OCD and Dating

by nenetus freedigitalphotos.net

by nenetus freedigitalphotos.net

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it seems like a good time to bring up the topic of OCD and dating. I’ve previously written about the heartache relationship OCD (R-OCD) can cause, and it’s certainly not hard to see how having obsessive-compulsive disorder can affect all aspects of dating. Indeed, the presence of any illness can easily complicate relationships.

Of course, each relationship comes with its unique issues, so there is no “one size fits all” playbook to handle the presence of OCD. There are, however, questions I feel should always be considered:

When (not if) should you tell your significant other about your obsessive-compulsive disorder?

Although those with OCD are very good at hiding their symptoms, I think beginning a relationship based on dishonesty is never a good idea. Your partner will realize something is up, and by this point, you will likely have already told a good number of lies to cover up your OCD. In my opinion, as soon as you realize your relationship is likely more than a one or two date thing, it’s time to discuss your OCD.

What exactly should you say?

That’s a tough question, and of course each person will need to say something different. I think it’s important to stress that OCD is not who you are, but something that you deal with. I also believe you should stress that you are working hard on fighting your obsessive-compulsive disorder and with a lot of hard work and proper treatment, it can become an insignificant part of your life. Of course you can only say this if it’s true, and if you are not actively fighting your OCD, I think you need to be honest about that as well.

Should I share details about my OCD?

Again, the answer here will vary. Those who are already feeling very close to their new partner might want to share more than those whose relationship is not quite there yet. I do think concrete examples can be helpful in understanding OCD. For example, you might say something like, “Remember I really didn’t want to go to that restaurant you suggested? I know it might have seemed as if I was being selfish, but the truth is my OCD made me believe that restaurant was contaminated and I didn’t want to put either of us at risk. I know it makes no sense, and I am working on fighting my OCD, but at that moment, I wasn’t able to move forward.”

And perhaps one of the scariest questions:

How will my significant other react?

Excellent question, and a big one for those with OCD who struggle with accepting uncertainty. The answer, of course, is you won’t know until you tell them. Reactions might range from the other person walking away to total acceptance and understanding. However for most people, my guess is it will be somewhere in between. Hopefully your significant other will want to learn more about OCD and how they can best support you.

Which brings us to another important reason for being honest with your partner. Unless educated, he or she will likely accommodate your OCD, and as we know, this is counterproductive to beating the disorder. He or she needs to learn how to support you properly. Fighting obsessive-compulsive disorder is truly a team effort.

In my opinion, if a relationship is meant to be, it will withstand whatever trials and tribulations come its way. We all have our issues but when you find the right person, you can deal with them better together than you can alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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OCD and Thinking about Thoughts

by stuart miles freedigitalphotos.net

by stuart miles freedigitalphotos.net

I’ve written before about the fact that there really are no “OCD thoughts.” As I explain in this post: “…when you get right down to it, there’s OCD, and there are thoughts, but there are no OCD thoughts.” Certainly disturbing thoughts might be more vivid, intense, and frequent in those with obsessive-compulsive disorder, but the content of these obsessions  is typically no different from those who do not have OCD. You name it, most of us have thought it! It’s our reaction to these thoughts that differs.

I wrote the post mentioned above because I felt it was important for those without OCD to understand that people who do have the disorder do not have thoughts that are any “wilder and crazier” than the rest of us. There is so much misinformation and misunderstanding surrounding obsessive-compulsive disorder that I felt it was critical to set the record straight regarding “OCD thoughts.”

What I didn’t think about at the time was how crucial it is for those who actually have OCD to understand that their thoughts should not, and cannot, be divided into “regular thoughts” and “OCD thoughts.” Thoughts are thoughts. Period.

Why is this distinction, or I should say lack of distinction, so important? What’s the big deal about calling disturbing thoughts “OCD thoughts?”

Jon Hershfield does a fantastic job addressing this question. In this post, which I highly recommend reading, he asks, “..how can we view our most challenging or disturbing thoughts as our own without getting caught up in false beliefs about who we are as people? Here I think we can benefit from distinguishing between content and process.”

Jon goes on to explain the difference between content and process. In one example he compares the content of thoughts to the ingredients in soup – content is simply what the soup (or thoughts) is made of. Process is more akin to our reaction to the soup. We might love the taste, or think it’s way too spicy or even inedible. In those with OCD, it is the process (how they react to their thoughts) that deserves attention and ultimately needs to be addressed and modified, not the content (what the thoughts are comprised of).

Jon goes on to give a great argument as to why content is not important in dealing with OCD:

If your first response to any thought is to disown it (i.e. “that’s not my thought”), then you are starting off by framing your thought as a threat and this is what kicks off the obsessive-compulsive loop. There is nothing to disown. It’s just what you happened to notice going on in the mind. If you want thoughts to stop being intrusive, you have to stop treating them like they are intruders. If you want them to come and go with ease, you have to allow them free passage.

I love it!

If you want thoughts to stop being intrusive, you have to stop treating them like they are intruders.

To all those struggling with OCD, I highly recommend taking Jon Hershfield’s advice. Focus on the process – the part where you are now likely dealing with things such as guilt, avoidance, and compulsions. Change your reaction. How you might ask? You guessed it – by embracing exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy.

 

 

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OCD and Relapsing

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by tiverylucky freedigitalphotos.net

As most of us know, overcoming obsessive-compulsive disorder is no easy task. It takes hard work, enormous effort, courage, and dedication. When those with OCD regain control of their lives, it is reason to celebrate. It is an amazing accomplishment – which is why when a relapse occurs, it can be heartbreaking.

In this wonderful article written by Dr. James Claiborn, a relapse is defined “…as a return to the same level of symptoms as before treatment.” Basically, the person with OCD is back where he or she started. Relapsing should not be confused with a lapse, which is a temporary and/or partial return of some symptoms.

I am incredibly thankful that my son Dan has not relapsed since overcoming severe obsessive-compulsive disorder almost seven years ago. Has he lapsed? I’m sure he has. He still  has OCD and while he has the tools to fight and manage his disorder, I’m guessing there are times when anxiety takes over and it’s just too difficult to do what is necessary to keep OCD at bay. But it’s not the end of the world, and I think Dan realizes this. Similar to a dieter who has one piece of chocolate cake, it’s a lapse. You acknowledge it, accept it, don’t beat yourself up over it, and strive to fight harder tomorrow.

Interestingly enough, Dr. Claiborn discusses how the interpretation of a lapse can contribute to an actual relapse. Many people with OCD deal with cognitive distortions such as black and white thinking and catastrophizing. They also have a strong need for certainty, and often live with hyper-responsibility and perfectionism as well. These are all examples of absolute thinking which can affect how they view a lapse. Dr. Claiborn explains:

…If the person has a lot of distress and concludes they need to engage in some compulsive behaviors, then they have experienced a lapse. If they then engage in some absolute thinking, such as, “all my hard work in ERP is a waste because I still have obsessions and I have to do the compulsions,” they are on the path to a relapse.

Not surprisingly, part of a good relapse prevention plan involves addressing this absolute thinking. To put it simply, it’s all how you look at it. While lapses are bound to happen, Dr. Claiborn suggests they be looked at as learning experiences and not signs that a relapse is imminent. There is a lot of good information in his article, which I highly recommend reading.

Once again we see the importance of having a good therapist who really understands obsessive-compulsive disorder and how to treat it. While being skilled in exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy is of the utmost importance, addressing relapse prevention is also a must. Because when you get right down to it, getting well is only half the battle. The other half is staying that way.

 

 

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OCD and Twins

photostock freedigitalphotos.net

photostock freedigitalphotos.net

It is widely accepted that the causes of obsessive-compulsive disorder involve both genetic and environmental factors, and this theory has been supported by research. While OCD has been known to “run in families,” this doesn’t really tell us whether genes or environment plays a more prominent role in the development of the disorder. Studying twins who were separated at birth affords us the opportunity to separate these two factors. Unfortunately, as far as I know, OCD has never been studied in this manner.

There is no shortage, however, of twins with OCD who’ve been raised together, and I find their experiences fascinating. While their stories might not give us the answers we are looking for (in fact, I think they raise even more questions), they highlight the agony of OCD – times two. Continue reading

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What about Siblings?

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by sattva freedigitalphotos.net

Well, we’ve made it through the holidays, with so much focus on family and spending time together. We’ve read all the articles about how to get along with those difficult relatives that, thankfully, you only need to interact with once or twice a year. We do what we need to do, and then we’re good for another year!

But what if that “difficult relative” lives with you? What if he or she is someone you love dearly, someone you long to have a close relationship with? And what if you are too young to truly grasp the reasons why this closeness isn’t happening? Actually, there’s a lot you don’t understand. Why does he or she act oddly at times? Why (in some cases) does this person avoid you, or worse, not even allow you both to be in the same room?

I’m talking, of course, about being a sibling of someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder. I have previously written about my family’s situation and how we dealt with our daughters when our son Dan’s OCD was severe. I talk about what I think we did right, and what I think we did wrong. Of course each family’s story is unique, but for younger children who are living with a sibling with OCD, there are some questions I feel should always be considered:

Are they being teased about their brother or sister at school? Do they resent not getting as much attention as their sibling with OCD? Do they feel uncomfortable in their own home? Do they think their sibling’s OCD is somehow their fault? Do they feel frustrated because they want to help their sibling and don’t know how? Are they embarrassed, confused, jealous? Do they feel scared, or neglected? Do they think they might develop OCD also?

This is only the tip of the iceberg. So much to consider!

The Washington Post recently published a wonderful article titled “Eight things siblings of children with special needs struggle with.” While it doesn’t specifically focus on OCD, each struggle mentioned rings true for families dealing with obsessive-compulsive disorder. I highly recommend checking it out.

While it is quite possible that siblings of those with OCD will grow up to be more empathetic, responsible, and understanding than many of their peers, we must realize they are also often burdened. As are we parents. It can be heartbreaking to witness the toll OCD takes on everyone in the household. And while it is a monumental task to do right by each child in the family when obsessive-compulsive disorder is involved, it is necessary. Parents should seek support and professional advice whenever possible.

And we need to remember that children themselves can be extremely helpful as well. Asking all of our children what they feel and what they need from us is so important. Open communication among everyone in the family can go a long way. With a lot of hard work, love, and proper treatment for OCD, there’s a good chance that close sibling relationship can become a reality.

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2017 Here We Come!

by krishna arts freedigitalphotos.net

by krishna arts freedigitalphotos.net

For many people, with or without OCD, the onset of a new year stirs up a wide range of emotions……hope, trepidation, excitement, fear. Basically, a little bit of everything as we look ahead.

I find myself looking back as well. As I reflect upon this past year, both personally, professionally, and globally, I realize that as with every other year, there were ups and there were downs. I feel lucky to have so many blessings in my own life; at the top of the list are my wonderful family and friends. But I’ve also had my challenges in 2016. Haven’t we all? Isn’t this in fact, LIFE? The highs, the lows, and everything in between. Continue reading

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Relationship OCD (R-OCD)

by sira anamwong freedigitalphotos.net

by sira anamwong freedigitalphotos.net

This post originally appeared April 2011. I’d like to wish all of my readers who celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah a very happy holiday…….

I am continually learning about OCD, and the more I learn, the more I hate this disorder. I had never even heard of  Relationship OCD (or R-OCD), but it’s not new, and all of a sudden I seem to be reading about it everywhere.

Basically, those with R-OCD believe that they should no longer be with their spouses (or significant others) either because they do not love them anymore, aren’t compatible, or whatever. I’m not talking about  those fleeting thoughts that we all have once in a while (sorry Gary). I’m talking about unrelenting, strong obsessive thoughts that tell the sufferer to get out of the relationship. These feelings are so overpowering that some people even become physically ill because of them.

One of the reasons why these thoughts are so distressing is because, as with other OCD thoughts, the sufferer knows his or her thoughts are not rational. But these thoughts torment nonetheless. They incite doubt. So it is upsetting and  confusing to not only the person with OCD, but to his or her partner as well.

From everything I read, R-OCD can come on quite suddenly. It is most common in those with other OCD traits, though there do seem to be cases of those with just R-OCD. And it often goes misdiagnosed or even undiagnosed. The treatment is the same for OCD in general: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (specifically ERP) and/or medication. And finding the right therapist is paramount.

Left untreated, sufferers commonly will either be in an on-again off-again relationship with the same person, or be in a series of failed relationships. How sad is that? That even one of the most basic human desires, to love and be loved, can be shattered by OCD.

Like I said, the more I learn about OCD, the more I hate it.

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