarrassing and debilitating. They can lead one to feel powerless and depleted. Constantly attempting to control these can be downright exhausting, enervating, and time-consuming. It leads to extreme anxiety that interferes with day-to-day functioning.


Cleveland Clinic sites common symptoms as follows:


Obsessions:

  • Fear of coming into contact with perceived contaminated substances, such as germs or dirt.

  • Fear of causing harm to yourself or someone else because you’re not careful enough or you’re going to act on a violent impulse.

  • Unwanted thoughts or mental images related to sex.

  • Fear of making a mistake.

  • Excessive concern with morality (“right or wrong”).

  • Feelings of doubt or disgust.

  • Excessive concern with your sexual orientation or gender identity.

  • Need for order, neatness, symmetry, or perfection.

  • Need for constant reassurance.

Compulsions:

  • Arranging things in a very specific way, such as items on your dresser.

  • Bathing, cleaning, or washing your hands over and over.

  • Collecting or hoarding items that have no personal or financial value.

  • Repeatedly checking things, such as locks, switches, and doors.

  • Constantly checking that you haven’t caused someone harm.

  • Constantly seeking reassurance.

  • Rituals related to numbers, such as counting, doing a task a specific amount of times, or excessively preferring or avoiding certain numbers.

  • Saying certain words or prayers while doing unrelated tasks.


Unfortunately, there is no cure for OCD. Researchers believe several factors contribute to its development, including genetics, abnormalities in the prefrontal cortex, PANDAS syndrome (pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections incurred during childhood), and childhood trauma.


The National Institute of Mental Health describes treatments and therapies as:

  1. Medication with Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs), which include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are used to help reduce OCD symptoms. Examples are Sertraline (Zoloft) and Fluoxetine (Prozac.)

  2. Certain types of psychotherapy, including cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and other related therapies (e.g., habit reversal training) can be as effective as medication for many individuals.

  3. The recent FDA-approved Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) as an adjunct in the treatment of OCD in adults. (Some studies have shown as high as an eighty-five percent success rate.)


My OCD symptoms in the last few years have steadily worsened. Now, in my sixties, I find myself considering alternative therapy instead of traditional medications or CBT as I prefer to avoid the chemicals in medications and because positive results could take a long time to achieve with CBT. I will likely choose the TMS OCD protocol. Not only because it is FDA approved, the “eighty-five percent success rate appeals to me.


TMS works by directing highly targeted magnetic pulses to stimulate nerve cells in the areas of the brain that regulate mood control. Medications are not required, there are no invasive procedures, and systemic side effects are non-existent. Rapid results can be experienced by OCD sufferers, with their symptoms either exponentially improving during the first couple of weeks of treatment or toward the end and for a time after that. Treatment plans are developed based on each patient’s specific symptoms. Typically, the OCD protocol involves about five visits per week for a total of about 36 twenty to thirty-minute sessions.


Life can be complicated with OCD. The constant craving for perfection and reassurance can be taxing and burdensome. One of my greatest passions in life is cooking. Even when others compliment my meals as some of the best they have ever experienced, I am overly critical and think of ways I could and should have done better. I also wonder if they are being forthright and honest with me. In my mind, they are merely attempting to appease me, not to hurt my feelings. Perfectionism causes suffering.


The consistent need to place things in symmetrical order and compulsively count movements, steps, or items is disconcerting and frustrating. Throughout the years, I have learned (most of the time) to deliberately disarrange items such as dinnerware place settings and board game pieces so they are not symmetrical or do not occupy the exact center of each space. This proves to me that it is unimportant, and the arrangements will not affect the final outcome. It is challenging at times as the obsessions can be very powerful.


If you have a proclivity for obsessions or compulsions and would like to get relief and gain control of your life, conduct some research and find a therapy that appeals to you. There are a few styles and techniques available that may improve your behaviors. Don’t let OCD get out of hand and control you. It can lead to immense suffering. If you know a friend or family member who is afflicted with OCD, encourage them to seek help. Be careful not to draw attention to someone’s tics or make fun of their behaviors, as this can cause their symptoms to worsen, which is very embarrassing to them. People with OCD tend to be highly self-conscious.


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Dean Nelson Brainz Magazine
 

Dean Nelson, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Dean Nelson is the best-selling author of three self-help, inspirational, and motivational books with another in the works. For nearly 30 years, he spent countless hours attending seminars, researching, studying, and seeking out ways to awaken his potential. His sincerest passion and mission in life is to provide simple shortcuts to living a more fulfilled and inspired experience. For those who are struggling and ready for change, Nelson shares his enlightening psychology for those seeking an immediate positive transformation.

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