The Power of Family

by smarnad at

by smarnad at

I was recently interviewed by David Susman, PhD as part of his Stories of Hope series.

If you’re interested, you can view the interview here.

Thanks to Dr. Susman!




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OCD and The Solving Ritual

by ambro

by ambro

This post first appeared on my blog in May 2013:

When someone is diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, education is essential. Understanding what the disorder entails and how to best treat it are key components to recovery. As we know, however, OCD can be very sneaky, and sometimes this quest for knowledge can go awry. Sigh. Just when I thought OCD couldn’t get any more complicated…..

In ta wonderful written by Stacey Kuhl Wochner, LCSW, Ms. Wochner explains that sometimes those with OCD (many who have had previous success with exposure and response prevention therapy) begin to feel that therapy is not helping as much as it used to. Why isn’t it working? Maybe they aren’t doing it right? Maybe they don’t truly understand everything about their OCD and treatment and need to learn more? What is happening is the uncertainty about keeping OCD in check is turning into an obsession. Those with the disorder believe they will never be able to beat OCD; their lives will be horrible.

So they begin a quest to research, learn and discuss everything there is to know about every aspect of OCD. Ms. Wochner calls this “the solving compulsion.” People with OCD might even attempt to engage in ERP therapy, but  for the wrong reasons. Exposures now become a compulsion, a way to reduce anxiety, instead of the anxiety provoking act they are intended to be.

How is this type of OCD dealt with? As Ms. Wochner tells us: “Having unwanted thoughts and feelings about losing control of your OCD is not the problem. Your effort to rid yourself of your thoughts and feelings is the problem.”  So really, it’s no different from other examples of the disorder. People need to feel the uncertainty about their OCD without allowing themselves to engage in any solving rituals. By doing this, they will be engaging in ERP Therapy in the right way and for the right reasons. Of course this will be anxiety provoking at first (which of course means you are doing it right) but eventually your OCD will lose its power.

I highly recommend reading her article as I’ve only touched upon some of  the basics. What really became clear to me while reading this article is how crucial it is to have a therapist who truly understands OCD. My guess is there are plenty of health care providers who deal with patients with solving rituals (Ms. Wochner does a great job of describing a typical therapy session) and don’t even realize it. Therapy sessions with these providers will hurt, not help, those with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

So yes, OCD is complicated, but not so complicated that it can’t be outsmarted. If you’re armed with a competent therapist and a willingness to face and accept the uncertainty of life, OCD doesn’t stand a chance.

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OCD, Career Choices, and Limitations


winding road

A version of this post first appeared on my blog in May, 2013…..

I’ve written before about my son Dan’s almost lifelong dream of becoming an animator. When his OCD was severe, he came very close to giving up on this dream. My husband and I kept the bar high for him because we knew it was what he really wanted. We realized he was committed to continuing with exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy and so we encouraged him to go back to school. If it didn’t work out, at least  he would have given it his best shot. Though there were some difficult times, Dan did indeed receive his BFA in computer animation, and he now works in his chosen field.

During his stay at a residential treatment program for OCD following his freshman year, Dan’s therapist suggested he become an art teacher; he felt that road would be less stressful for Dan. While teaching art is a great job for someone who wants to be an art teacher, Dan never had the slightest interest in the teaching field. I am thankful he decided to stay on track and pursue his dream.

For some people with OCD, however, original educational and/or career plans might not work out. Maybe college is too stressful, maybe a particular work environment elicits a multitude of triggers, maybe a job is just too demanding. Maybe those with OCD might have to work toward their goals differently, at a later date, or not at all. A competent therapist can help make a determination as to which paths to take. But is having to alter life plans a sign that OCD is “winning?”

Not in my opinion. Because really, don’t we all have limitations? I would have loved to have been a nurse, but blood and needles make me squeamish. Whether it is due to illness, life circumstances, or just who we are, most of us face detours as we travel through life. We compromise, we adjust, we revise our dreams. Even as an animator, Dan has realized there are certain aspects of the profession that aren’t a good fit for him, and so he is steering his career path accordingly.

Because obsessive-compulsive disorder is an illness that can totally control a person’s life, and successful treatment involves not letting it, I think there might be a tendency to feel defeated if OCD has to be factored into the equation when making these life decisions. Again, I think it’s important to remember that we all have challenges that need to be considered when making life choices; what we desire might not be what’s actually best for us. While those with OCD might need to acknowledge their disorder, it doesn’t mean that OCD is “winning.” It means they are being honest with themselves. And if those with OCD, indeed if all of us, maintain a positive attitude and endeavor to live a fulfilling, productive life, the real winners will be ourselves.

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OCD and Time Management

by digitalart

by digitalart

A version of this post first appeared on my blog in April 2013…

Time management is a hot topic these days. Whether related to the workplace, school, homemaking, child-rearing, or our personal lives, there just never seems to be enough time to do all the things we need, or want, to do. We are so overloaded that there are self-help books, as well as experts and entire companies dedicated to this subject. When did it all get so complicated?

And if you have obsessive-compulsive disorder, there’s a good chance you’ll have even more obstacles to overcome.

To me, one of the most frustrating aspects of my son Dan’s severe OCD was how much time he appeared to spend doing absolutely nothing. He had schoolwork and responsibilities to attend to, yet he’d just sit in a “safe” chair for hours and hours on end. I now know that he spent this time focusing on his obsessions and compulsions, which were in his mind and not obvious to me. As Dan’s OCD improved, the chair sitting stopped, but he still often took longer than others to complete his school assignments. This seemed to be attributed to his difficulty balancing details within the big picture, perfectionism, and  over-thinking.

While Dan’s problem of apparently wasting time is common for those with OCD, the opposite end of the spectrum can also be an issue. Some people with OCD  might feel the constant need to be busy and productive, as well as having every event and task of the day carefully planned. For Dan, spur-of-the-moment plans were not even a possibility when his OCD was in control.

Something else those with OCD might deal with in regard to time management is lack of punctuality. This might be because they feel the need to finish whatever task they are working on before they can move on to something else (even if most people wouldn’t consider it important), or perhaps due to trouble with transitions. Of course, time spent attending to obsessions and compulsions can always account for any struggles with time management.

From what I’ve written, it is easy to conclude that people with OCD do not manage their time well. But actually, I think the opposite is true. Those with OCD are excellent time managers. Look at everything they have to manage! For example, even though my son Dan sat in his “safe” chair for hours on end, somehow he was still able to meet all his responsibilities. Many of those with OCD not only fulfill their own obligations, they meet the “obligations” of their disorder as well. Of course, not surprisingly, this load might finally become too much to handle.

In my opinion people with OCD don’t need lessons in time management. What they need is to fight their OCD. Obsessions and compulsions are time-consuming, as is constant worry. Getting back the time that OCD consumes is nothing short of a gift and can open up a world of possibilities to not only those who have OCD, but to the people who want to spend time with them.


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Interview on Talking Books

renjith krishnan

renjith krishnan

For those of you who might be interested, I was recently interviewed by Michelle Martin for a radio show called Talking Books ( Radio Station 938LIVE in Singapore):


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Ocdtalk – The State of the Blog

by iosphere

by iosphere

As we settle into a new year, I, like many others, have been taking stock of various aspects of my life. This blog has been an integral part of my identity for over five years now, and it has grown immensely and opened up opportunities beyond my wildest dreams. For that I am grateful.

My main goal from the onset of the blog has been to spread the word that obsessive-compulsive disorder, no matter how severe, is treatable, and the first-line psychological approach to treat OCD is exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy. Five years later, my goal remains the same.

I hope this doesn’t sound like a good-bye post, because it’s not. In fact, I plan on continuing to post weekly, just as I have always done. However, because of time constraints, a lot of my posts will be reblogs of older, though still relevant, entries; I will plan to write new material at least once a month.

This has been an amazing year filled with interviews and speaking opportunities, mostly generated by the publication of my book, Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery. I’m fortunate to have had so many worthwhile opportunities to advocate for OCD awareness, and I hope they continue in 2016. I’d like to branch out and speak at schools and parent meetings, and have other ideas how to best get the truth out about obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The amazing people I’ve met, both virtually and in person, are what spur me on. Thank you all for your continued support of ocdtalk, and I look forward to a 2016 where all those dealing with OCD will choose to work toward recovery and have qualified ERP therapists waiting for them. One can dream!

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

Casting Call!

by digitalart

by digitalart

I recently received an email from a casting producer who is looking for families with children or teenagers who are currently dealing with severe OCD. She is involved in a television project that aims to raise awareness of obsessive-compulsive disorder, and offer guidance as well.

If you think you might be willing to share your story or just want more information, please email Kim as soon as possible at:

Good luck to all who choose to pursue this!


Posted in Mental Health, OCD | Tagged , , | 5 Comments