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!

Friday, April 4, 2014

OCD and How to Stop Nasty Chain Letters!

For many people with OCD or anxiety disorders, nasty chain letters, now being sent as chain e mails and texts, can wreak havoc. They are threatening messages that promise bad fortune onto the unfortunate person who doesn't forward it on to a certain number of people. Often, they are included at the end of a normal sounding message. They consist of something that says, "if you do not forward this message to 10 people you will have 11 years of bad luck," etc.

Why would people do this? I think it is an easy way for some nasty, lazy people to get their ads or messages to a greater number of people. Also it is a convenient way to spread a computer virus, to overload servers, and to troll for e mail addresses. Some people enjoy spreading guilt and fear. Others send it on because they are afraid that the warning will come true. Once an isolated annoyance, this disturbing practice is now affecting a large number of people, as people nowadays are literally attached to their cell phones and tablets and can't avoid them. In addition to being intimidating and fear-provoking, they cost money in minutes and text messages, which can add up.

Chain texts really can’t be ignored. You have to address them – you can either send misery to another 10 or so people, or delete and perhaps suffer anxiety. As I said before, people with OCD or other anxiety disorders can be greatly affected in a bad way by these texts.

One of my blog readers wrote,  "I just got one the other day telling me that if I didn’t forward the text my mother was going to die. I hate these things." Researching chain texts, I found an article about that text, which is also sent in e-mail form. It was written by Parry Aftab – here is an excerpt:

"In 1997, when I was writing the “Parents Guide to the Internet” I began talking to tweens about their online experiences. One mother and tween shared an experience about a chain e-mail the girl had received. “Send this to ten of your closest friends, or your mother will die!” Clearly the kids had upped- the-ante since I was a tween 45 years ago. They hadn’t just moved online. They had moved from offering good luck and happiness to scare tactics.
This 11 –year-old promptly deleted the email, proud of herself for not falling for the message. Then, at 3am she woke up screaming, fearing she had signed her mother’s death warrant. No matter how hard her mother tried to convince her, the only way to get her to go back to sleep was to retrieve the email from the deleted file and send it to ten others. Her mother added a note to delete the message once the recipients get it."

I have some good advice about how to end these:
If these pesky chains really get to you, send a message to your contacts and post a message on social media, like Facebook or Twitter and ask all your friends and followers not post these messages, or include you in them. You can add that you will block anyone who does.
If these are on your phone, you can call your provider and block the number.
Delete immediately before reading to the end and think about something else before it can upset you.
If you are really stressed about this, please remember to think logically. Whom do you know who has ever had bad luck from not sending a chain text message or email? Where is the article in the paper, online, or on TV saying that this has ever happened? If these threats were true, we would see proof all over. I have never seen one, because it has not happened, so therefore you have nothing to worry about!
Here is more information if you want to end these. I hope no one has any more unnecessary anxiety from this nasty nonsense!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

OCD and Music Therapy


Music has always had a profound effect on my life. From as early as I can remember, I have been fascinated with listening and playing a variety of music. Even as a child, I instinctively knew the power that music has to heal and whenever I felt anxiety, music always calmed me. 
Now there is scientific proof that Music Therapy can help many conditions, both physical and mental. Many operating rooms play music during surgeries and in recovery rooms, and it helps patients to heal faster. Music is also a great stress buster, and mood enhancer. 
I found some information about Music Therapy you may find useful...

"Definition: Music therapy is a branch of health care designed to aid physical and emotional health through the use of music, either with listening, song writing, performing, exploring lyrics or other activities related to music. Because of the effects of music on the body, it is often found as part of stress management programs or used in conjunction with exercise, and is uses in a variety of health care settings, with very good results in both short-term conditions and more serious long-term ones. For example, music can slow the body's physiology and facilitate physical relaxation, or can speed up the body's physiology to create increased energy. Music can influence emotions virtually instantaneously, which can help with stress relief as well.
While music therapy is an emerging field, music iteslf has many benefits for health and stress management, and can be used in daily life to relieve stress and promote wellness. (This is not formal music therapy, but it can be effective for stress relief.) Read this article for more information on music and music therapy. Read this for more on how to use music for daily stress relief. The book, "Your Playlist Can Change Your Life," provides more research on how music affects physiology and can be used for stress relief or other uses.

Music therapy and OCD 

Music Therapy is just one of a number of alternative therapies that can be used alongside the more traditional routes to treat Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

In cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), a therapist will help you to deal with situations that can cause the anxiety that leads to the obsessions and compulsive behaviour. The right music has often been used to relax people and it is possible that, by playing music, anxiety levels can be reduced. Through CBT someone with OCD could be taught to recognise the situations when anxiety levels may rise and to use pre-chosen pieces of music to reduce them.

Music therapy and OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) - 

Learning to play an instrument is also a positive way to reduce the opportunities for obsessive thoughts. Replacing negative compulsive behaviours with a positive one - learning to play an instrument would have two benefits. The main benefit would be to reduce and eventually eliminate your compulsive behaviour, the second is to be able to play either a new instrument or play it better.
Article Source:

Brain Waves: Research has shown that music with a strong beat can stimulate brainwaves to resonate in sync with the beat, with faster beats bringing sharper concentration and more alert thinking, and a slower tempo promoting a calm, meditative state. Also, research has found that the change in brainwave activity levels that music can bring can also enable the brain to shift speeds more easily on its own as needed, which means that music can bring lasting benefits to your state of mind, even after you’ve stopped listening.
Breathing and Heart Rate: With alterations in brainwaves comes changes in other bodily functions. Those governed by the autonomic nervous system, such as breathing and heart rate can also be altered by the changes music can bring. This can mean slower breathing, slower heart rate, and an activation of the relaxation response, among other things. This is why music and music therapy can help counteract or prevent the damaging effects of chronic stress, greatly promoting not only relaxation, but health.
State of Mind: Music can also be used to bring a more positive state of mind, helping to keep depression and anxiety at bay. This can help prevent the stress response from wreaking havoc on the body, and can help keep creativity and optimism levels higher, bringing many other benefits.
Other Benefits: Music has also been found to bring many other benefits, such as lowering blood pressure (which can also reduce the risk of stroke and other health problems over time), boost immunity, ease muscle tension, and more. With so many benefits and such profound physical effects, it’s no surprise that so many are seeing music as an important tool to help the body in staying (or becoming) healthy.

Using Music Therapy:
With all these benefits that music can carry, it's no surprise that music therapy is growing in popularity. Many hospitals are using music therapists for pain management and other uses. Music therapists help with several other issues as well, including stress. For more information on music therapy, visit the American Music Therapy Association's website."

"You can wake yourself up with music, and start your day feeling great, setting the tone for a lower-stress day. 
During a Commute:

Put an end to road rage by playing your favorite music in the car. It can reliever some of the tension you feel from the commute itself and the day so far, and help you feel less like you’re wasting time in traffic, and more like you’re having some nice time to yourself. It can also take your mind off of all that you need to get done once you reach your destination, so you’ll arrive less stressed and more prepared to take on what awaits you.


Good nutrition is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, and it can actually keep your stress level down. Eating at home is a great way to ensure healthy meals and less expense, but many people find themselves too tired to cook once they get home. If you put on some smooth jazz or other genre of music that you enjoy, cooking becomes a fun activity rather than a chore, and you’ll likely find yourself relaxed and in a better frame of mind once dinner starts, which can enable you to savor your dinner and your company as you eat.

While Eating:
As you’re eating your meal, music can also be a helper. Soothing music can trigger the relaxation response, which can lower cortisol levels, making it easier to digest food. Also, studies have shown that classical music in particular can help you eat less, digest better, and enjoy your food more.

Keeping a simple, organized home can really help to cut down on your stress level, but cleaning itself is a chore that many busy people don’t have the energy to face after a long day. However, if you throw on some energetic music, hip-hop or pop, for example, you can raise your energy level and have fun as you clean. If you tell yourself that you only need to clean for a certain amount of songs and then you can be done, you may work more efficiently, and even come to look forward to doing the job.
When Paying Bills:

We all need to pay bills, but the job doesn’t always take a high degree of concentration. Playing music while you write your checks can help take your mind off of financial stress you may be feeling, and make the task more enjoyable.
Before Bed:

Getting enough sleep is important for proper functioning, and getting enough sleep can help you handle stress better. Unfortunately, stress can also interfere with sleep in several ways. Playing music as you drift off is one way to counteract the effects of stress by taking your mind off of what’s stressing you, slowing down your breathing, and soothing your mind."

In using Music Therapy, you can also create your own personal playlists. It is good to remember that music causes emotional memories for many people. When you hear a song from the past, that song can instantly transport you back to either a good or bad time, so it is important to use songs that elicit good feelings when making a personal therapy playlist. As music is a very personal thing, use
songs, or pieces of music that create the mood or memories that make you feel joyous, relaxed, enlivened, etc. You can create several different playlists, for the specific moods you would like to create.
I hope this helps, and I hope all the music you hear or make is beautiful!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

OCD and Limbic Attention Deficit Disorder

Attention Deficit Disorder often co-exists with OCD.

The type of ADD I am addressing today is the lesser-known and often overlooked Limbic ADD, a non-hyperactive type. Attention Deficit Disorder, or ADD, often co-exists with OCD, and many times is overlooked in diagnosis. One reason for this is that there are six different types of ADD, and some of these have  very different symptoms than the hyperactive type that people are most familiar with. I  think it is important that people know more about Limbic ADD so they may be able to identify the symptoms in themselves or others. Treatment for Limbic ADD is very different from the hyperactive type- stimulants do not work, and can make Limbic ADD much worse!
Here is some information that I got from:

 •Low energy
 •Frequent irritability
 •Tends to be socially isolated
 •Frequent feelings of hopelessness, helplessness or excessive guilt
 •Low interest in things that are usually considered fun
 •Sleep changes (too much or too little)
 •Chronic low self-esteem"

"People diagnosed with Limbic ADD typically have short attention spans, low energy, are often unfocused and disorganized and suffer from frequent negative thoughts and excessive guilt. They are usually misdiagnosed with clinical depression, but often find that antidepressants increases their moodiness.
Mood problems can occur when the limbic system of the brain is overactive. The limbic system is about the size of a walnut and lies near the center of the brain. This is the part of the brain that helps determine how positive or negative you are in your outlook, and also affects motivation and drive. It controls the sleep and appetite cycles of the body, and affects the "bonding mechanism" that enables you to connect with other people on a social level, which in turn influences your moods."

From all the research I have done, I believe that natural supplements and dietary changes may provide the same results as prescription medication in many cases of Limbic ADD.

"Nutritional intervention can be especially helpful. Our deep limbic system needs a balanced diet of containing protein, "good fats" and carbohydrates to function properly. That means including healthy fats (such as the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish), complex carbohydrates (which increase serotonin levels) and protein in every meal.

Nutritional supplements can also increase levels of brain serotonin and decrease negative emotional reactiveness. "SAMe (S-adenoslmethionine) is a naturally occurring compound found in all living organisms. SAMe is critical in the maintenance of cartilage and in the manufacture of important brain compounds such as neurotransmitters." According to this site, as well as the site of Dr. Daniel Amen
"Calming Amino acids GABA: 500-1500 mg 2-3 times per day. L-Tyrosine: 500-1500 mg 2-3 times per day." Also, Inositol (which is great for OCD symptoms) and Grape Seed Extract, can help.  "Other alternatives to prescription medication for limbic ADHD patients include the use of soothing natural botanical and herbal remedies such as hyoscyamus, tuberculinum, arsen iod and verta alb."

For foods that help Limbic ADD I found this on:

"Foods that increase Dopamine

Food sources of dopamine increasing tyrosine include almonds, avocados, bananas, dairy products, lima beans, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds.

Dopamine is easily oxidized. Foods that are rich in antioxidants such as fruits and vegetables may help protect dopamine-using neurons from free radical damage. Many healthcare professionals recommend supplementing with vitamins C, vitamin E, and other antioxidants."

 Also, I read that it may be helpful to substitute regular sugar with Monk fruit raw sugar sweetener (LoHan).

From researching, I read that exercise can also provided much needed relief from distressing Limbic ADD symptoms. Walk as much as possible, and take the stairs whenever possible. Brisk walking, or any aerobic activity done for a minimum of a half hour several times a week is ideal, however, "always, consult your doctor or a certified personal trainer before starting a rigorous exercise program." Getting the proper amount of sleep is important too, strive for 8 hours whenever possible.

Stay away from negative people, bad news, and depressing stories as much as possible! People with Limbic ADD tend to struggle with low grade sadness much of the time, and these things will only make it worse. Uplifting people, great music, anything that is inspiring, and happy or funny movies should be substituted as much as possible.

I hope this helps those with Limbic ADD, and I wish everyone health and much happiness!

I have freed myself from OCD by natural methods, and want to help others find freedom too!
My book OCD and Me, My Unconventional Journey Through Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, published by PlantaPress, is available at: