Saturday, July 11, 2009

OCD History- Part 2

As I noted in part 1, I was diagnosed with OCD at age 25 in 1997. I was lucky, really. My health insurance was a giant HMO, they randomly assigned me an MSW therapist. Actually, she was completing an internship. But she knew it was OCD from day 1. And she knew that Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) was the best therapy for it. Unfortunately she wasn't experienced with ERP, so my treatment was only partially successful. The other unfortunate aspect was that her internship ended 4 months into my treatment. At that time she and I agreed that I would be able to continue my treatment on my own. But I had never had to face any of my most feared exposures, so I only improved a little.

The next 7 years, I did okay, if not great. I survived mostly because I lived by myself (so I didn't have "dirty" people to contend with), and for 5 of those years I dated a guy who naturally washed his hands a lot and was pretty accommodating of my "quirks."

My OCD worsened in 2004 when I moved back to the town where my whole family lives. They are not good hand washers, and I always worried about getting sick when around them. I also worried about getting them sick. But the worst problem was that when I moved, I broke up with the accommodating boyfriend. Now I was dating again, with a whole host of worries, mostly imagined: boyfriends who didn't wash their hands enough, STDs, pregnancy, colds and flus to be shared. Not so surprisingly, most of my relationships lasted 4-6 months, at which time the boyfriend got a little freaked out by my ever increasing anxiety.

I sought treatment again in 2006. I went through a series of 4 therapists through my HMO: I was told to meditate, learn breathing techniques, count how often I did my compulsions. Despite the fact that I told them I had OCD, not once was ERP mentioned. Next I tried a psychiatrist. My entire first (and only) session consisted of her listing all of the possible medications I could take; again ERP was not mentioned. I'm not opposed to medication, and I've taken both Paxil and Prozac briefly, to jump start my ERP, but I didn't want it to be the focus of my treatment.

Finally in late 2006, I found a therapist who specialized in ERP. He was okay, but after about 3 months he declared my work "finished." What about the fact that I woke up each day filled with dread? Well, he said, that would get better if I just kept practicing. We were to ignore the fact that without him, I didn't ever practice again.

During 2007, I went back to school and I was too busy to date, so my OCD was pretty mild. After 2008 passed, with me remaining too scared to date again, I decided enough was enough. And hallelujah, a new ERP therapist had moved to town. I was going to try again.

My new therapist is awesome! I will write more soon about her approach. I made great strides for the first two months, had a huge setback when a close relative was diagnosed with cancer, and am beginning to make great strides again. More on that later, too.

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