Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

by kittisak freedigitalphotos.net

by kittisak freedigitalphotos.net

Well, I had an interesting week. I was impaneled on a jury for a criminal case, and was also selected as the forewoman for that jury. (Before you get too impressed, I was chosen at random).

Each of us on the jury listened intently, not only to all of the evidence presented in the case, but also to the words of the judge, who continually stressed to us that in order to arrive at a guilty verdict, we had to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did  indeed commit the crime for which he was accused. The judge went on to say that while most people know what beyond a reasonable doubt means, it is a difficult concept to actually explain.

Not surprisingly, my thoughts turned to obsessive-compulsive disorder. As we know, doubt is what fuels the fire of OCD, so much so that it is often known as the doubting disease.  OCD sufferers need that certainty; they need to know they locked the door, or didn’t run someone over, or didn’t say the wrong thing. And if they’re not sure? Well, they’ll just check again. And so the vicious cycle begins. I don’t have OCD, so this is not typically an issue for me. Sitting on that jury, however, with someone’s fate in my hands, I felt my palms start to sweat, and the weight of the world on my shoulders. How can I be sure?

Then it hit me. I can’t be sure. That’s why the judge didn’t say, You have to be sure. Instead he said we had to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt. There is very little we can be sure of in this world. Everything can be questioned. I assume the sun will rise tomorrow morning, but I don’t know that for sure.

In the end, our verdict was not guilty. While we each had a gut feeling the defendant committed the crime, there was just not enough evidence that allowed any of us to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt.

I left the courthouse feeling uneasy, and only later realized why. Uncertainty. Did we make the right decision? How will I ever know….for sure?

I won’t.

And so, just as those with OCD need to do, I consciously chose to feel the anxiety, accept the uncertainty of the situation, and go on with my life.

Isn’t that all any of us can, and should, do?

Posted in Mental Health, OCD | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

OCD, Social Anxiety Disorder, and Treatment

by stuart miles freedigitalphotos.net

by stuart miles freedigitalphotos.net

I recently read this article on social anxiety, and it struck me how many of the examples listed reminded me of my son Dan when his OCD was severe.

Those with social anxiety disorder are typically terrified of how others will perceive them, and this often leads to, you guessed it, avoidance of various situations. While public speaking, or being the center of attention in any circumstance, might be obvious triggers, even something as mundane as having a cup of coffee with a friend might be anxiety-provoking enough for a sufferer to just not show up.

In this post I wrote over two years ago, I talked about Dan’s sense of hyper-responsibility, an inflated sense of responsibility. Because he felt his thoughts and actions might cause harm to his friends, he dealt with this by, you guessed it again, avoiding them. He isolated himself, and while his actions could easily have been mistaken for social anxiety disorder, in his case it was his OCD that caused him to behave this way.

Once again, I am reminded how OCD, social anxiety disorder, depression, generalized anxiety disorder – just to name a few, are just labels to describe specific symptoms, a way to try to to maintain some order and clarity over the messiness of mental illness. While these labels serve a purpose, I believe our main goal should always be striving to understand what is going on with the whole person.

So did Dan also have social anxiety disorder, in addition to his diagnoses of OCD, GAD (generalized anxiety disorder), and depression? Possibly. It certainly seems as if he fit the criteria. Thankfully, for Dan, it didn’t matter. Once his OCD was under control, his other diagnoses fell by the wayside.

Of course, getting the right diagnosis, as well as the right treatment, for OCD (and other disorders) doesn’t always go smoothly. While it is essential to have a good therapist, it is equally important for those who are suffering to be honest with their health care providers. As we know, those with OCD typically realize their obsessions and compulsions make no sense. This realization, unfortunately, might interfere with OCD sufferers being completely honest with their doctors; it’s just too embarrassing for them to admit their thoughts and actions (even though it’s likely the doctor has heard it all before). It’s understandable, and even ironic. We expect those with OCD, social anxiety disorder, etc., to be able to talk about these intimate details, when as I said before, having coffee with a friend might be too difficult a task!

But it must be done in order to recover.  For both OCD sufferers and those with social anxiety disorder, facing ones fears is the ticket to living the life you want. If you think you suffer from one or both of these disorders, I hope you’ll commit to facing your fears, and you can start by meeting with a competent therapist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Mental Health, OCD | Tagged , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Overcoming OCD – International Orders

by cooldesign freedigitalphotos.net

by cooldesign freedigitalphotos.net

I’ve had quite a few inquiries as to whether Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery will be available outside of the United States and Canada once it is released in January 2015.

The answer is a resounding YES, and not only can you place international orders, and pre-orders, HERE, you can receive a 30% discount as well!

You can also access the International Orders tab below the “My Book” tab near the top of my blog.

Thank you to everyone for helping me raise awareness of OCD and its proper treatment!

 

 

Posted in Mental Health, OCD | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

OCD Podcasts

by stuart miles freedigitalphotos.net

by stuart miles freedigitalphotos.net

I was recently contacted by Matt Bieber, an amazing young man who is a freelance writer on OCD and mindfulness. Matt has been working on an impressive series of OCD Podcasts and I was honored when he asked if I’d share my family’s story for one of them.

I hope you’ll check out  An Interview with Janet Singer, Author and OCD Mom as well as Matt’s other podcasts. They are all very thought-provoking and I’ve learned something from each one of them. I also recommend checking out his entire website; I think it is really something special.

Enjoy!

 

 

Posted in Mental Health, OCD | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

OCD and Telemedicine

by stockimages freedigitalphotos.net

by stockimages freedigitalphotos.net

Over three years ago, I wrote a post about Internet-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which reported early promising results using the Internet to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder.

A recent news story expands on this idea and also highlights some important research being conducted. Jonathan Comer, of Florida International University, has been studying the use of telemedicine to treat mental health disorders, specifically OCD. In a nutshell, telemedicine involves the use of electronic media to provide health care services.

I always find these types of studies interesting in regard to OCD because I feel there is a real potential to help people who otherwise might be left by the wayside. As many of us have experienced first-hand, the right treatment for OCD can be difficult to find and access, and can involve a good amount of traveling, or even relocating. That’s assuming we can afford it.

I want to make it clear that we are talking about more than just Skype sessions here. I recommend reading the article, which details the remote therapies which involve the use of the Internet, wireless electronic devices, and video teleconferencing. One study involved teaching parents of young children with OCD how to help their children as well as learn to manage and control their own reactions to the disorder. Sessions involved online games and other interactive activities. Also, video teleconferencing and two-way audio and visual equipment allowed for real-time communication between the therapist and family.  Given the fact that many OCD triggers tend to occur in the home, I think this type of therapy could have a lot of benefits. Another study used webcams, video teleconferencing, and Bluetooth ear devices which could be used to coach parents in real-time as they assist their children in dealing with their OCD. Both studies showed participants had significant improvement in their OCD symptoms.

My guess is this is just the beginning. While in a perfect world there would be a top-notch OCD therapist on every corner (utilizing sliding scale fees or covered by insurance) that is not our current reality. As Dr. Comer says:

There’s a highly discouraging disconnect between research advances in mental health care and what services are actually available in the community for the majority of people affected by mental illness.

So while we might know what needs to be done to help those with OCD and other mental health disorders, this knowledge hasn’t translated enough into proper therapy. Maybe telemedicine can get us that much closer to our goal of quality, affordable treatment that is accessible to all who need it.

 


 

 

Posted in Mental Health, OCD | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

OCD and Health Insurance

by vectorolie at freedigitalphotos.net

by vectorolie at freedigitalphotos.net

Nothing about obsessive-compulsive disorder is easy. If you or a loved one suffer from OCD, you likely know what I mean. Aside from having to deal with the actual symptoms of the disorder, you also have to work on getting the proper diagnosis, understanding what OCD really is, perhaps learning how to not enable your loved one with the disorder, and finding the right treatment. Achieving each one of these objectives is a major accomplishment.

Let’s say you’ve completed all these stepping-stones toward your goal of recovery and you’ve either found a great therapist, or at least know what type of therapy you or your loved one needs.

How are you going to pay for it?

Many of us cannot afford to pay for medical treatment without health insurance. I’ve previously written about the advantages of living near a large research university and the possibility of receiving free treatment there. What I’d like to touch upon today, however, is how to get what you rightfully deserve from your  own health insurance company.

Dr. Fred Penzel has written a gem of an article on this topic. I highly recommend reading it even if it’s not relevant to your current situation. The information he provides, while specifically meant for those seeking treatment for OCD, can be useful when dealing with other illnesses as well.

Here, in my opinion, is one of the most important things Dr. Penzel has to say:

There is a little secret that your insurance doesn’t want you to know about. The rules say that your company is responsible for providing you with adequate treatment by properly trained practitioners. 

This is something my family dealt with at one point when trying to find a good therapist for Dan. Our insurance company gave us a list of psychologists and social workers who were “qualified” to treat OCD. After calling each and every one of them on the list, it was clear to me that not one of them specialized in treating OCD. Some of them had never even heard of exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy.

Try explaining that to the insurance company: that their qualified mental health professionals really aren’t qualified after all. As I said at the beginning of this post, nothing pertaining to OCD is easy. But Dr. Penzel walks us through exactly what needs to be done to get the proper treatment we deserve. And by proper treatment, I mean a competent, experienced therapist who is trained in exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy, whether they are “in-network” or not.

In our own case, I did end up finding a wonderful therapist who wasn’t on “the list” but fortunately was an in-network provider. He was my son’s therapist for over three years, and I’m grateful that we did not end up having to fight for Dan to see him.

In his article, Dr. Penzel reminds us that our insurance companies aren’t doing us any favors or bending over backwards for us when we insist on what is rightly ours and they actually comply. We pay good money for our benefits, and as much as these for-profit companies might try to tell us otherwise, they are legally required to pay for proper care.

Of course, this brings up another issue: the shortage of proper care. Sigh. As I said, nothing about OCD is easy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Mental Health, OCD | Tagged , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

I’m a Little OCD

woman reading bookI’ve been busy going into bookstores and libraries to promote my book, and there has been a strong interest in it. I chat with the appropriate people, tell them a little bit about the book, and hand them a promotional flyer. I’ve been surprised at the number of times I’ve heard this comment, or something similar:

“Oh, I have to read your book, because I’m a little OCD myself.”

How do I respond? It’s a tough situation, because I don’t really know whether the person in question actually has OCD or not. My gut feeling is they probably don’t, because if they did, they wouldn’t be saying “I’m a little OCD.”

The first time it happened I was in a rush, and I’m embarrassed to admit I just smiled and left. But it kept happening, always in situations where either I or the person talking with me didn’t have a lot of time to spare.

I wanted to be respectful, but I also wanted to tell the speaker that OCD is a noun, not a verb, and my guess is their saying they are “a little OCD” is likely comparable to someone saying “I’m a little Crohn’s” when they are dealing with a stomach ache. Crohn’s, like OCD, is a disease, whereas a stomach ache or some compulsive habits you might have are symptoms which may or may not indicate you suffer from the illness.

Then again, I’m just speculating. Maybe these people I’m meeting really do have OCD.  It’s possible, right? After all, who am I to discourage anyone from reading my book? :)

So my response has been something like, “OCD is such  a misunderstood and misrepresented illness, which is one of the reasons why I believe this book is so important. I hope you’re getting the right help if you do have OCD.”

They usually just smile and shrug my comment off, saying “It’s not that big a deal,” which again leads me to believe they don’t actually have OCD.

Many of those who blog about OCD, myself included, have written at least one post about how upsetting this can be to hear OCD thrown around so lightly, and incorrectly, so I’m not going to get into that again here. But I did want to mention how much it’s been happening to me, as it shows we still have such a long way to go in raising awareness and understanding of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

So I will continue my door-to-door sales approach and respond as I have been to the “I’m a little OCD” comments. And I do hope all these people, whether they really have OCD or not, will read the book. If they have OCD, I hope the book will encourage them to work as hard as they can toward recovery, and if they don’t have OCD, they will certainly learn what it really is.

If anyone has any suggestions for a response, I’m all ears!

 

Posted in Mental Health, OCD | Tagged , , , , | 27 Comments