OCD and Crime

by c. guoy freedigitalphotos.net

by c. guoy freedigitalphotos.net

Man arrested after Jo Cox shooting is ‘obsessive compulsive who rubbed own skin with Brillo pads’ relative claims.

The above statement is a  recent headline from the Daily Mirror, a British newspaper. The story goes on to discuss the eccentricities of the man arrested for the recent horrific killing of Jo Cox, a Member of Parliament.

Talk about misleading. While it certainly is possible this man has obsessive-compulsive disorder (untreated), those with OCD are no more likely to commit crimes than the general population.

The headline might just have well have said, “Killer has brown eyes.” It’s just not relevant to the crime. Those with OCD who have obsessions of harming others live with the torment of these thoughts because they are so repulsed and frightened by them. Compulsions are created as a way to make sure these acts are not carried out. Those with OCD who have obsessions about hurting others with a knife, for example, will hide all the knives in their home or not go near the kitchen. They do not act on their obsessions. They WILL NOT take a knife and hurt someone, at least not because they have OCD.

This Washington Post article, which I think is well worth reading, discusses the fact that most killers do not suffer from what we typically consider mental illness, but rather  are considered sociopaths. Dr. Michael Stone, a forensic psychiatrist at the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, breaks mental illness into two categories:

In the first category are those with schizophrenia, delusions and other psychoses that separate them from reality and who are suffering from serious mental illness and could be helped with medical treatment. In the second are those with personality, antisocial or sociopathic disorders who may exhibit paranoia, callousness or a severe lack of empathy but know exactly what they are doing.

Dr. Stone published a paper in 2015, and the Washington Post article summarizes its conclusions:

Stone found that just about 2 out of 10 mass killers were suffering from serious mental illness. The rest had personality or antisocial disorders or were disgruntled, jilted, humiliated or full of intense rage. They were unlikely to be identified or helped by the mental-health system, reformed or not.

Some of the commenters on this article argue that  sociopaths are indeed mentally ill, and this whole topic is just a matter of semantics. In this blog post, I discuss the use of the phrase “the mentally ill” and experts weigh in on who that includes and how this phrase  perpetuates stigma.

Blaming violent crimes on “the mentally ill” is an easy thing to do but the truth is it’s a complicated issue. One thing is perfectly clear, however. People with OCD are no more likely than anyone else to resort to violence.


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

You’re Beating OCD – Now What?

by stuart miles freedigitalphotos.net

by stuart miles freedigitalphotos.net

For many people, the journey through obsessive-compulsive disorder and back to good health is a long one. Getting a correct diagnosis, or even just recognizing you have OCD, often takes years. Then comes the search for appropriate treatment, followed by a long-term commitment to therapy and hard work. We know recovery is possible, but it is rarely a “quick fix.”

I try to imagine what it must feel like, after being controlled by OCD for so long, to finally have your life back. Relief. Gratitude. Excitement!

Yes, but for many, also add trepidation and confusion, with a helping of uncertainty.

What do I do NOW?

For many people, living with a good-sized case of obsessive-compulsive disorder is a full- time job. Obsessions, compulsions, more compulsions, getting stuck, avoidance, more compulsions, planning your next move, more compulsions – it can literally take up all your time. When my son Dan’s OCD was severe, OCD is all he “did,” day in and day out. It truly steals your life.

So when you finally get your life back, it can be disorienting and scary. What do you do with all this free time that no longer belongs to OCD? How can you be sure to live that happy, productive life you’ve worked so hard to reclaim?

I have heard from quite a few people who have had this issue, and it’s not unusual for OCD to try to worm its way back into their lives at this time. All the uncertainty about what’s to come lends itself to a ripe breeding ground for OCD. In addition, the person with OCD might start to obsess about how he or she thinks she is supposed to feel, or maybe even wonder if they ever really had OCD to begin with?

Hopefully, those who have made it this far in their battle will recognize OCD if it rears its ugly head and see it for what it is – a big bully trying to regain control. Of course, the way to keep it at bay is by continuing to use exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy.

Back to the question of “What do I do NOW?” the answer is clear. You live your life the way YOU want to, not the way OCD wants you to. You identify your goals and work toward them within the framework of your values. What do you want out of life? While to some people the answers are obvious, others might need some guidance to help figure out their path. A good therapist can be invaluable.

Let’s get back to those feelings of Relief. Gratitude. Excitement! Because for all those whose lives are now unencumbered by OCD, anything is possible. Your hopes and dreams really can come true!





Posted in Mental Health, OCD | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

OCD and Alcohol

by pong freedigitalphotos.net

by pong freedigitalphotos.net

As many of us already know, obsessive-compulsive disorder is a disease of doubt, fueled by uncertainty. But in some ways, certain aspects of OCD can also be viewed as an addiction. In this post, I talk about Jon Hershfield’s description of reassurance-seeking behaviors:

If reassurance were a substance, it would be considered right up there with crack cocaine. One is never enough, a few makes you want more, tolerance is constantly on the rise, and withdrawal hurts. In other words, people with OCD and related conditions who compulsively seek reassurance get a quick fix, but actually worsen their discomfort in the long-term.

So are those with OCD more prone to addictions? Are they more likely to become dependent on alcohol, or illegal drugs, than those without the disorder?

I thought it was an interesting question, so I decided to research it a bit, focusing mainly on alcohol addiction. I found a lot of articles stating that yes, those with OCD are more prone to becoming alcoholics than the general population. Statistics varied, hovering around the twenty-five percent mark. These articles were full off anecdotal evidence, but I didn’t come across any scientific research on the subject. So who knows?

It is not surprising that people who are suffering greatly in general might resort to alcohol to dull the pain. Many of us know people who “self-medicate” or we might even take part in this ourselves. For those with OCD who self-medicate, alcohol can indeed take the edge off the anxiety they’re feeling and even help free them from obsessive thoughts.

But….once the alcohol has worn off, anxiety as well as obsessions are likely to return with a vengeance, leaving the previously “self-medicated” person with not only worsening OCD, but an alcohol problem as well. Another thing to consider is that many people with OCD take medication for the disorder, and alcohol is known to interact with these medications, including SSRIs.

I’m fortunate that my son Dan never resorted to self-medicating. In fact, he went in the totally opposite direction. He does not drink alcohol at all. When I once asked him about it, he told me that when his OCD was severe, and he was overly medicated as well, he felt totally out of control of his life. It was a horrible feeling, and he hated it. Why would he drink and willingly put himself in that position again? He said he realized there were a lot of things in his life that were out of his control, but he was going to do his best to control the things he could. Ah, good ‘ol Serenity Prayer.

Makes sense to me.







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

Healed Not Cured: OCD Remission & Relapses

People often ask me if my son Dan is “cured.” This post by my friend Jackie says it all perfectly:

Posted in Mental Health | 2 Comments

OCD and Sensitivity

by dusky freedigitalphotos.net

by dusky freedigitalphotos.net

As most of us know, obsessive-compulsive disorder is comprised of obsessions, (thoughts, images or impulses that recur and feel outside of the person’s control), and compulsions (repetitive behaviors or thoughts engaged in with the intention of negating obsessions). What many people don’t realize, however, is that the thoughts that become obsessions in those with OCD are typically no different from the thoughts that most of us experience.

While these thoughts might be more vivid and intense in those with OCD, the real difference lies in our reactions to these thoughts. Most people without OCD will have an uncomfortable thought come into their heads (perhaps a fear of hurting a loved one, for example) acknowledge it (“what a crazy thought”) and then just let it pass. End of story.

Not those with OCD, however. They attach meaning to the thought (“I must really want to hurt my loved one if I have this thought”) and a vicious cycle begins. I go into more detail here about how those with OCD perceive these thoughts and react to them. Also, if you are not familiar with the cognitive distortion known as thought-action fusion, I highly recommend reading this post.

My son Dan was a highly sensitive child, and has grown into a sensitive adult. In this article, there is discussion of research that concludes those with OCD are more sensitive than others, at least in regard to moral dilemmas. In my own experience with people with OCD, they often describe themselves as highly sensitive.

So are those with obsessive-compulsive disorder more affected by unwanted thoughts than those without the disorder because they are more sensitive people, or because they have OCD? Which comes first? Is being highly sensitive a factor in developing OCD, or does having OCD make one more sensitive?

And maybe the most important question of all – does it matter?

In my opinion, probably not much. While it is part of our nature to seek answers, to solve  the puzzle so to speak, I don’t think it really matters which comes first. What matters is we recognize that those with OCD are often quite sensitive, and if this becomes an issue in treatment, interactions with others, or in any other way, it should be addressed.

The good news, as I’ve said before, is that we don’t have to completely understand OCD to successfully treat it. Whether you’re highly sensitive or not, if you have obsessive-compulsive disorder, exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy is the way to go.



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

OCD and Restrictive Eating

by Idea Go freedigitalphotos.net

by Idea Go freedigitalphotos.net

When my son Dan was in the throes of severe obsessive-compulsive disorder, he could not eat. I have previously discussed how his symptoms could easily have been mistaken for an eating disorder, but that is not what he was dealing with. He was neither fixated on his weight nor his body image. Rather his focus was on keeping his world safe, and for whatever reason, his OCD convinced him that could be achieved by not eating. The restriction and denial of food, in Dan’s case, was a compulsion. And a dangerous one at that. As is often the case in the world of OCD, Dan achieved the very thing he was trying so hard to prevent. Instead of keeping his world safe, he put his life in jeopardy, courtesy of OCD’s demands. Continue reading

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

Happy Father’s Day

by david castillo dominici freedigitalphotos.net

by david castillo dominici freedigitalphotos.net

I’d like to take time, on this day set apart for dads, to thank my husband for being an incredible father – his unwavering love and support for his children (and me) have been a blessing in all our lives. He has been a dad for almost thirty-one years, and I cannot think of one instance when he was not there when he was needed.

Of course there are all kinds of ways to be a good dad. Spending time with your children, loving them, and providing for their material, physical and emotional needs are at the top of the list. Gary did (and still does) all those things. But never with any fanfare. His simple gestures such as initiating a game of catch, showing interest in one of his children’s latest hobbies, or doing some financial advising, are just some of many ways he shows he cares.

As is often the case, a person’s true character and strength become apparent not when things are going smoothly, but when life gets difficult. Our family has had our share of illnesses, crises, and even tragedy. In each case, Gary was there to ease our pain. Whether offering a shoulder to cry on, being calm and rational, or doing what needed to be done (as in something as mundane as grocery shopping), he was there. What more could anyone ask for?

So thank you with all my heart to my husband, and to all the dads out there who do whatever they need to do to keep their families healthy and happy. While you might not be acknowledged nearly enough, we love and appreciate you beyond words.

Happy Father’s Day to you all.


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