Podcast on The Invisible Wheelchair

renjith krishnan

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Donald Grothoff over at The Invisible Wheelchair.

If you’d like, you can listen to the podcast here:






A special thank you to Don for taking the time to speak with me!


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OCD and Shopping

by pong freedigitalphotos.net

By the time my son Dan entered a residential treatment center for OCD, he was barely functioning. Using exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy he tackled his hierarchy and slowly but surely regained his life.

During his stay, one of his exposures was to go on shopping trips and make purchases. All types of shopping proved difficult for him – buying groceries and necessities, clothing, etc., but the more expensive purchases, particularly if they were for himself, seemed to be the most stressful.

But he did it. And he felt the overwhelming anxiety. And he refrained from doing compulsions. Over and over again until shopping was no longer an issue for him. At the time I thought this fear of shopping was an odd obsession, but I have since heard of others with OCD who, for whatever reason, have difficulty shopping. For some people it might be about having to make the “right” decision, others might have an issue with spending money, and still others might feel something tragic will happen if they make a particular purchase. The list of possibilities goes on, but no matter what the reasons are behind a fear of shopping in those with OCD, the treatment is the same – exposure and response prevention therapy.

But what about the opposite of being afraid to shop? Hoarding disorder is very real and can affect both those with obsessive-compulsive disorder and those without. While it is   related to OCD, it is considered a distinct disorder, and a complex one at that. Those who hoard form very powerful attachments to objects and for many, having to dispose of possessions makes them feel as if they are losing a part of themselves. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been shown to be effective in treating hoarding disorder.

As with most things related to OCD, it can get complicated. While my son Dan’s fear of shopping was tied into an obsession (and his compulsion before treatment was avoidance of shopping), for others with OCD, shopping might present as a compulsion. For example, a person with OCD might feel as if they have to buy a particular clock they saw in a store or something horrible would happen to someone they love. Or they might believe if they go ahead and buy the clock, something terrible might happen. In both cases, the obsession is something terrible happening, and the compulsion, which gives temporary relief, is buying (or not buying) the clock. Shopping as a compulsion might or might not be related to hoarding disorder as well. Yes, it can be confusing!

If you have OCD and deal with shopping (or fear of shopping) as an obsession or compulsion, I strongly suggest seeking good professional help with an OCD therapist. What it all comes down to, once again, is learning to not give in to OCD but instead accepting the uncertainty of life. Once this is accomplished, most people with OCD experience a level of freedom they never thought possible.

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Can Virtual Compulsions Help those with OCD?

by praisaeng freedigitalphotos.net

A recent study concluded that those with obsessive-compulsive disorder might get relief from watching someone else perform compulsions as opposed to having to do them on their own. The study involved ten participants with contamination OCD who were shown various “disgusting scenarios,” and some were asked to touch these “contaminated” objects. Each participant experienced significant relief just by watching a researcher wash his or her hands– even those participants who had touched the object themselves. More  trials with more participants are already underway.

While this is certainly an interesting study, is watching “virtual compulsions” something that could actually be helpful to those with OCD? Isn’t it just replacing one compulsion with another one? The premise behind exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy is that the response (compulsion) should be prevented – not substituted with a different compulsion (watching someone else perform a compulsion). If someone’s compulsion is hand washing, they should work toward not washing their hands, not watching others was theirs.

But what if someone’s hand washing compulsion has left them with red, raw, painful hands? Wouldn’t it be better to watch a video of someone washing their hands than continue to hurt yourself while washing your own hands? I’m thinking it can be seen as more of a stepping stone to response prevention than as a substitute compulsion. The person with OCD could go from severe hand washing to watching someone else washing their hands and then to no hand washing compulsion at all. Those with OCD would still work toward embracing the uncertainty of life by not performing compulsions at all – it would just be a more gradual approach. For those who have skin-picking or hair-pulling compulsions, or any other self-harm compulsions, I think the use of virtual compulsions could be really helpful.

I’m not a therapist, and these are just my own thoughts. If someone is considering using virtual compulsions, I think it is really important to do so under the supervision of an experienced OCD therapist. You don’t want to get stuck just substituting one compulsion for another – you want to always have the end goal of not performing any compulsion.

I’d be interested to hear what those with OCD think of this new finding, and if you feel it might be helpful for some people with the disorder?

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Thoughts about the Texas Flood

by atibodyphoto freedigitalphotos.net

While I try to keep up with what’s going on in the United States and the world, I am the first to admit I often stay away from the news – especially these days. If I pay too much attention to our country’s problems and issues, it affects me to the point where I can’t function well. And then what good am I to anybody? So I have chosen to pay attention to current events –  just enough to be informed, but not enough to interfere with living a good, productive life.

Recently, however, I’ve been glued to the news reports about the disaster in Texas. I’ve never seen anything like this in my life – flooding beyond belief – with so many people displaced and in need of help. Devastation on so many levels.

And yet, I can’t look away. The reason? I’m humbled and amazed at the strength and courage of all the people out there who are willingly putting themselves in harm’s way for the sole purpose of helping others.

Firefighters, police, the Coast Guard, and medical professionals of all levels are working tirelessly to save lives. They are all heroes. What I find most inspiring, however, is the fact that “everyday people” are out there in their trucks, boats, and Jet Skis when they don’t have to be; they are posting their phone numbers on Facebook so those who need help can reach them. They are risking their lives to help men, women, children, the elderly, those who are ill, and those who have disabilities. Nobody is comparing political views or only saving “their kind.” It’s simply people helping people and it is heartening to see.

You might be wondering what this post has to do with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Well, not much. But since I tend to relate everything to OCD, it has crossed my mind that there are likely hundreds (if not thousands) of people with OCD in Texas who are directly involved in either the disaster relief, or are in need of assistance themselves.

How are they coping? How are they dealing with contamination fears, fear of harm, and everything else OCD might be throwing at them?

Well, while I don’t know for sure, my guess is they are rising to the occasion and doing what they need to do. As we have seen over and over, when disaster does actually strike, those with OCD are usually just as capable of handling adversity as those without the disorder. All that worry and anxiety over what might be, and it turns out that people with obsessive-compulsive disorder are braver than they ever thought possible. I just wish there didn’t have to be a tragedy for some people to realize how much strength they actually have.

Having spoken about OCD in Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas, I feel a personal connection to the OCD communities in Texas. I will continue to keep everyone there in my thoughts and prayers…..


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Helping Teachers Understand OCD

by Paul Gooddy freedigitalphotos.net

The last in a series of school-related posts….

I’ve previously written about how important and necessary I believe it is for educators to have, at the very least, a basic knowledge of OCD and other brain disorders. The Child Mind Institute is an excellent resource about OCD for teachers (and parents as well). Now that most children are heading back to school, some anticipated as well as unanticipated issues or concerns might arise. If this is the case in your family, I highly recommend checking out these links, and even sharing them with the appropriate school personnel:

What Does OCD Look Like in the Classroom?

A Teacher’s Guide to Helping Kids with OCD

It’s hard enough for children with OCD to have to deal with school and their disorder without being misunderstood by their teachers. I think the above articles are good stepping stones toward getting young people with OCD the support and understanding they deserve. I also encourage parents and guardians to help spread the word about what OCD looks like in the classroom. The more we can educate others about OCD, the better off we will all be!

Wishing everyone a successful school year!



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And The Winners Are……..

Thanks to everyone who entered my book give-away contest! Two winners were selected using random.org and I’m please to announce their names:

Bobbie Slade

Dina Mcelfresh

Congratulations! Please email me at ocdtalk@yahoo.com by August 30, 2017 and include your mailing address.

I wish I could send a book to all those who entered, but it’s just not possible. I will keep everyone posted on the upcoming paperback due out in September 2017. Also, many public libraries carry the book, so please check out your local library. If they don’t have it, you can ask them to consider ordering a copy or two. My publisher, Rowman & Littlefield, is well known throughout the library circuit.

Again, thanks to everyone who participated!

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Back to School with an OCD Checklist

by stuart miles freedigitalphotos.net

A previously-shared post – helpful for this time of year………

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 (and teachers) 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!

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