Can Virtual Compulsions Help those with OCD?

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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

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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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Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery…Some News and a Book Giveaway!

Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery was first published in January 2015 and has reached many people in the United States and beyond. I am happy to announce that the book is now being published in paperback and will be available September 2017. I’m not sure of the actual release date yet, but will keep you posted!

To celebrate this event, I am holding a Book Giveaway! My plan is to give away two signed hardcover copies of Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery to readers of my blog. Everyone is eligible. Just leave a comment below this post before the deadline of August 23, 2017. I will then randomly pick two commenters to receive the books and the winners will be announced on my blog.

Good luck to all!

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OCD and Time Management

by digitalart freedigitalphotos.net

Thoughts on time management as young people head back to school and college. 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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