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OCD and Therapy



A hot guy counting coins…if that isn’t OCD eye candy, I don’t know what is. I don’t know about you guys, but I feel better. Oh, right, therapy. Let’s talk about therapy.

If you’ve read some of my other OCD posts, you know I’m a therapy dropout. I’ve gone through therapy three times. The first time was in the middle of my nervous breakdown and I don’t remember much of it…other than the psychologist thought I was faking being mentally ill and my therapist–well, I didn’t like therapy or the meds they’d put me on so, ironically, I faked being well to get out of therapy.

The second and third time I was in therapy, I ran into what I’ve heard is a common problem with those with Pure-O–with your obsessions and compulsions being largely in your mind–traditional therapy can make you paranoid. Like really paranoid. Oh, sure, there’s a moment of catharsis when you tell your problems, but it’s followed by shame, embarrassment, and extreme paranoia. Luckily, I saw two excellent therapists who recognized it was making me worse. The second therapist taught me mindfulness therapy and referred me to the third while suggesting therapy might not be right for me. The third therapist said that, for the first time, she was recommending I stop therapy and go back on medication.

It was…disheartening at first. I felt like I couldn’t make myself better–only medication could, but I’ve since recognized that medication holds back enough of the thoughts that I have a chance at healing myself.

Part of the problem with the generally accepted OCD therapy called exposure therapy and my brand of OCD is that it relies on exposing yourself to that thing you avoid and learning new coping mechanisms and to realize it’s not a rational “fear.” I expose myself (good grief not that way) all the time. I live my nightmares and I just am very, very twitchy because of it. I also avoid my issues, but that’s only successful to a certain degree. I have two kids…and I love kids–there isn’t much I wouldn’t be willing to do on the behalf of a child. I’ve faced my biggest issues and that hasn’t made them less powerful. And I know my issues are irrational. Honestly, there are those with, obviously, a greater familiarity with traditional therapy and could give you more insight into it working–because it DOES work…for many people, just not me.

I brought up mindfulness therapy. Mindfulness, as I was taught to practice it, is a form of active meditation. It consists of being aware of the moments and the world around you without the emotions and judgments you normally make. For example, if you stepped outside your house and it was raining, practicing the mindfulness approach would consist of you concentrating on the sound of the rain, the feel of the rain, the look of the rain all around you. How green it makes things. How soothing the tapping is as a sound and a feeling as the cool rain drops along your skin. Then, maybe you’d concentrate on your red umbrella. On the sound of your feet as you bolt for the car. On your neighbor out on their doorstep watching the rain. You’d recognize all the sensory details.

How does this help?

Okay, we’ll replay the scene with my normal inner dialogue. “Oh, it’s raining. Crap. I’m going to be driving in this. I’ll be soaked and moist all day…ugh. Moist is a gross word. And then the roads will be slick. I might slip off the road and die. At least it’s making things green. Hopefully things don’t flood. Hopefully my garage doesn’t flood. *sighs* Here I am thinking of myself when floods kill people. It’s not raining that bad. But the kids probably will have to be out at recess in this…hopefully, they don’t slip and get hurt. Oh, look, the neighbor is out…she shouldn’t be. What if a car slid on the slick roads, jumped the curb, and killed her? If she died, it’d be my fault for not telling her to go back inside. Don’t be stupid, Wendy. It’s not your fault. Nobody would stop and do that. I feel wet and cold. I’ll probably get sick.”

You can see why mindfulness therapy is a bit…needed. I don’t use it as often as I should and there are probably better explanations if you Google “mindfulness.”

So, that’s my experience with therapy. By the way, the picture of the guy stacking coins is because repetitive sorting behaviors like that soothe me. I like to stack coins, fold laundry (but that’s the only part of laundry I like), and sort objects. I don’t feel compulsive about it, but it is soothing…like therapy. Also…hot guy sorting coins…it felt right. Don’t judge me.

This post is just about therapy itself, but there are vast ways to treat OCD in all its forms. Right now, in addition to medication, I exercise, read, write, meditate, do yoga. Some people listen to music or find other outlets. There are a lot of ways to treat OCD. The primary and most helpful way is to take care of your body’s physical health through exercise, nutrition, and sleep and, then, also, seek professional help. In fact, I can’t stress exercise enough. The endorphins from exercise are good for coping. Seriously, it does a body and a mind good.

**These posts are about my experiences with OCD as a nonmedical professional. Please seek the advice of a real pro if you or a loved one might have OCD.**

13 Responses so far.

  1. Oh my – those thoughts. The never-ending roller coaster of thoughts – I loathe that. And my brain will eventually get overwhelmed by all the horrific scenarios and choose one on which to completely obsess.

    What if someone slides on the water and runs into that lady? What if *I* slide and run into her? What if I hurt her? What if I DID run into her and I just didn’t notice? How close did I come to where she was standing? Could I have clipped her without knowing? What if she’s down on the pavement and I’m a murderer? What if I have to go to prison? I should go back and check on her. No, Rhonda, you’re being silly – you would NOTICE if you’d hit someone. But what if I didn’t notice…


    Thankfully the meds make those overwhelming thoughts a little less overwhelming and my rescue anxiety meds, if taken in time, can keep me from running too far down that dark road. Still, it’s always a balancing act.

    • EXACTLY. It’s like you reached into my head and pulled out my thoughts. Those are exactly the thoughts that run through my head too. And they’re all so irrational, but knowing that…doesn’t help. *sighs* and *hugs*

  2. bethovermyer says:

    I’m a therapy drop-out as well.

    I had one psychiatrist tell me that OCD is an illness made up by rich people O_O He then went on to try to freak me out with germ references, argue religion and morals with me, and told me I was selfish. The ***** then charged me a buttload of money (none of which insurance covered.) Yeah, he made the OCD worse to the point I just wanted to die. He’s still practicing at the Cleveland Clinic, even though he doesn’t really believe in the disorder.

    Another told me I belonged in a home for the mentally handicapped (my dad works for a group of homes like that.)

    Another wanted me to just get over it, and that I had the mental maturity of someone seven years younger and that I should look into that.

    Another wondered if I got the illness on purpose.

    So, yeah. Therapy really isn’t for everyone, and if it is, a lot of times, you have to keep looking and looking until you find the right person.

    • That’s nuts. That guy is crazier than either of us.

      I HATE when someone believes an education on a subject invalidates others’ personal experiences. There is a wide world out there and his is a tiny-minded opinion. I’m sorry you went through all that crap.

  3. Jaime (Spider-Jaime) says:

    You see “Hot guy sorting coins”, my first thought was, why is he so darn close to the coins? What’s wrong with him? “Nearly Blind Hot Guy Sorts Coins…by Smell.” Sorry if I ruined the picture for you…but seriously!

    • Heidi says:

      I couldn’t figure out why the hot guy was sorting into uneven stacks. He clearly needs help counting correctly and I could be that person to hold his hand and teach correct sorting methods. Ha ha

      • His stacks ARE uneven. But no one is perfect. And his eyelashes are so pretty. Truthfully this was like a penny-pinching sort of picture, but…well, I liked it…and who is to say he isn’t counting them because he enjoys counting?

    • He does look like he’s sorting by smell. But, crap, sometimes it’s okay to pick different parameters for sorting. Don’t get all judgey.

  4. Yoga does a body good, but the company doesn’t hurt either;)

  5. This is *exactly* why I could never go to therapy. Though I have compulsions, they’re minor, and mostly mental (I do a loooot of counting). Besides the fact that opening up would be painful, admitting things that I do that *I* think are normal might be seen as ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ would make things so much worse. I know that a lot of my thoughts and behaviors are because of OCD, and I know how irrational my thoughts can be. Nothing someone can tell me will make those things better.

    Therapy can TOTALLY help a lot of people. Just…not me, or others with a similar OCD situation. (The Pure-O that you mentioned)

    Also, totally have to second the exercising tip. I used to loathe physical activities because they’re were forced on me (school/PE, parents, etc). But on my own goal to get in shape, I love taking walks, which slowly transitioned into running a little bit at a time. I find it clears my head like nothing else. 🙂

    • There’s a certain amount of judging that comes with therapy–no matter how objective your therapist tries to be. Sometimes your coping mechanisms are harmless but exposing them for someone else to judge…and then therapy is no longer therapeutic. I get what you’re saying.

      Exactly on the walking/running. Something about exercise like walking makes the voices in my head spread out so they’re not all at once. I can get so much plotting for books done by taking a walk. I still typically read when I’m on the treadmill, but I suspect with NaNoWriMo coming up that I’ll be taking walks to work out plot points.

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