Friday, August 9, 2013

OCD and What Teachers Need to Know

This is an especially important blog for me to write because it could have changed my life, and may change the lives of others.

The school year is just around the corner, and can be a very difficult time for kids with OCD. Life would be much easier for many of them of they had the understanding and  support of their teachers. Unfortunately, as many kids tend to hide the severity of their OCD, many teachers remain unaware of the signs of OCD in their students. If they could be alerted to the symptoms, perhaps they would be able to detect potential problems and save many children much suffering. Also, if teachers was aware, they could potentially alert unaware parents and get suffering the help and support they so desperately need.

Teachers are with students every day for several months. Sometimes, students see their teachers more than their parents for a variety of reasons: parent's work schedules, second jobs, cooking or cleaning- and kids can have after school activities, or spend time in their rooms after school. Often when the family is together, there may not be a lot of quality one on one time during a normal school week, as things can be hectic.

The following excerpt is from my book, OCD and Me, My Journey Through Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which will be available as of Sept. 30, 2013. This is why I failed Algebra...

"That day, I was sitting in my first period algebra class, my mind drifting off about my sick Uncle Pat, when, out of the blue, I had an uncontrollable urge to align the long nails of my index fingers, from the cuticles, making them touch together until I got to the tips. I thought that if I didn’t do this perfectly, a certain number of times, Uncle Pat would die, or someone else would get sick. It became a daily ritual, and an exhausting one.
As my nails are curved, they would almost always separate from one another while I was doing this. I would think, “Oh, no…okay, relax.  You can do it—just one more time and you won’t have to do it for the rest of the day.” And then, as I failed to accomplish this ritual, I would mentally scream, “Not again!”
Sometimes I’d get so nervous that I would sweat profusely. I felt that if I didn’t align the nails perfectly, something awful was going to happen. This feeling of dread remained with me, and focusing on anything else was very difficult.  I could not concentrate on my algebra due to this extreme anxiety.
Consequently, I failed that class and had to attend summer school. I hated to sit in a hot classroom all summer, but Uncle Pat seemed to be doing better, and I believed that perhaps I was saving him. At home I began to hear criticism of my schoolwork. “You were always such a good student. What is happening to you?” No way was I going to embarrass myself by explaining something so ridiculous, so I would keep silent and just shrug.
Perhaps, if my teacher had been aware that I was ritualizing throughout the entire period, she could have alerted my parents, and I may have been saved many years of suffering instead of failing me by one point! I would have known that I was not alone with my condition, my suffering was not normal, and I would eventually feel better. Also, I would have been aware that these problems were not my fault, and I would have gotten the help that I needed in order to avoid a life of mental torture."

Also from my book, this is what Teachers Need to Know. These are some Red Flags of OCD in School:

Raw, chapped hands

Unusually high rate of tissue, soap or paper towel usage

Chronic procrastination, such as spending too much time in the bathroom or putting off doing homework or assignments

Sudden drop in test grades

Requests for teachers, other students or family members to repeat strange phrases or keep answering the same question

Repeating actions, such as opening and closing books over and over again or wearing the same clothing over and over

Excessive counting of pencils, papers, etc.

Persistent fear and avoidance of illness (showing agitation when someone sneezes or coughs, etc.)

Excessive slowness whilst taking a test, completing an assignment, changing classes,  etc.

Constant daydreaming

Expressing fear that something terrible will happen to another student or teacher
Constant checks of the health of others

Holes from erasers in homework assignments

Excessive lateness

Desks, lockers, or backpacks filled with scraps of garbage
Poor or strange eating habits

Excessive preoccupation with details or constantly aligning things on desks

Of course, there are many parents who are aware of their child's OCD. They need to meet with teachers and inform them about their child's problem. This article may be useful for parents who are aware of their child's problem..

"Preparing the School for Your Child with Obsessive - Compulsive Disorder
By Terri Mauro, Guide

Teachers can be great allies in keeping your child with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder safe and successful in school, but you'll need to make sure they have all the knowledge they need to help. Use these suggestions to create a information packet to bring educators up to speed.

Five Things Teachers Need to Know

1. My child's obsessions and compulsions may appear to be voluntary behaviors, but they are signs of a mental health problem, not a disciplinary problem.

2. Please don't compliment my child on "perfect" work. This may reinforce his need to obsessively check or re-do things.

3. If there will be any sort of change in my child's classroom or routine, please notify me as far in advance as possible so that we can all work together in preparing her for it.

4. My child has significant challenges, but he also has many strengths and gifts. Please use these to help him have experiences of success.

5. Please keep the lines of communication open between our home and the school. My child needs all the adults in her life working together."

Awareness by both Teachers and Parents is key in the development and well being of children with OCD and all of the related disorders. Perhaps there could be a seminar, or a pamphlet to alert Teachers. I sincerely hope that this information will be made known to all so that children will be able to get the help they need in order to lead happy and productive lives!

Friday, July 19, 2013

OCD and The Layers of Fear

People can exist under several layers of fear, some of which they don't realize. The top layer of fear is experienced by all, this is collective fear, which is the fear that entire societies have. There is no mystery to this- It consists of anxiety about another terrorist attack, political upheaval, weather disaster, etc. We have all experienced this. Do you remember 9/11 or the last tornado, tsunami  or hurricane warning? 

Then, there is conscious anxiety, fear for personal safety or safety of a loved one. Many people are also aware that they suffer from these- fear of illness, divorce, bankruptcy, or any other event which directly impacts a person's life. We can add our phobias to this also- fear of heights, closed spaces, spiders, snakes, etc. Even though we are aware of these, many people have no idea where they come from.

All to often, lurking under all of this, is emotional and subconscious anxiety. These fears often get buried in the far off recesses of the mind. Events can become distorted and fear develops. Here is where we can say fear is "False Evidence Appearing Real"! This type of anxiety is usually suppressed and rooted in childhood. It consists of actions and influences from other people, events, things that we have  absorbed from  the environment, any fears passed down through generations. 

Some  people claim that there is also spiritual anxiety, which is directly related to our karma and the condition of our souls, fears brought into this lifetime from a past life.  I can understand this, but also realize these may be personal and religious beliefs, so I won't go into detail here.

Wow, that is a lot of stuff to be going on, enough to make one paralyzed in layers of fear! This can be how OCD develops, as a "remedy" to lessen our fear with the erroneous belief that a ritual can stop our feared event from happening. And its not only OCD, fear is responsible for a wide variety of mental disorders. 

What can be done about it? The first thing would be to understand our fear logically instead of letting it envelop us. Thinking of fear usually enhances fear, but if we can attempt to do this calmly and consciously, the layers and sources of fear may become apparent.  Sit quietly and in your mind's  eye go back to your childhood, reflect on yourself as a child, see yourself feeling anxious and try to remember what caused it.  Once you identify the source of it, you can try to find out how to deal with it. An event from childhood may have repercussions you are not aware of. This realization in itself can be very helpful for self understanding and awareness.  It can teach you to identify all the other sources of your fears, and see how irrational they can be- the formula is the same. Once you see the layers, you can begin to unravel them, one layer at a time. This knowledge can also help you to not telegraph your fears onto others. This has helped me a lot.

 When I was very young, a plane crashed about 2 blocks from our house. I remember the sound of the plane descending and then the crash, it was the loudest thing I ever heard. Many people were killed and the neighborhood was in total chaos. I knew that my fear of low-flying planes was born then, but what I did not realize until much later on was that I also developed separation anxiety from the event. For years I feared that if my parents went out together something terrible would happen to them. My fears escalated to include other people and I became afraid of many unrelated things and developed OCD rituals for safety. Much of my early life was lived in terror, not realizing that the plane crash was the catalyst of all these fears. 

I found a very interesting article that written by Rachel Waxman, titled, "The Layer Cake of Anxiety." It is about parenting, but it explains my point...
"When I brought my small son to preschool this morning and he clung to me as I said goodbye, I started worrying that perhaps he was having a hard time adjusting to preschool...Was I letting my own irrational anxiety show? Maybe, I thought, my son was noticing subtle signs of my tension and he was becoming more anxious and clingy as a result. Oh, no! Maybe I was making my son have trouble adjusting to preschool. Now that would really be something to worry about!

That kind of catastrophizing about my own emotions is a distinctly human trait. People have a beautiful capacity for self-reflection, which enables us to set personal goals and plan how to achieve them, recognize and correct our errors, and build a more meaningful future. However, we can also turn our self-reflective ability against ourselves. This often happens in the case of negative emotions. We might observe ourselves feeling upset, and react to that observation by intensifying the emotion. It is fairly common for people to feel depressed about their depression, angry about their anger, or as in my case, anxious about their anxiety. And it needn’t stop there! Imagine recognizing that you are anxious about anxiety and then thinking, “Uh, oh, maybe this means I’ll never break free of the anxiety cycle!” That thought frees you up to worry about all the potential consequences of your future anxiety. A truly determined worrywart can keep layering new cognitions on top of old fears indefinitely, building an anxiety structure as complex as a wedding cake (but much less palatable).

Fortunately, we can bring that same self-reflective capacity to our rescue. For instance, when I found myself catasrophizing about my maternal anxiety, I took a step back and noticed the absurdity of the whole thing, which helped me cut the cycle short. I also noticed something else: the fact that I have a tendency to worry easily, especially about the welfare of my children. But this reflection didn’t make me worry at all. Instead, I found it encouraging to recognize my own predisposition, because I can use that self-awareness to evaluate and de-fuse future anxiety experiences. Although many of us have certain emotions that come to us easily, acknowledging our own emotional habits may help us respond to our layered thoughts a little more realistically and thereby introduce a new, more pleasant flavor into our mental experience."

I truly hope that by calm self-reflection people will be able to realize the beginnings of their fear-inducing thought patterns and begin to peel away their layers of fear. Self knowledge is a very powerful thing!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

OCD and How To Change Negative Emotions

Having depression, anxiety, OCD, or any of the related disorders, can cause people to constantly experience negative emotions such as fear, anger, and apathy.  Over time, these negative emotions can become ingrained in their minds, and this will be their dominant mental state. Their brains actually become hard-wired to trigger unwanted emotions at the slightest thought. For these and many other people, it can be very difficult to transition  from a negative emotion to a positive one. Some people may say, "just think of something good," but a person experiencing obsessions may find this advice very difficult to follow.

According to Deepak Chopra, There are only two emotions -fear and love. Obviously, all negative emotions stem from fear, and all positive feelings are generated by love. Dr. Chopra, and all of the teachers of The Law of Attraction state that to attract what we want in life, we we must envision it with positive feelings. Believe me from personal experience, this is easier said than done, especially if you are a victim of negative conditioning.

I have experienced good results in changing my mood by playing music, engaging in physical activity, and by thinking of a great time that I had in the past. However, sometimes, depending upon the severity of my mental state, even these have not worked, or I have been unable to apply them- (one example was feeling so depressed I couldn't even get up to take a walk.)

In researching supplements to help me, I have had very good results with The amino acid L- tyrosine and GABA, they have greatly improved my mental focus and mood. I take 500 mg a day of each, but you should read up on this in order to see recommended dosages for ADD and other disorders.( I plan to write more about this in future blogs).

I was looking around the Internet for something that would be helpful to me and others who have had this difficulty. I came upon this article about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that you may find interesting...

How to Change Your Emotions
By Brenda Scottsdale, eHow Contributor
 Cognitive-Behavioral therapy is very effective for disrupting negative thought spirals.
Personality is a three part system composed of thoughts, feeling and behaviors. Changing how you think about something will help change how you feel about it, and, ultimately the choices you make. It can be easy to become stuck in the mire of a negative thought spiral. However, following some simple steps will help you disrupt this pattern.These methods are based on Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, an evidence-based approach validated by over 30 years of well-controlled scientific studies.

 How to Change Thoughts and Behaviors Easy Methods for Blocking Negative Thoughts

Understand and Challenge your Negative Thoughts

1Understand that thoughts influence feelings. Negative, untrue thoughts are known as cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions typically form early based on negative experiences, and can rob a person of joy and happiness in life. An example of how a negative thought-feeling pattern can develop is during the first dating experience. If this was bad, a person may develop thoughts such as "I'm the ugliest person alive" or "no men are interested in me." Absolute statements are not reality based thinking -- there is always an exception. Negative thoughts such as this lead to negative behaviors such as not going out on dates, not trying new hairstyles or makeup and not attending to personal hygiene. Keep a list of these negative thoughts and their positive counter-thoughts. You will discover that you tend to recycle the same six or seven negative beliefs. Over time you can try different positive counter-thoughts to disrupt these six or seven negative beliefs, finding what works best for you.


Understand that feelings influence thoughts. In the dating example above, if someone has insulted you, perhaps even inadvertently, depression may develop. Because you feel depressed you may start to think, "I will never have a successful dating experience."

Challenge negative thoughts that lead to negative feelings. Distorted thinking patterns are best eroded with logic. If you are thinking "I'm the ugliest person on the planet," you should remind yourself of instances where people have complimented your looks, that there certainly are less attractive people than you, or that, in the overall scheme of life, looking like a supermodel is not the most important thing.

Remember the two-to-one rule. For every negative thought, you need to have at least two positive counter-thoughts. Negative thoughts about yourself usually begin in childhood so they are strong and can be difficult to break. Once new habits are learned, however, more and more of your thoughts will become positive, leading to increasingly positive emotions.

The A-B-C Method


Use the A-B-C method. First invented by Aaron Beck a co-founder of Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, the A-B-C method has been used successfully to disrupt negative thought spirals for over 30 years. The "A" stands for activating event, the thing that happened to precipitate your negative feelings.The "B" stands for your belief about the event, while the "C" stands for the consequences of that belief, such as that you are feeling depressed.


When you become aware of a negative consequence, or "C" in the model's terms -- such as not going out on many dates, look at the activating event ("A") to discover what happened to trigger your behavior. You may recall some negative dating experiences that caused you to fear rejection.

Look at your beliefs ("B") about the activating event. If you believe, for example, that your negative experience means that you are unattractive or not likable, the behavior that you are demonstrating now (isolation) makes sense. Ask yourself if that belief is logical or distorted.


Change distorted beliefs with positive counter-thoughts.Think about logical alternatives. Perhaps you are not ugly, maybe the man you dated was a jerk, for example. Remember and use the two-to-one rule.

Reinforce new, positive counter-beliefs. Every time you find yourself thinking positively, focus on how good you feel. This is known as a positive thought spiral. Happy emotions lead to positive thoughts, leading to positive behaviors. Practice these skills and your emotions will tend to become more positive over time.

I hope this helps! I will continue to research, experiment, and write more about this in the future. Here's to only Happy Thoughts- Cheers!

Friday, February 22, 2013

OCD and Bad Dreams

Last week I had one of those nights. I was drifting in and out  of a restless sleep and then had a nightmare. In case you want to know, I dreamed that I woke up in a bed in the middle the sidewalk in New York City with crowds of people watching me sleep. Startled, I jumped out of bed, and In my pajamas, I ran into a store. first thing I noticed was that there was something on the floor. I picked it up, and was horrified to see I was holding a dead bird. I felt bad for it and repulsed by it, and began running around with it, looking for a place to bury it. I woke up covered in sweat, heat pounding. Needless to say, I was not in the best of moods upon awakening. Do you blame me?
I immediately became obsessed about the meaning of my dream, and my initial anxiety quickly grew. I began frantically trying to find out why  I dreamed this, searching the Internet for dream meanings. Also, I wondered if this was a psychic dream, which also scared me. I once read that a psychic dream takes place in real time and in color, and a psychological dream jumps in time and is disjointed. I was wasting way too much time dissecting all of this and my day was not getting off to a good start, as I was running late.  I realized that left unchecked, this anxiety might even have cause me to ritualize, and reactivate my OCD, and I really did not want that to happen!

I began looking around the Internet for solutions, and came upon this article which made a lot of sense. My brain chemicals could have been be slightly off...

"Bad dreams plague everyone from time to time. To know how to treat them, it helps to know the physiological causes of your nightmares. There are prescription medicines to ease sleep but they often come with unwanted side effects and treat only the symptoms of sleep disturbance. If you treat the problem that causes the nightmares with herbs and vitamins, you treat the symptom, the bad dreams themselves.
Low dopamine levels could be the culprit. Dopamine provides pleasant feelings in order to entice people to perform the behaviors again which caused the rise in dopamine. It rewards activities such as eating and sex. Low dopamine levels in the brain cause people with a REM sleep behavior disorder, in which they act out their dreams, to have the most violent dreams. So it follows that if you're dreaming that someone is going to hurt you, or you are hurting someone else, it could be that your brain is producing too little dopamine.

If you are having violent types of bad dreams, dopamine levels can be increased by upping your intake of B vitamins. Common herb remedies such as drinking chamomile tea, putting lavender essential oils in the bath or drinking peppermint tea also may help. Powdered lavender can also be burned like incense. Peppermint is most often eaten in cookies or candy but can also be used in a crockpot roast. Chamomile can be put into a bath, infused into baby shampoo, used in water to rinse hair, or put into a foot soak. In extreme cases of nightmares try Kava Kava or Valerian root, both of which can be found online or at your health food store, but take them at bedtime because they can make you sleepy.

Medical studies also show that bad dreams involving pain, fear or anxiety can be caused by stomach problems. This may be why eating right before bed seems to cause bad dreams, because you experience poor digestion when you fall asleep on a full stomach. These stomach problems can be caused by fear in waking life and in your dreams, which creates a vicious cycle of gastric upset and bad dreams.

Increase the intake of both fiber and water when you are having fearful or painful nightmares. Decrease sugar intake. Other natural remedies include vitamin C, E and B supplements and taking herbs such a echinacea, anise and caraway seed. Echinacea is found in pill form at the drugstore or health food store. Anise can be found at the grocery store and is used in baked goods to produce a licorice flavor. You can also eat anise by using it in recipes for German foods, in Indian soups and stews, and in pepperoni or sausage. Caraway seed, also in the spice aisle, is found in rye breads and sauerkraut, can be put in turkey pot pie to complement the flavor of the turkey, goes great when cooked into a reuben sandwich, and is a savory herb to use as part of lentil soup.

Herbs, used for medicine since the beginning of recorded history, have only recently been eclipsed by modern artificial medicines. Don't let relatively new prejudices against natural healing keep you from trying these safe and inexpensive ways to calm your bad dreams."

This made sense to me, and I have been using several of these therapies, and so far, have slept much better since that restless night. I hope that people with OCD and related disorders realize that brain chemicals may have to be tweaked once in awhile, and that it can be done with natural remedies. I hope your sleep deep and peaceful, and all you dreams are happy ones!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Happy 2013- Are You Afraid?

Happy New Year 2013! This is perhaps the most feared year this century because it contains the number 13, which is making millions of people around the world very nervous. They even changed the law in Ireland because of fear of 13- when a new car is sold, the last 2 digits of the year are required on the license plate, but because of superstition, the plates will now read 131 for the first half of the year, and 132 for the second half in an attempt to encourage people to purchase cars. Some may think this is ridiculous, but the facts are that on every Friday the 13th, the economy loses a fortune because people don't buy, get married, close on homes, etc. Heck, the Navy will not even launch a ship on that date! Now, we have an entire year of 13's which will no doubt stop people in some form.

Here is excerpt from an article I found...
2013 | Are you superstitious?

It’s 2013: Good luck with that
How will we survive an entire year of ‘13’?

The Kansas City Star
We managed to make it through the Mayan apocalypse. Now let’s see if we can survive — bum bum bummm! — the unluckiest year of the century.
Time to hide in the basement, all you Superstitious Sallys and Bad Luck Barneys. Its 2013.Big deal?It could be. National Geographic once estimated that on each Friday the 13th the economy loses more than $800 million from consumers avoiding travel, moves, movies, dinner, weddings and more. You have to wonder: How much more will be lost in a whole year branded with the number 13?
Ignore triskaidekaphobia — fear of the number 13 — at your own risk. Sure, Missouri and Kansas made you put a 2013 sticker on your license plate when you renewed your registration last year. But the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles doesn’t want any part of that bad juju. The office is offering an option. Instead of renewing for one year, drivers can renew for either two or three years so their stickers read 2014 or 2015..."

“Am thinking of a 2013 wedding,” posted one bride 
to be, “Jennifervola.” “Does anyone consider it bad luck to get marriwhen 13 is involved, or am I just being crazy?”
The answers were all the same:
“Deff being crazy.”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake!”
“Jordyana” had more to say: “I’m graduating (from) college in 2013 (and) getting married in 2013. Wanna know something extra scary? I’m getting married on July 13, 2013! No, neither (my fiance) nor I believe in superstitions. We do poke fun, though, and say we won’t be cursed for getting married then since we’ll have been together for seven years. Hopefully the seven will outweigh all the 13s.”...
Still, some people really do worry about 2013, said Donald Dossey, founder of the Stress Management Center/Phobia Institute in Asheville, N.C. Dossey has been studying phobias for 18 years, including triskaidekaphobia and paraskevidekaphobia, the morbid fear of Friday the 13th. He estimates that up to 19 million people around the world fear the number 13.
“It will be problematic for some,” Dossey said of 2013. “They might think something ominous will happen, that they might have a wreck, get ill or even have marital problems. It’s just a nagging sense of impending doom.”
But the biggest problems, he says, will come in September and December, months harboring the year’s most ominous dates — Friday the 13th, 2013!
“On Friday the 13th some people won’t even get out of bed,” said Dossey.
“Here we go again,” said Joe Nickell, an investigative writer for Skeptical Inquirer science magazine.“No matter how often it doesn’t come true when people gather and wait for doom, (some) people always take the bait the next time. You would think eventually they would learn.”
They don’t. What about the hundreds of hotels and office buildings that choose not to have a 13th floor? Or the hundreds of airports, including Kansas City International, that don’t have a Gate 13? Or developers who bypass 13 when numbering new homes? Or the auto industry group in Ireland that predicted sales of 2013 models would plummet by one third in that country (where they know a thing or two about luck)?
No, this has been going on a while: Long enough for somebody to figure out that Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer and Jack the Ripper all have 13 letters in their names.

Long enough to stretch back to early Christianity (where Jesus was betrayed by Judas, the 13th guest at the Last Supper), and Norse mythology (where Loki, the 13th guest at a dinner party, had Balder the Beautiful shot with a mistletoe-tipped arrow, plunging Earth into darkness).
Long enough, even, for one researcher to discover that ancient Babylon’s Code of Hammurabi, dating to about 1772 B.C., omitted the number 13 in its list of laws.
Cesar Camarillo, a machinist from Kansas City, Kan., doesn’t put much stock in “curse of 13” as his grandfather called it. Just the same he’ll be wearing his gold cross every day, carrying a lucky amulet in his pocket and getting two tattoos on his chest this year — one of praying hands, the other of the Virgin Mary.
“I don’t really believe in this stuff,” he said, smiling and turning quickly to glance behind his back. “Then again, why tempt fate? You know?”
Oh, we know. That’s why we’re looking out for you — just in case.
The Irish auto industry notwithstanding, local car dealers say they aren’t worried. Jesse Egarta, sales manager at O’Neill Honda in Overland Park, hasn’t seen any superstition-fueled slowdown.
“Our sales of 2013 models have actually sped up faster than we anticipated,” he said. “I don’t even think about the hype that everybody’s talking about.”
So will anything bad happen in 2013?
As they say, the best predictor of the future is the past. So if 2013 really is going to be this scary year of bad luck, as some people fear, it just makes sense that something really horrible must have happened 100 years ago in the last year that ended in 13.
OK, how’s this? On Feb. 3, 1913, the states ratified the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving the government the power to impose and collect … income tax.

Looking around, there are many sites and articles relating to this. I feel sorry for the Queen of England, who will not even sit at a table with 13 people. What is she going to do for the rest of the year? Seriously, this could be very bad for some people with OCD, as it might make their ritualizing even worse. Unlike a building with no 13th floor, we can't get away from this one. And two super 13 days are approaching -Friday the 13th in September and one in December.

So, if you're feeling a little anxious, you're certainly not alone. However, year may bring benefits, as it can be one huge lesson in behavioral therapy, as we have to face the number 13 every single day. Eventually, some people may become free of their fear. I really hope so and I wish everyone a very happy and prosperous New Year!