OCD and Parental Anxiety

by Ambro freedigitalphotos.net

by Ambro freedigitalphotos.net

When asked if obsessive-compulsive disorder or anxiety disorders are caused by genetic or environmental factors, the standard answer has always been, “A combination of both.”

While there’s not much we can do about our genes (at least not yet!), there is a lot we can do about various environmental factors that might contribute to the development of OCD.

In this wonderful article, Dr. Suzanne Phillips addresses the question, “Is parental anxiety contagious?” I highly recommend reading this informative article, which  discusses everything from recent research to anxiety reducing strategies for parents of teens. The bottom line?

“Yes, parental anxiety is contagious. The greater our anxiety–the greater the anxiety of our kids.”

Yes, my heart sank too when I read this conclusion, which to many of us is not really new information. But, as Dr. Phillips points out, this is actually good news. If we parents can learn how to reduce and control our own anxiety, our children will benefit as well. We have the power to break the cycle!

In fact, a recent study conducted by Dr. Golda Ginsburg (a psychiatrist at the University of Connecticut Health Center) and her colleagues at Johns Hopkins University concluded that with appropriate family intervention (which includes, not surprisingly, some exposure exercises), anxious parents can actually raise calm children:

“Only nine percent of children who participated in a therapist-directed family intervention developed anxiety after one year, compared to 21 percent in a group that received written instruction, and 31 percent in the group that did not receive any therapy or written instruction.”

According to Dr. Ginsburg, the focus here needs to shift from reaction to prevention:

“In the medical system there are other prevention models, like dental care, where we go every six months for a cleaning. I think adopting that kind of model — a mental health checkup, a prevention model for folks who are at risk — is I think where we need to go next.”

The main thing I take away from these articles and research is the fact that anxiety is  indeed very treatable, and parents who learn to manage their own anxiety are not only helping themselves but helping their children as well. While we might not be able to prevent their developing OCD, we can teach our children the skills needed to respond appropriately to anxiety, and model these behaviors ourselves. Laying this groundwork will certainly prove helpful should our children find themselves face to face with obsessive-compulsive disorder.






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

From Yeshiva University – An Online Survey of Beliefs about OCD Treatment

by stuart miles freedigitalphotos.net

by stuart miles freedigitalphotos.net

Hi Everyone!

Jenna Feldman, a graduate student working toward her doctorate in Clinical Psychology at Yeshiva University, is collaborating on a research project about OCD. She is looking for participants with OCD (adults age >18) who are interested in completing an online survey pertaining to beliefs about treatments that exist for OCD.  The survey should take around 40 minutes to complete.  If you elect to participate you will be entered into a raffle for one of four $50 gift cards.  To learn more about the study please follow the link below:


If you decide to participate, good luck with the raffle!


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

OCD and Memory

by ddpavumba freedigitalphotos.net

by ddpavumba freedigitalphotos.net


As many of you know, my son Dan dealt with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder about seven years ago. Memories of those dark days are etched in my mind, as well as on paper in my book, Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery. Many details are just as vivid to me now as when they happened, though I’d happily prefer them not to be.

Dan and I rarely talk about those times, but I remember on occasion trying to discuss specific events and incidents with him, probably two or three years after he’d made a remarkable recovery. His answer to all my queries was always the same: “I don’t remember.”

At first I thought this reply was just an excuse not to have to talk about those difficult times, and honestly, I wouldn’t blame Dan if this was the case. But as time went on, and Dan moved on, he still didn’t seem to remember much about the painful times.

I’m wondering why, and if this is common in those who have managed to beat OCD?

One theory I have is that Dan’s lack of memory stems from the fact that he was overmedicated for a good part of his ordeal. Once Dan was off all his meds, positive changes were obvious to his family and close friends. His depression lifted and more often than not, he was actually happy. His OCD, in his own words, was “practically non-existent” at this time. But when his psychiatrist asked him how he felt once he was off all his meds, Dan replied that he basically felt the same as when he’d been taking the drugs. I was shocked, and the only explanation I could come up with was that he was in such a fog on all his medications that he wasn’t even aware of how he felt.

It seems as if these memories are still inaccessible to him. A defense mechanism perhaps? Studies have shown that stress can sometimes have a negative impact on memory. Maybe this is why Dan barely remembers those tormenting times?

As I said, it’s something I wonder about sometimes. But I certainly don’t dwell on it. And that’s because I know Dan remembers what is important. He remembers that while OCD tried to steal his life from him, he did everything in his power to fight back. He accepted help, embraced exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy, learned he was stronger than his OCD, and subsequently defeated it.

If he could do it, others can too.

Now that’s something worth remembering.

Posted in Mental Health, OCD | Tagged , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Helping Your Parents Understand OCD

mom and daughterThis post first appeared in February 2013….

I tend to write about obsessive-compulsive disorder from a parent’s viewpoint because, well, I’m a parent whose son has OCD. But what if you’re a child, teenager, or young adult (or even “older” adult) with OCD and you want to discuss your illness with your parents?

It’s not easy.

Every parent-child relationship is unique, with its own set of  issues. Even in the best of relationships, parents will likely “mess up” and say or do the wrong things at times. I still cringe every time I think of the first thing I said to Dan when he told me he had OCD: “Are you sure, Dan? You never even wash your hands.” Pretty unbelievable, huh?

This comment, I’m sure, only solidified what Dan already suspected. His mother needed help. It was important that I become educated about OCD. So he handed me a book to read (not my favorite so I won’t endorse it here) which gave me an inkling of what he was experiencing. It was a smart move on his part, and one I’d recommend to adult children who want to help their parents understand their OCD. Educate them any way you can. Give them a book, point them to a website, have a conversation.

I know, that last one is tough. I suggest talking with parents during a calm, uneventful time, preferably when everyone is in a good mood. You might begin by telling them how much you appreciate their support and love (assuming you are getting that from them), and then bring up the issues you feel need addressing. Maybe they have preconceived notions about OCD that just aren’t true. Maybe they are saying things, or acting in ways that are hurtful to you. I know I always appreciated it when Dan “set me straight” or voiced his opinions. He was able to help me see things from his viewpoint, which is not always easy for parents to do. I wish he had spoken up even more.

I don’t believe I’m alone in saying that one of the strongest emotions felt by parents when they find out their child has mental health problems is guilt. Somehow it is our fault. Whether this is true or not isn’t even important; we believe it. I think guilt has the potential to work both ways. In some cases, it might make the issues harder to talk about, as parents would rather sweep it all under the rug and just pretend everything is fine. In other situations, feelings of blame might spur a desire to really understand what you think you’ve done to your child, so you can hopefully remedy it.

Of course, sometimes a conversation with parents, for so many different reasons, is just not going to happen. Maybe it’s too hard for you to talk about your OCD. Or maybe you are not on speaking terms, are dealing with a strained relationship, or just don’t see eye to eye. In these cases, maybe it’s best to just agree to disagree. The only behaviors any of us can change are our own, and those with OCD need a lot of strength to work toward recovery. I believe expending energy trying to change others rarely, if ever, works.

All of us, especially those who are suffering, just want to be heard, understood, and accepted by those we love the most. If you are not getting what you need from your parents, hopefully other family members, friends, and loved ones can fill the void. Support from those who care about you will surely help as you move forward in your fight against obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Posted in Mental Health, OCD | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

OCD or Just a Quirk?

by Master isolated images freedigitalphotos.net

by Master isolated images freedigitalphotos.net

Almost everyone I know who blogs about obsessive-compulsive disorder, myself included, has written at least one post expressing frustration over the use of the phrase, “I’m so OCD.” Aside from being grammatically incorrect – nobody is OCD –  it trivializes the disorder and lends misunderstanding to an illness that is already often misrepresented. I don’t believe anyone I know who actually has OCD has ever said, “I’m so OCD.”

But let’s face it. Obsessive-compulsive disorder can be confusing –  tough to figure out. For example, some people noticeably obsess a lot. So do they have OCD? Maybe, or maybe not. A friend of yours has to line up his shoes in a particular order before he goes to sleep at night. That’s a compulsion and means he has OCD, right? Well, maybe, but not necessarily. And what about that nice lady you work with who seems calm, cool, and collected all the time, no matter what? Guess what? She has OCD!

How can we even begin to sort this all out? Understanding the definition of OCD can help. Also, in this wonderful article, Annabella Hagen, LCSW, RPT-S discusses how we all inadvertently condition ourselves in certain ways, thereby developing unique habits, routines, and behaviors. You might even call these quirks, but they are not the same as having OCD.

So when is it OCD?

The article says,… according to the International OCD Foundation, unless this behavior is triggered by a fear or anxiety and completed with a series of compulsions that relieve you of these feelings, it’s not a sign of the disorder.

If we don’t have OCD, our behaviors are performed freely. If we do have OCD, left untreated, we are captive; tormented by our obsessions until rituals are completed.  As Hagen explains: OCD sufferers realize these thoughts are irrational, but their fear and anxiety is the driving force when doing compulsions,” she says. “ They do their rituals because they don’t want to take a chance of the possibility that their thoughts and fears may come true.

Ah, good ‘ol uncertainty.

In a nutshell, those with OCD are tormented. But the torment isn’t always obvious to others. What about that nice lady you work with? You’d never know! Because most of my son’s compulsions were mental, my husband and I didn’t even know he had OCD until he told us. And we were living together! To me this is one of the cruelest aspects of the disorder. It can torture someone from the inside, and nobody else would ever know (until things got really bad).

So for all those out there who still say, “I’m so OCD,” unless you are trying to tell us you are tormented, have paralyzing fear, and are living in an almost constant state of distress and anguish, please stop. Chances are you just have quirks.





Posted in Mental Health, OCD | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Back to School with OCD – Again

by vlado freedigitalphotos.net

by vlado freedigitalphotos.net

I know several of my recent posts have focused on going back to school, but I’d like to share one more article with you as I think it could benefit a lot of people.

Dr. Aureen Pinto Wagner has compiled a checklist of ways obsessive-compulsive disorder might affect kids at school, or in relation to school. While the article is geared directly toward kids, and suggests that children share their checklist with their parents, I also think it can work the other way. Parents who know their children have OCD, or suspect they might, can work through the checklist with their child to help pinpoint potential problem areas in school. This information can then be shared with their child’s therapist who can work with the student on his or her issues.

One great thing about this list is that it’s appropriate for all ages, from kindergartners to high school students. For those young people who find it difficult to verbalize their feelings or talk about their OCD, this checklist could be a godsend. Thank you Aureen!

The start of a new school year can be stressful. Add OCD into the mix and major problems can arise. We should expect our children to get the support they deserve – in classrooms where, ideally, teachers have at least a basic understanding of OCD.

Here’s to a happy and successful school year for all students and parents!


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

Check it Out!

renjith krishnan freedigitalphotos.net

renjith krishnan

Hi Everyone!

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Alison Dotson, OCD advocate and author of Being Me with OCD: How I Learned to Obsess Less and Live My Life. 

Alison has a great blog, and I hope you’ll take some time to check it out.

You can access my interview here!

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

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