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.