The Blog Tour Continues…


book coverThe blog tour for Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery is in full swing.  Thank you to Tina at Bringing Along OCD for her recent review. Check it out!

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Seasonal OCD?

by digitalart

by digitalart

My son Dan’s OCD was at its very worst from around January-March of 2008. Exactly one year later we were almost, though not quite, back to square one. At this time, I sat in the psychiatrist’s office with Dan as the doctor talked about OCD often going in cycles. I was terrified. Was Dan slipping back to not being able to eat again?

As it turns out, we discovered that most of Dan’s problems at this point were related to the various medications he was taking. He was wrongly medicated and he was over-medicated. So while I don’t believe that’s what was going on with Dan at the time, the idea of OCD being cyclical stayed in my mind. It made sense to me – as much as anything to do with OCD ever makes sense. After all, Seasonal Affective Disorder is real. If depression can be seasonal, why can’t OCD, and other brain disorders, be seasonal as well?

I’ve read many first-person blogs about OCD over the years, and a good number of these bloggers attest to their OCD flaring up at certain times of the year, typically the colder, winter months. So when I came across this recent article, Woman’s Rare Case of ‘Seasonal OCD’ Cured, my first thought, before even reading the article, was “What’s so rare about that?”

It’s a short article if you want to take a look at it. Basically the woman, who seemed to suffer from OCD every October-May, was successfully treated with a combination of fluoxetine, what sounds like exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy, and bright light exposure for two hours a day. According to the article, she still takes fluoxetine (which originally did not help much when used alone) and her OCD did not reappear the following October. I’m wondering if ERP therapy alone would have helped her? Or if the light therapy actually played a part in her recovery? Or if she still really needs the fluoxetine?

As is often the case with OCD we are left with more questions than answers. Why would OCD be worse in the winter? Is it because more people get sick in the winter and this fact might be a trigger for those with OCD? Is it because we produce less serotonin during the darker, colder months? Is it possibly related to PANDAS, which is believed to be caused by streptococcal infections, which are also more prevalent in the winter?

While answers to these questions might lead to a better understanding of OCD, the good news is obsessive-compulsive disorder can still be treated – even without the answers. So whether you have seasonal OCD, or it’s with you year-round, you can work on getting your life back by embracing exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy as soon as possible.





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A Blog Tour for Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery

book coverI’m happy to announce that today, March 18, 2015, is the blog tour launch date for  Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery.

What does this mean?

Over the next month or so, selected bloggers who received a copy of the book from the publisher will post book reviews on their blogs. I will either reblog these posts myself or post a link to them.

The current schedule is as follows:

Wednesday, March 18, 2015: Jackie Lea Sommerscheck out her review now!

Monday, March 23, 2015: Bringing Along OCD

Wednesday, March 25, 2015: 71 Degrees and Sunny: One Christian’s Odyssey Through Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Monday, March 30, 2015: Parenting Grown Children: What Dr. Spock Forgot to Tell Us

Wednesday, April 1, 2015: Alison Dotson: Author, OCD advocate, book lover

Tuesday, April 7, 2015: Toss the Typewriter

Wednesday, April 15, 2015: Sherrey Meyer, Writer

I also have three international bloggers participating, but the books have been slow to arrive to them overseas, so I will keep you posted on dates for that portion of the blog tour.

Thanks to all who are participating…..writers and readers alike!


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OCD and Imaginal Exposures

by master isolated images

by master isolated images

As we know, exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy is the psychological treatment of choice for OCD. Basically, the person with OCD is exposed to his or her obsessions, feels the anxiety, and refrains from engaging in rituals to reduce the fear. It’s pretty straightforward for many types of OCD.

I hear from many people with OCD who say that while they understand what ERP therapy is, and even how it could be helpful, they don’t think it would work for their type of OCD, and therefore they don’t pursue treatment. I’m not a therapist, but as I understand it, ERP can be used successfully to treat all types of OCD.

Recently I received an email from a reader who wondered how ERP therapy could possibly help her. Her obsessions involved horrible things happening to those she loved; obviously she was not about to create a car crash, or whatever other intrusive thoughts she was having. How then could the exposure part of ERP ever take place?

Enter imaginal exposures, which are based on imagining something as opposed to it actually happening. In this recent post on his blog, Dr. Seth Gillihan talks about how therapists can properly use these types of exposures within the framework of ERP therapy. Typically, the therapist works with the person with OCD to verbalize his or her obsession and then makes a recording of it, which can be played over and over again. So plenty of exposure there! The response prevention comes in when the person with OCD refrains from engaging in any compulsions to neutralize the anxiety created by the imaginal exposure. Eventually, the anxiety will subside, and the more the recording is listened to, the less power it will have.

Imaginal exposures can be written as well. When our son Dan spent time at a residential treatment program for OCD, I remember seeing papers someone had taped to a wall that said “I have cancer” written on each line. I didn’t understand what that was all about at the time, but now realize this is also a type of imaginal exposure. Whether we think horrible thoughts, talk about them out loud, or write them down, we can’t make them happen, or not happen. Once again, it all comes down to accepting the uncertainty of life.

While imaginal exposures are typically used when “real life” ones can’t be, they can also be used in conjunction with actual experiences. In this blog post, the writer explains how she uses imaginal exposures to help her with her debilitating fear of making the wrong decisions:

“The key was finding what gave me the most unease about an OCD fear, and directly addressing that in the script, putting it out there, rather than running from it. Yeah, I might choose the “wrong” item and feel my face go hot, and a panicky ache in my chest. I might really screw up, and be haunted by regret about my poor decisions and never have any peace from the obsessing about obsessing.

She made a recording on her iPod about all the horrible things that might happen should she make a wrong decision, and listened to it whenever she went shopping. She gradually became more comfortable making decisions and not dwelling on them, and was able to continue on with her life.

While OCD might have a wild imagination, we can always “one-up” it by using imaginal exposures to confront the very things OCD desperately wants us to avoid. What a great tool to have in the big ‘ol OCD toolbox!


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Ocdtalk Featured on Out Of The Darkness


book coverThank you to Scott Schneider who blogs at Out Of The Darkness for featuring my blog and book in his latest post:

I hope you’ll check it out!

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Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery – Book Launch Recap

book coverWell, we didn’t get off to the best start. The event planner had previously told me the bookstore typically orders twenty books for their author events. I told her I didn’t think that would be enough. So they ordered ten. No chairs were set up, and there was an actual rain shower in the event room from water leaking through the ceiling. I’d been worried all along about the weather outside, given all the snow we’ve been having in New England, but I never thought I’d have to worry about the weather inside! The cookies we ordered from the cafe were still warm when the bakers piled them on top of each other, so they all stuck together. And while I’d been given the impression that the local cable TV people would be videotaping the event, there was not a videographer in sight.

Luckily, my husband and I, along with our close friend Sheara, arrived an hour early. The two of them got to work rearranging the room and setting up chairs away from the leaks. I tried to unstick the cookies. Sheara brought her own video camera and set that up. Thankfully, at the last minute I had thrown a box of my own books that I had ordered into the car, and we brought those in.

We scrambled around for forty-five minutes, and just as everything was falling into place, it happened. People arrived. Long-time friends, relatives, blog followers, and quite a few people I didn’t know. All fifty chairs that had been set up were taken. I felt deeply grateful at that moment, and the book launch hadn’t even started yet! Thank you to each and every one of you who was there, and to the so many other people who have supported me along the road to publication.

Seth spoke first about what obsessive-compulsive disorder really is, using some examples from his own practice. He then gave me a moving introduction. I spoke about the importance of us all sharing the stories of our lives, of really connecting with one another, and also gave a brief history of how our book came to be. I then read an excerpt from the book. We ended with a lively 40 minute Q&A session, and Seth and I spent the remaining time signing books. By all accounts, it was a success. I’ll be posting video clips from the event in the near future, for anyone who might be interested.

Book Signing

Now that our book has been published, people ask me what my plans are, as if the book was the main goal – an ending of sorts. But that’s not how I see it. To me, it’s more of a beginning. I see Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery as a powerful tool to help me continue to raise awareness of OCD and its proper treatment. So the answer to the question “What are your plans now?” is plain and simple. I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing all along; spreading the word that OCD, no matter how severe, is treatable and there truly is hope for all those whose lives have been touched by this horrible disorder. I hope you’ll join me!


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To Tell or Not to Tell


Yesterday’s book launch was a moving, amazing day for me. Hard to put into words, but I will try at some point. This week I’d like to share a post originally written in June, 2012:

I’m an advocate for OCD awareness. I believe obsessive-compulsive disorder needs to be talked about, openly and honestly, so that we can foster understanding and acceptance. Silence is not an option and only serves to perpetuate the ignorance and confusion that already surrounds this mental health disorder.

So when Dan was filling out employment applications, and they asked if he had any “medical conditions,” what do you think I advised  him to do?

Lie, of course.

No question about it. I’m a hypocrite, and the first to admit it. But as I’ve said before, OCD is messy, and it’s a lot easier to write about my thoughts and feelings than to actually carry out my own advice. I, like everyone else, am a work in progress.

The reason I gave Dan this advice (and I am not going to address the fact of whether he took it or not) is that I thought, rightly or not, that once the employer saw “OCD” on Dan’s application, he would not even be considered for the job. Who knows? That may or may not be true. Maybe the employer has OCD and Dan reporting it would be a plus?!  So I realize that while I have no problem talking about OCD and advocating for awareness when I know I’m dealing with people who are already accepting of the disorder (sufferers, those who care about someone with OCD, health professionals), it is much more difficult, and scary, to be open and honest when you have no idea who you are dealing with or what their reaction will be.

Back to the application. I was surprised to even see this question as I believe, because of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it is illegal to ask about health conditions in a pre-employment application. However, I know this law is complicated, and I am far from an expert. In fact, I am just learning about how it affects those with OCD in the workplace. Because my son has been in college for the past five years, my interest and knowledge of the ADA has always focused  on disabilities within the higher education system. I have so much to learn!

I’d love to hear from those with OCD in the workforce and how they have handled this issue. Does your employer know you have OCD?  Do you feel you have been treated fairly (or unfairly)? Any advice for those with OCD who may be entering, or considering entering, the workforce? Insight from those who have “been there” is invaluable.

Posted in Mental Health | Tagged , , , , | 23 Comments