Wednesday, June 1, 2016

OCD and Fast Help for Anxiety Attacks

You have a sensation of fear. It starts with a little niggle in the pit of the stomach- slightly unsettling, like a small electric shock. Then, the flame ignites and you start to sweat, heart palpitates, knees feel weak. You begin to have shortness of breath, your pupils dilate and you may even feel weak or faint. Fight or flight has been activated, your pituitary gland begins pumping out cortisol and other stress hormones. Soon, you are in the midst of a full-blown panic attack.

This is a very unpleasant and terrifying situation. What can you do to help yourself, reverse this terrible scenario? First thing is to be conscious of your breath. It is a fact that the heart slows down if the breath slows down. You will notice that you are breathing rapidly, so consciously slow your breath. Inhale very slowly and hold it for a few seconds. Then let it out slowly. Repeat this until you feel your heartbeat slowing. Then, try to yawn, this will also slow your heart. You can also pinch your nose closed and blow out, it will have a similar effect. These quick fixes for panic will activate the parasympathetic nervous system, the one system in the body that you have some type of control over- this can be very useful to know in the future.

Once you have some type of control over your symptoms of panic and fear, doing some type of physical activity can be very helpful. (This is only if you are healthy enough for physical activity. Naturally if you are sick, this does not apply to you.) Anything that makes you move is good, walking, cleaning- just get up and do something! Your body will eventually calm down, it cannot sustain a severe panic state for a very long time.

It is simple as that to help yourself out of an anxiety attack without taking a tranquilizer, and may even work faster.

I wish you all peace and freedom from fear.

My book OCD and Me, My Unconventional Journey Through Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is available:

Monday, May 9, 2016

OCD and Wasted Time, How to Be in the Present Moment

I was thinking about how much wasted time I have spent dealing with OCD. How much time have I wasted in ruminating, obsessing, ritualizing? It is really a shame. If you add up all the wasted time it can be very disheartening. Mine could be years, and time stops for no one. Time will continue on if you are happy, sad, enjoying yourself, or not. Time doesn't care what you are going through and will never let you relive lost moments. It is also physically taxing on the body to endure stress for long periods of time. I have noticed that after periods where my OCD acts up, I feel intense fatigue which doesn't go away as fast as it used to. All of this is frustrating and has caused me to become angry at myself. But it is not my fault, nor the fault of anyone who has OCD or in fact any of the co-existing disorders, like Depression, ADD, Tourette's, etc.
Some people take drugs to mask the symptoms and dull the pain, and I don't blame them, nor do I criticize their actions. In fact, for intense periods of stress, easing the suffering of the mind and body can be helpful. But these are not long term solutions.
Short of inventing a Time Machine, What could I do to improve my experience on this planet instead of wasting large amounts of time suffering through endless ruminating and  anxiety?
What has helped me, and continues to help are some great things I have learned.
Acceptance is the first one. This is very important because people will beat themselves up over so many things associated with dealing with a disorder. You have to acknowledge a problem before you can address it. This takes a lot of pressure off. Yes, your mind is not focused, you are doing useless rituals, you can't follow a conversation, you worry what people may think of odd behaviors; this is just how you are and not your fault. It is your brain chemistry. Make peace with your condition.
Another thing is Mindfulness. That means literally forcing your mind to be focused in the minute you are in so you do not waste time focusing on the past or the future. Much suffering from mental disorders involves ruminating, endless thinking of past or future events, fear that something bad will happen, or guilt or fear over something that already happened. If locked in to this pattern, some people may not even know where they are, what they ate. By forcing yourself to notice 5 things around you right NOW, can break the grip of obsessing. I have read where people also say touching something and focusing on the texture helps bring them into the current minute and out of their distressing mental world.
Music- that is, if you enjoy it. Even if you have no focus or a lot of anxiety, put on something that has good memories attached to it. Perhaps a song from a happy time. Play it a few times in a row. This will ground you to the happy time and help create a better present moment.
One more fast thing to do is to press on the middle of the pad in your thumb, the reflex for the pituitary gland. If you hit it in the right spot, which is the center of the widest part of the thumb, behind the nail, it will relieve some tension and ground you to the present moment. You can use a pencil eraser, or your fingernail and probe until you feel a sharp sensation, that is the right spot.
I will be writing more about natural methods that I have found to help OCD and related disorders. But for now, I hope these can help you to break the cycle of ritualizing and overthinking, and bring you more enjoyment of the present moment, which is really all we have.

Monday, May 11, 2015

OCD and Springtime Anxiety and Depression

Winter- it's dark and cold. You just looked out of the window and it's snowing again. You feel tired, lazy, and you can't wait for Spring. Ah, Spring, a time of warm sunshine and blue skies, the smell of fresh grass and new flowers! You should be joyous, raring to go and do all those things you dreamed of during the long, cold winter. But you just don't feel right- you feel anxious and foggy, perhaps even depressed. Why?

There are several reasons. One is that sensitive people, especially those with biochemical imbalances in the brain that cause OCD or related disorders, may be both emotionally and physically very sensitive to changes in light. Just as in winter when too much darkness triggers off depression, Springtime daylight may trigger anxiety and irritability. This can interfere with sleeping patterns and cause insomnia, the opposite of Winter oversleeping. After enough days of not sleeping well, people can become irritable, anxious, and depressed.

Also, people with allergies can have a hard time in Spring.
I believe that the world will come to realize that depression is not just a mental disorder- it has physical components. Some scientists are stating that depression could be a kind of inflammatory response to an environmental cause besides just a psychological reaction. If so, then Springtime allergies, which cause inflammation may be the culprit. In an article in the by Caroline Williams, titled "Is depression a kind of allergic reaction," it says, "The answer to that seems to be yes, and the best candidate so far is inflammation – a part of the immune system that acts as a burglar alarm to close wounds and call other parts of the immune system into action. A family of proteins called cytokines sets off inflammation in the body, and switches the brain into sickness mode.

Both cytokines and inflammation have been shown to rocket during depressive episodes, and – in people with bipolar – to drop off in periods of remission. Healthy people can also be temporarily put into a depressed, anxious state when given a vaccine that causes a spike in inflammation..."

There is a good article that I found, April Is the Cruelest Month: Why People Get Depressed and Anxious in the Spring, by Therese Borchard, Published Apr 16, 2014...

"Although American poet T. S. Eliot didn’t have an advanced psychology degree, I think he nailed the reasons why so many people get depressed and anxious in the spring in his classic poem, “The Waste Land.” He writes, “April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain.”

I just spent the afternoon on discussion boards of several health websites reading about all the different reasons people are suddenly, surprisingly, knocked to their knees with anxiety and depression come the first weeks of spring. As one guy said, he made it through one of the most brutal Chicago winters he had ever endured with no symptoms of depression, only to find himself an anxious mess once the snow melted.

Why can good weather bring on bad moods?

Change. For starters, it’s change. While some human beings thrive on unsteady ground, most of us fear movement of any kind. All change — even the good and healthy change we need and pursue — brings with it an element of anxiety. That’s especially the case for highly sensitive folks among us who are easily prone to anxiety and depression. “Breeding lilacs out of the dead land,” requires an element of adjustment, and adjustment isn’t always easy.

Hormones. Just as the lack of sunlight may alter brain levels of certain mood-controlling chemicals — such as the hormone melatonin — in November, the same moody chemicals and their messengers get confused when the light comes out in the spring. In fact, ten percent of people with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) experience symptoms in reverse: Once the weather turns warm, they grow melancholy. Any shift in our circadian rhythm — a 24-hour cycle that tells our bodies when to sleep, eat, work, and take a phone call from our parents — can produce feelings of anxiety.

Memories. “Mixing memory and desire,” as Eliot writes, can be a hazardous activity. I think we do that in April because the spring months hold so many milestones, like graduations and weddings. We look back with nostalgia or regret or with unfulfilled dreams and desires. This season of rebirth prods us to keep moving … maybe too quickly. Perhaps we’re not ready yet.

Allergies and toxins. Thank God that Eliot lived a century before us, because his April would have been even crueler if he were to confront all the environmental toxins and allergies we have going on today. I used to think that I didn’t suffer from spring allergies because my symptoms don’t involve sniffles and purple eyes. However, one trip to a functional doctor educated me on what different kinds of allergies can do to your mood. If you are sensitive to environmental toxins — and the majority of us are — you may very well have a harder time in the spring because the blowing winds and warmer temperatures can kick up a ton of irritants that, in turn, cause inflammation in your brain and bad moods."

So, what to do to feel better? Perhaps an anti-inflammatory diet would help depression. Personally, I have found that concentrated tart cherry juice works great. You can also increase these foods in your diet: turmeric, garlic, onions, beets, leafy greens, almonds, wild caught salmon, peppers, and olive oil.

For Springtime insomnia and anxiety, perhaps limiting exposure to excess light at night, from computers, phone and TV screens could promote better sleep and mood. Al always, exercise and meditation can work wonders.

I hope everyone has a great Spring, full of energy and happiness!

My book, "OCD and Me, My Unconventional Journey Through Obsessive Compulsive Disorder," is available in printed and e book versions through Amazon, U.S., U.K., and Barnes and

Saturday, November 22, 2014

OCD and Anxiety: Symptoms, Signs, and Risk Factors

Anxiety comes in many forms. It may present as a slight nagging feeling in the background of your life, or be an overpowering dread that stops you from functioning. However you experience it, anxiety is never pleasant. It is the basis of fear, and is one of the most negative emotions a person can experience.

Besides causing much mental and emotional distress, anxiety can wreak havoc upon the body, causing many physical disturbances and conditions.

One of my blog readers notified me of this great article written by Ann Pietrangelo, with a great interactive guide.

Everyone has anxiety from time to time, but chronic anxiety can negatively impact your quality of life. It is a mental health disorder that can also have serious consequences for your physical health."
Anxiety can cause, "Panic Attacks, Generalized Ill Health, Central Nervous System Function, Respiratory Response, Excretory and Digestive System Upset, Behavioral Changes, Flight or Fight Response, Immune System Response, Cardiovascular Changes


It may be difficult to pinpoint anxiety disorders if there are co-existing mental health disorders, physical illnesses, or substance abuse problems. Signs that someone may have a serious anxiety disorder include:

Fear of Leaving the House, Social Withdrawal
Extreme, Unwarranted Fear of Particular Situation or Things
Changes in Personality
Family or Relationship Problems
Depression or Suicidal Thoughts
Compulsive or Repetitive Behaviors
Trouble on the Job or in School
Alcohol or Drug Abuse

Frequent Emotional & Physical Health Issues
Recognizing Anxiety: Symptoms, Signs, and Risk Factors
Anxiety is a normal part of human life. You may have felt anxiety before addressing a group or applying for a job, for example. In the short term, anxiety increases your breathing rate and heart rate, concentrating the blood flow to your brain, where you need it. This very physical response is preparing you to face an intense situation. If it gets too intense, however, you might start to feel lightheaded and nauseous. An excessive or persistent state of anxiety can have a devastating effect on your physical and mental health.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), about 40 million American adults have some type of anxiety disorder every year. An anxiety disorder is a condition in which you experience frequent, powerful bouts of anxiety that interfere with your life. This type of anxiety can get in the way of family, career, and social obligations.
There are several types of anxiety disorder. Among them are:

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is excessive anxiety for no apparent reason. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), GAD affects about 6.8 million American adults a year. GAD is diagnosed when extreme worry about a variety of things lasts six months or longer. If you have a mild case, you’re probably able to function fairly normally. More severe cases may have a profound impact on your life.
Social anxiety disorder is a paralyzing fear of social situations and of being judged or humiliated by others. This severe social phobia can leave one feeling ashamed and alone. About 15 million American adults live with social anxiety disorder, according to the ADAA. The typical age at onset is 13. Thirty-six percent of patients wait a decade or more before pursuing help.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develops after you’ve witnessed or experienced something traumatic. Symptoms can begin immediately or be delayed for years. Common causes include war, natural disasters, or physical attack. Episodes of anxiety may be triggered without warning.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is also a type of anxiety disorder. People with OCD are overwhelmed with the desire to perform particular rituals (compulsions) over and over again. Common compulsions include habitual hand washing, counting, or checking something.
Phobias are also anxiety disorders. Common phobias include fear of tight spaces (claustrophobia) and fear of heights (acrophobia). It creates a powerful urge to avoid the feared object or situation.

Panic disorder causes panic attacks spontaneous feelings of anxiety, terror, or impending doom. Physical symptoms include heart palpitations, chest pain, and shortness of breath. These attacks may be repeated at any time. People with any type of anxiety disorder may have panic attacks.

Anxiety Disorder Symptoms
Anxiety manifests in many different ways. Symptoms may be unique to the type of anxiety disorder or to the individual. All include magnified worry about something for more than six months. General symptoms include:
nervousness, irritability, restlessness
trouble sleeping, fatigue
trouble concentrating

During moments of extreme anxiety or during a panic attack, these symptoms may be accompanied by:
sense of danger or doom
trembling, dizziness, weakness
shortness of breath
excessive perspiration
feeling cold or overheated
numbness or tingling in the hands
rapid heartbeat, palpitations
chest pain
rapid breathing, hyperventilating

Panic attacks can happen when least expected and without obvious provocation. Frequent panic attacks may elevate your level of stress and contribute to social isolation.
People who have PTSD experience flashbacks, reliving a traumatic experience over and over. They may be quick to anger, startle easily, or become emotionally withdrawn. Other symptoms include nightmares, insomnia, and sadness.

OCD causes obvious behavioral symptoms such as performing compulsive, repetitive acts. Many people with OCD develop rituals they feel they must carry out to avoid perceived consequences. People with social anxiety disorder or other phobias usually try to avoid confronting the object of their fear.

Complications of Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety can trigger the “flight or fight” stress response, releasing a flood of chemicals and hormones like adrenaline into your system. In the short term, this increases your pulse and breathing rate so your brain can get more oxygen. You are now prepared to respond appropriately to an intense situation. Your immune system may even get a brief boost. Your body will return to normal functioning when the stress passes.
If you repeatedly feel anxious and stressed, or if it lasts a long time, your body never gets the signal to return to normal functioning. That can weaken your immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to viral infections. According to Harvard Medical School, studies have shown an increased rate of anxiety and panic attacks in people with chronic respiratory disease (COPD). COPD patients with anxiety tend to be hospitalized more often. Prolonged stress may lead to a general feeling of ill health. Vaccines may be less effective in people with anxiety disorders.
Your excretory and digestive systems also suffer. According to Harvard Medical School, there may be a connection between anxiety disorders and the development of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) after a bowel infection. IBS can cause vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation.
Anxiety disorder may cause loss of appetite and lack of interest in sex. Other symptoms include muscle tension, headaches, and insomnia. Frequent panic attacks can cause you to fear the anxiety attacks themselves, thereby increasing overall anxiety. The constant state of stress can lead to clinical depression. You are also at increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. If you already have heart disease, anxiety disorders may raise the risk of coronary events.

Risk Factors for Developing an Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety disorders can happen at any stage of life, but they usually begin by middle age. Women are 60 percent more likely to have an anxiety disorder than men, according to the NIMH.
Stressful life experiences may increase your risk. Symptoms may begin immediately or years later. Having a serious medical condition or a substance abuse problem can also lead to anxiety disorder.

Social Signs of Anxiety Disorder: What to Look For
It may be difficult to pinpoint anxiety disorders if there are co-existing mental health disorders, physical illnesses, or substance abuse problems. Signs that someone may have a serious anxiety disorder include:
fear of leaving the house, social withdrawal
extreme, unwarranted fear of particular situations or things
compulsive or repetitive behaviors
changes in personality
trouble on the job or in school
family or relationship problems
alcohol or drug abuse
depression or suicidal thoughts
frequent emotional and physical health issues
If you have signs of anxiety disorder, see your doctor or make an appointment with a mental health professional.

Diagnosis and Treatment
To reach a diagnosis, your doctor must carefully evaluate your symptoms. Underlying medical conditions will need to be addressed. Anxiety disorders can be treated with medication, cognitive therapy, or behavioral therapy. Often, a combination of treatments is the best course of action. Treatment for anxiety disorders should be viewed as long term. In most cases, treatment for anxiety is successful, allowing patients to lead full, productive lives."  - See more at:

I hope this helps all those suffering with anxiety, and I wish you peace of mind forever!

My book,"OCD and Me," by Bess Cunningham, is available through booksellers across the U.S., Canada, U.K. and through Amazon. Illustrations are by David Michael Lyndon Thomas.

Monday, August 11, 2014

OCD and Depression is No Joke!

In light of the passing of Robin Williams due to depression, I want people to be aware that many people are suffering with feelings of sadness and hopelessness. It may hit like a thunderbolt or it may slowly creep up on you, but depression is one of the worst feelings there is. For all of you who have never felt the horrors of depression, you are gifted. Depression takes a huge toll on the body, both mentally and physically. It may help if you notice your physical symptoms. You may get body aches, headaches or stomachaches which you may not realize is depression-related.

Depression is like living in an exhausting, smothering gloom. It is caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals and often co-exists with OCD and many other mental disorders. It can be triggered by sudden life changes (30% of new college students have reported being depressed), staleness of routine (when life becomes dull and the mind gets bored), and also, not having job or relationship satisfaction.

Depression feels as if all joy and the meaning of life has been stripped away, and all that is left is a fog-like trance. It may take all the energy you have to just get out of bed. All too often, depressed people don’t have the energy to seek help, but lying around doing nothing only makes their depression worse. 

Physical exercise is extremely important. Even of you are having a hard time getting up, just walking for 5 minutes, or going around the block is beneficial. Also, being absorbed in a cause, or hobby can definitely help. Another way out of sadness is to force yourself to go out on a beautiful day and commune with nature. If you live near a beach, make the effort to go by the water, as it has been shown that negative ions help mood. Go to a park, to a garden, notice the clouds, watch the sunrise─all these things may help to brighten the mood.

Depression may also be a sign of low-thyroid function, especially if you have gained weight, have dry skin, and are sensitive to temperature changes. Low thyroid, or hypothyroidism, can be a sign of low selenium, which is a mineral that helps brain function. I researched natural sources of selenium and found that Brazil nuts are just about the best natural source. Other high-selenium foods are egg yolks, tuna, kelp, seaweed, watercress, parsley, oatmeal, bananas, apples, brewer’s yeast, and Hawthorne Berry and Peppermint teas. Perhaps adding some of these selenium-rich foods may help. 

Depression in winter may be due to SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder. Light Therapy, which is exposing your eyes to a light therapy device for several minutes in the morning, can help.There are a variety of light therapy devices on the market today. The best ones do not contain any UV (ultra violet) light. 

If your depression is severe, you should seek professional help. There are many prescription drugs that can help, but if you do not wish to take them, other professional methods are also available...
Some of these are: Acupuncture, Biofeedback, Massage, Yoga, and Meditation.

Sometimes, severe depression can turn to suicidal thoughts. If you experience any of these, it is most important that you get help immediately! If you have a close friend or family member that you can talk to, contact them immediately! If there is no one readily available, Here is a list of resources...

National Suicide Prevention Helpline
1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK)

 Hotline & Helpline Information
24-hour Hotline
National Suicide Prevention Helpline
1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK)
Helplines & Resources
Includes many local 24-hour hotlines along with support for suicide survivors, suicide prevention, and suicide statistics.
American Association of Suicidology
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Befrienders International with the Samaritans
Search for support worldwide
Search resources in the United States
Families for Depression Awareness
Prevent Suicide Now
Suicide prevention resources and worldwide hotline links:
Suicide Hotline Listing by State
International Suicide Hotline Listings
Suicide Prevention Action Network USA
UCLA School Mental Health Project:
Hotlines for suicide prevention and other crisis resources
ULifeLine college network

I hope this helps some of the depressed people out there. I wish you happiness, light, and sunny skies forever!

OCD and Guilt is a Useless Emotion

Why do so many people take upon themselves the heavy burden of Guilt? Some people blame themselves when something bad happens, even if it is not their fault. People with OCD often do this, as they have an exaggerated sense of guilt and responsibility. Even if they have nothing to do with the situation, they may blame themselves for it. I knew a woman with OCD, whose daughter became ill with a stomach virus. Even though her daughter contracted the virus at school, the woman blamed herself, because she believed that her house wasn't clean enough. From then on, she spent most of her nights scrubbing the floors, another exhausting OCD ritual added on to all her other ones. (Perhaps cleaning, hand washing, and over-showering subconsciously helps people with guilty consciences.) Useless guilt caused her OCD to become out of control. She was punishing herself for something she had nothing to do with.

People without OCD can also take unnecessary guilt upon themselves. As I say in my book, OCD and Me: My Unconventional Journey Through Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, "Everyone makes mistakes, I certainly have; it's a part of being human. If an error can be rectified, fine, but if not, it serves absolutely no purpose to beat oneself up over it. In my opinion, unless someone has committed a crime, guilt is a useless emotion that serves no positive purpose. It only makes everything worse."

What if your guilt is real? Perhaps you did something bad in the past, either by accident or on purpose that caused harm to another? The answer is: if you can do something to make it right, by all means, do it. If you cannot fix it, realize this- you did it, you feel badly, now do whatever it takes to get past it. It serves no purpose to destroy yourself over it. Focus on the present moment, and see how you can turn it into something beneficial for yourself and others. Try to focus on something else, and move on with your life. It does no good to live a miserable existence because you hate yourself for whatever you did, or may have done. Wallowing in guilt is horrible- it will make you, as well as those around you, completely miserable. Best thing is to learn from your mistake. Turn your guilt into something productive: become a better person, help others- make your life better for yourself and for your family and friends!

Here are some articles that I found helpful...

"Timid, insecure individuals may be victims of excessive guilt and constant 'second guessing' of themselves and their actions," says Patricia Farrell, PhD, clinical psychologist and author of How to be Your Own Therapist, A Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Competent, Confident Life....
"People with an obsessive-compulsive or obsessive-personality disorder or with these traits in their personalities are also prone to excessive ruminating about their actions and driving up their guilt quotient," she adds.
Clearly, the spectrum of guilt that burdens folks runs the gamut. "Some people don't have the positive guilt that keeps you on the straight and narrow. Others have guilt that eats away at their soul; they rarely have a moment of peace," says Michael McKee, PhD, vice chairman of The Cleveland Clinic's psychiatry and psychology department.
"If you're guilty, you're probably getting stressed. If your body releases stress chemicals, it puts you at risk for minor stuff like headaches and backaches," McKee tells WebMD. And that's not all."It [guilt] also contributes to cardiovascular disease and gastrointestinal disorders. It can even have a negative impact on the immune system over time," McKee says.
Stop feeling guilty about making mistakes. "View mistakes as a learning experience, not because you're a sinful, slothful person," McKee says.
Catherine Pratt...”It’s very draining and distressing living with a constant feeling of guilt. It also stops you from making the most effective and efficient decisions. In other words, you’ll end up making bad decisions simply because you’re reacting to those feelings of guilt or it's all you think about...
Continuing to focus on how guilty you feel will only serve to keep you stuck feeling anxious and confused. I also find that as long as you're focused on the feelings of guilt, it doesn't matter what you do, you're going to feel guilty because that's what you're concentrating on. You'll keep thinking there's something else you should do or keep beating yourself up that you should have done more when you had the chance. You're focused on the guilt instead of the real situation...
So, you can actually use your guilt to realize what changes you want to make in your life. In my case, it was spending time with my parents, but it might make you realize you want to be a better friend or that you want to be more professional in your job or just that you want to do things differently in the future. You use the guilt to make positive changes in your life.
Everyone makes mistakes. Every single person on this planet does but for some reason we tend to hold ourselves up to an impossibly high standard and think we should be immune from that.

Making mistakes is what makes us human and it's how we learn. You can learn better ways of doing things or it might even remind you of what your true priorities are. Even when things at first go horribly wrong, later you may realize what huge benefits you gained from going through the experience.

It's not always easy appreciating your mistakes but they truly can end up being the most incredible learning opportunities or the catalysts that end up causing huge leaps in mental and spiritual growth.

You also need to know that you made what you thought was the best decision with the facts you had at the time. You did the best you could. Learning that there are better ways to handle similar situations in the future may be a benefit of going through the situation but you didn't know that at the time.

But, these benefits can't happen if you don't forgive yourself and also allow yourself to make mistakes.”

I hope that this blog helps those suffering with the emotional pain that guilt causes. I also hope that everyone reading this will realize that chronic guilt is a useless emotion. I hope you feel better, and I wish you peace and joy always!

Monday, July 7, 2014

OCD and Easing Emotional Pain

Emotional pain comes in many forms. Most people have felt emotional pain at least once in their lives, and know that it can sometimes be worse than physical pain. People with OCD and the related disorders often live in a world of emotional turbulence, which can eventually take a huge toll on their health, personal relationships, work performance, and over all enjoyment of life. Depression, fear, guilt and anger are often sources of mental pain.

On the website of Dr. Joseph Mercola, I found some great advice in dealing with emotional pain...

"Emotional pain often exacts a greater toll on your quality of life than physical pain. The stress and negative emotions associated with any trying event can even lead to physical pain and disease.

In fact, emotional stress is linked to health problems including chronic inflammation, lowered immune function, increased blood pressure, altered brain chemistry, increased tumor growth and more.

Of course, emotional pain can be so severe that it interferes with your ability to enjoy life and, in extreme cases, may even make you question whether your life is worth living.

5 Tips for Healing Emotional Pain

Guy Winch, author of Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries, recently shared five tips for healing your emotional pain.

1. Let Go of Rejection

Rejection actually activates the same pathways in your brain as physical pain, which is one reason why it hurts so much. The feeling of rejection toys with your innate need to belong, and is so distressing that it interferes with your ability to think, recall memories and make decisions. The sooner you let go of painful rejections, the better off your mental health will be.

2. Avoid Ruminating

When you ruminate, or brood, over a past hurt, the memories you replay in your mind only become increasingly distressing and cause more anger – without providing any new insights. In other words, while reflecting on a painful event can help you to reach an understanding or closure about it, ruminating simply increases your stress levels, and can actually be addictive.

Ruminating on a stressful incident can also increase your levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation in your body linked to cardiovascular disease.1

3. Turn Failure Into Something Positive

If you allow yourself to feel helpless after a failure, or blame it on your lack of ability or bad luck, it’s likely to lower your self-esteem. Blaming a failure on specific factors within your control, such as planning and execution, is likely to be less damaging, but even better is focusing on ways you can improve and be better informed or prepared so you can succeed next time (and try again, so there is a next time).

4. Make Sure Guilt Remains a Useful Emotion

Guilt can be beneficial in that it can stop you from doing something that may harm another person (making it a strong "relationship protector"). But guilt that lingers or is excessive can impair your ability to focus and enjoy life.

If you still feel guilty after apologizing for a wrongdoing, be sure you have expressed empathy toward them and conveyed that you understand how your actions impacted them. This will likely lead to authentic forgiveness and relief of your guilty feelings.

5. Use Self-Affirmations if You Have Low Self-Esteem

While positive affirmations are excellent tools for emotional health, if they fall outside the boundaries of your beliefs, they may be ineffective. This may be the case for people with low self-esteem, for whom self-affirmations may be more useful. Self-affirmations, such as “I have a great work ethic,” can help to reinforce positive qualities you believe you have, as can making a list of your best qualities."

Reading through Dr. Mercola's site,  I also found the following tips to be excellent...

"Just as eating healthy, exercising and getting a good night’s sleep are habits that must be held to in the long run to be effective, your emotional health requires ongoing care as well. And, just like your physical body, your mind can only take so much stress before it breaks down. Yet many neglect to tend to their emotional health with the same devotion they give to their physical well-being. This is a mistake, but one that’s easily remedied with the following tips for emotional nurturing.

1. Be an Optimist

Looking on the bright side increases your ability to experience happiness in your day-to-day life while helping you cope more effectively with stress.

2. Have Hope

Having hope allows you to see the light at the end of the tunnel, helping you push through even dark, challenging times. Accomplishing goals, even small ones, can help you to build your level of hope.

3. Accept Yourself

Self-deprecating remarks and thoughts will shroud your mind with negativity and foster increased levels of stress. Seek out and embrace the positive traits of yourself and your life, and avoid measuring your own worth by comparing yourself to those around you.

4. Stay Connected

Having loving and supportive relationships helps you feel connected and accepted, and promote a more positive mood. Intimate relationships help meet your emotional needs, so make it a point to reach out to others to develop and nurture these relationships in your life.

5. Express Gratitude

People who are thankful for what they have are better able to cope with stress, have more positive emotions, and are better able to reach their goals. The best way to harness the positive power of gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal or list, where you actively write down exactly what you’re grateful for each day. Doing so has been linked to happier moods, greater optimism and even better physical health.

6. Find Your Purpose and Meaning

When you have a purpose or goal that you’re striving for, your life will take on a new meaning that supports your mental well-being. If you’re not sure what your purpose is, explore your natural talents and interests to help find it, and also consider your role in intimate relationships and ability to grow spiritually.

7. Master Your Environment

When you have mastery over your environment, you’ve learned how to best modify your unique circumstances for the most emotional balance, which leads to feelings of pride and success. Mastery entails using skills such as time management and prioritization along with believing in your ability to handle whatever life throws your way.

8. Exercise Regularly

Exercise boosts levels of health-promoting neurochemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which may help buffer some of the effects of stress and also relieve some symptoms of depression. Rather than viewing exercise as a medical tool to lose weight, prevent disease, and live longer – all benefits that occur in the future – try viewing exercise as a daily tool to immediately enhance your frame of mind, reduce stress and feel happier.

9. Practice Mindfulness

Practicing “mindfulness” means that you’re actively paying attention to the moment you’re in right now. Rather than letting your mind wander, when you’re mindful you’re living in the moment and letting distracting or negative thoughts pass through your mind without getting caught up in their emotional implications. Mindfulness can help you reduce stress for increased well-being as well as achieve undistracted focus.

I think that if people can live in the present moment and become aware of their true feelings and identify what is bothering them, that is the first step towards emotional relief. I wish everyone who is suffering with emotional pain a life filled with love, peace, and happiness!