Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tuesday Night Update

Well, it's 8 pm, the night before garbage day. Neighbors' cans not out yet. Neither one of the two neighbors. I have no plans to do anything if they don't. I feel good about this right now but know that I won't next week if their garbage is blowing down the street again. I also know getting through this is really really important for me. So I will sit.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Research Survey on OCD and Relationships

The professor working on this study recently asked if I'd post information about the surveys here on the blog. You can learn more about her lab and research here, but the study links also have a lot of information about the research.

I just completed the survey for people with OCD. It took about 30 minutes. It included questions about your OCD symptoms, asked about possible hoarding behaviors, and had a lot of questions about emotions, moods and interactions with others. It did include some questions about traumatic experiences that you or people close to you may have experienced. I haven't really had any, so it wasn't traumatic to answer those questions, but it could be. The survey had a section on current romantic relationships. Since I'm not in one, I didn't complete that section and didn't actually think to look at the questions.

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University are conducting two online studies about the relationships of individuals with OCD or hoarding. Each study involves completing questionnaires online about relationships, emotions and OCD. You must be at least 18 to participate. Those who participate may enter into a raffle for a Target gift card. The information gathered from this study may help to improve therapies for OCD.
For more information:

Individuals with OCD and/or hoarding: http://filer.case.edu/~axp335/ocd.htm

Relatives and significant others of those with OCD and/or hoarding: http://filer.case.edu/~axp335/famocd.htm

Saturday, January 28, 2012

30 Day Challenge Week One Report

Well, I've done great with the garbage. However it was the "off" week on our 2-week garbage cycle, so I wasn't really challenged. BUT I remain committed to my totally hands off approach even as we head into the more difficult week of the cycle.

At the same time, I've been working on cutting out ALL compulsions related to germs. I made some great strides this week including:

-Full-on gripping the shopping cart handle.
-Using the self-checkout at the library and then forgetting (can you believe it!) to wash my hands when I got home.
-Using my dad's "contaminated" toilet, which I haven't done in months.
-Taking and later happily eating cookies that my mom's unwashed hand touched.
-Using the blanket that usually hangs out on the floor at my folks' house while we watched a game on TV
- Sitting in a meeting with a woman with a hacking cough who handed out several papers to me, then eating my lunch without washing my hands.

Within about 10 minutes, I felt little to no anxiety about any of these, all things that in the past have been Issues.

I did NOT do as well when faced with people with colds in the sniffly nose-running stage; it's the time of year for bunches of them. I definitely did some avoidance, but I didn't run away screaming either. I even sat near someone for two hours at Knit Night on Wednesday. However, I spent a lot of mental energy contemplating the sick people and their colds.

All in all, I'm going to declare this week a success and work toward more of the same this week.

How is your Challenge going?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Book Review: OCD, A Guide for the Newly Diagnosed

New Harbinger Publications recently sent me a copy of OCD: A Guide for the Newly Diagnosed, by psychologist Michael A. Tompkins, with a foreword by Jeff Bell. As the title suggests, it's meant to serve as both an introduction to OCD and an overview of treatment options and key points for those newly diagnosed with (or perhaps newly suspecting they have) OCD. But it also includes good advice for beating your OCD and keeping it beat.

It begins with a reasonably standard "What is OCD" chapter, running quickly through common obsessions and compulsions. The descriptions of obsessions probably could have been a little longer, with more examples, for people trying to figure out if their thoughts are OCD-related. He considers what I call rumination (AM I gay? DO I love my boyfriend? Maybe I AM a pedophile, how can I be sure? what does this mean about me? what if the garbage can DOES tip over, what should I do if it does, I'll map out a plan now) a "neutralization strategy." I suspect for many with OCD, myself included, this type of overanalyzing makes up a large percentage of our "OCD time," and it's not always addressed in books about OCD, so I'm glad to see it included.

A brief section called "How The OCD Ball Keeps Rolling" touches on the cognitive distortions common in OCD.

Next Tompkins addresses diagnosis and treatment. His main emphasis is on exposure and response prevention, with general information about medication and when it might be helpful in addition to other treatment. He addressed other therapies often encountered as well: possible "yeas" for cognitive therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) but "nays" for talk therapy and hypnosis. Ultimately, his recommendation is strongly for ERP over other options.

Next, he includes a nice section on questions to ask potential therapists, while acknowledging that we won't all be fortunate enough to choose an therapist with perfect answers to those questions. A late chapter covers information I'm not sure I've ever seen before about whether you should disclose at work or school and on seeking accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act and in a school setting.

He spends a fair amount of time on the importance of a healthy lifestyle, including eating right, getting exercise and sleep and not trying to escape through substance abuse or other bad habits. Since these are not much of an issue for me, I skimmed here.

My favorite chapter by far addresses "Developing a Recovery Attitude," including keys to treatment success. I like this for several reasons: it's something that isn't included in most books on OCD, at least not so clearly and succinctly, and these are in my opinion the biggest roadblocks for overcoming OCD. I expect that when I'm struggling I will refer to this chapter for inspiration. Among the ideas addressed: accepting uncertainty and imperfect information, practicing every day, avoiding reassurance, not giving OCD an inch, and (I LOVE this one) "looking for opportunities to step into discomfort."

This book has a specific focus. Could you use it to learn the details of ERP? No, but it's a great general reference, and while written with an eye to those new to OCD, there's information for us old hands as well. It's a quick read at just under 160 pages and is available as a hard copy, and ebook or a pdf version.

I'll close with an excerpt about stepping into discomfort that I liked so much I highlighted it:
No longer are you searching for quick ways to escape your discomfort. Instead, you are looking for little ways to enhance your discomfort, such as running your fingers along a dusty windowsill or scanning the newspaper for an article on a topic that, in the past, you would have avoided reading. Viewing discomfort as an opportunity rather than a burden will help you manage your OCD over the years.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The 30 Day OCD Challenge

The other day on the Yahoo forum, someone posted a link to this talk about "trying something new for 30 days." It was great timing, because I've been thinking a lot lately about both changing habits and the elasticity of the brain.

Over on the forum, Sheila challenged us to pick a compulsion to give up for 30 days. I know what I choose: for 30 days, I will NOT do anything with my neighbors' garbage cans: I will not move them, I will not put them out if they don't, I will not close the lid if the rain blows one open. I don't think it's going to be easy, but I'm sure going to try. And it just might become a habit.

Do you want to join me? I think we can do it!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

OCD Study Online- with corrected link

A group of researchers in Germany is conducting an online study on a possible cognitive treatment for OCD. I participated in a study from this same group a year or more ago and found it interesting. The English of email communications from the group isn't always great, so I'm not completely sure what they're studying, but they call it "doubt therapy" and it seems like a CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) kind of deal. Based on my experience with their last study, the official communications of the study seem to involve fairly good English. [edited to add: I just signed up and took the "pre-survey," and frankly, I think the language issue clouded the intent of some of the questions. I'm still interested in the information in their "doubt therapy manual," though]

The link to the study mentions another research group in Montreal, so I'm thinking this might be related to the so-called "inference-based approach" for OCD, which I just read about on the yahoo-group forum yesterday. Which is funny timing, considering that the email about the study has been languishing unseen in a seldom used email inbox for over a month.

In any case, I'm always in support of OCD research, so if you want to help them (and maybe yourself!) out by participating, here's the link (hopefully I got it right this time!)

Friday, January 13, 2012

OCD and the Myers Briggs

I've taken the Myers Briggs personality assessment at least 10 times. I'm an ISTJ, no question. We're the world's "worker bees." Today it came up in another forum I read, and I went off to read more about ISTJs. I found the following quote:
Under stress, ISTJs may fall into "catastrophe mode," where they see nothing but all of the possibilities of what could go wrong. They will berate themselves for things which they should have done differently, or duties which they failed to perform. They will lose their ability to see things calmly and reasonably, and will depress themselves with their visions of doom.

Hahaha, I think that just described OCD. To be fair, another quote was this:
Their homes are likely to be tastefully furnished and immaculately maintained. They are acutely aware of their senses, and want to be in surroundings which fit their need for structure, order, and beauty.

While that also describes OCD, it does not describe me, a first class slob. I guess that's genetics from my mom coming through.

How about you? Have you done a Myers Briggs assessment? There are a bunch of versions online. Some people love it, others hate to be labeled, but I've found it's usually pretty accurate.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

So Tired This Week

My job has three major pieces. For the first time in the more than 4 years that I've been at this job, all three pieces came together with deadlines in one week. Combine that with the 48 hour headache that I had Monday and Tuesday, and I'm zonked. Yesterday, I kept wanting to just put my head down on my desk and sleep (but I didn't. :) )

Today was MUCH better. No snoozing at the desk, and one of the deadlines is checked off. I think I'll hit another tomorrow, and hopefully coast into Friday to finish off the third.

The really GOOD part of all this is that while I'm at work under these circumstances, I'm too busy for OCD. I've had some worries about next week's weather, and I simply haven't had time to contemplate it. So that's a plus. Just need to translate that into slower times at work, and I'd be all set!

Oh, and I wanted to add, the game on Sunday was great. Once I got there, all my contamination fears were fine. I used the restroom, sat near two people who sounded sick without discomfort, and touched everything I needed to. I had a little stress afterward of the "did it go perfectly" variety, but that passed quickly. All in all, a good experience. I just need to have more and more of these experiences to get over my anxiety about the the idea of them.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Getting Back on the Horse

Longtime blog followers may remember that my dad and I have had NBA season tickets for a while now. A lockout that reminded us that NBA salaries are ridiculous, combined with some old-fashioned burnout motivated us to cancel the tickets just before this season started.

We planned to attend a game or two a month, however, but we hadn't done it yet. And I was amazed at how scary the prospect was to me. My dad isn't really safe driving at night anymore, so I'll be the driver. I became scared that I would get us in an accident (and how ironic would that be!) I thought about bedbugs in seats, I thought about germs around us. I thought about the disappointment we might feel if we picked the "wrong" game and wished we'd picked another. What if it was icy the day of the game?

But, it's all about running toward those fears, so we've got tickets to tonight's game. And the best part: I'm really really excited to go!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Non-Avoidance is Not Enough

I just discovered a great blog, linked from Lolly's blog. It's by Dr. Steven Seay, a therapist in Florida. He writes a lot about OCD, including this post about the fact that simply not avoiding feared events and ideas is not enough. You must actively do exposures, on a regular basis. Now, I don't think his example of being in the same room with a spider while wearing a hazmat suit is a good example at all (what is a hazmat suit but avoidance after all), but the theory is sound.

I often think that if I just go out and do my thing, I'll get better. But there are so many subtle ways to continue compulsions. Not to mention that some exposures just won't happen unless you try to find them. You've got get all up in the face of your fears. Scary.

And also, why are some therapists SO in tune with OCD treatment, yet most don't have the tiniest clue!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Good Exposure Day

While I occasionally use public restrooms, I still mostly avoid them. Today I not only used one, I carried a bag in there with me and hung it on the back of the door. The bag even touched the door handle as it hung there. I did about 6 errands after that point, For about the first 3, I touched the bag gingerly. By the end I just couldn't be bothered. Hooray for ERP!

Monday, January 2, 2012

You Can Do It

While cleaning today, I found a card with this photo on the cover in a book of my aunt's. Inside it says, "You can do it." I'm not one to post cute ducks, but I love this one, and it's now hanging on my bulletin board, to inspire me every day. (The photo is by Jim Rider and is copyrighted, so I probably can't post it, but here it is).

The End of the Holidays

I don't hate the holidays. I don't love and relish them, but I don't hate them. Seems that a lot of people have some trouble with OCD and depression over the holidays. I can't decide if my anxiety got worse this holiday season. I don't think so, although being off work today has allowed me to watch the crow that is slowly pulling stuff out of my neighbor's garbage can, and that's not helping.

I am watching this blog post not come to any point at all. :) So I will just say, Happy New Year! Let's hope 2012 brings us all good mental and physical health and lots of awesomeness!