Category Archives: Personality Disorders

The ABCs of OCD

The ABC's of Obsessive compulsive disorder

These days, it’s common to hear Americans say “he is OCD.” We laugh and understand that the person is unrealistically particular or strict in his behavior. That’s funny and lighthearted, but the REAL meaning of OCD in a clinical sense is really NOT funny at all. Let’s make a distinction between the OCD people laugh about and the very real clinical condition of OCD.

What is OCD?

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce anxiety (obsessions), repetitive behaviors that are engaged in to reduce anxiety (compulsions), or a combination of both. While many are concerned about germs or leaving their stove on, people with OCD are unable to control their anxiety-producing thoughts and their need to engage in ritualized behaviors. As a result, OCD can have a tremendous negative impact on day-to-day functioning. These rituals can be illogical or strange, having little to do with the fear. For instance, a person may click his heels together 7 times to stop obsessing about how they swallowed their last meal; someone may have to click the light switch 8 times to believe that he is allowed to sleep; or the rituals can be completely logically connected such as continued hand washing because of the fear of having germs or being contaminated in some way.

OCD has often been referred to as the “disease of doubt” because its sufferers are not quite sure if they did the last ritual quite right or are unsure if they really completed it correctly! They may need to repeat it until it’s exactly correct. The routine can be exhausting – hours every day can be involved in a severe case of OCD.

How do people develop OCD?

There are several theories on the development of the disorder. The behavioral theory says that a person with OCD connects certain objects or situations with fear, and then uses avoidance toward the feared objects or situations or performs rituals that help reduce the fear. This pattern of fear and avoidance/ritual may begin when people are under periods of high emotional stress, such as the death of a loved one or a divorce.

The cognitive theory suggests that as long as people interpret intrusive thoughts as “catastrophic,” and as long as they continue to believe that such thinking holds truth, they will continue to be distressed and to practice avoidance and/or ritual behaviors. According to this theory, people who attach exaggerated danger to their thoughts do so because of false beliefs learned earlier in life.

The biological theory involves the regulation of brain chemistry. Research into the biological causes and effects of OCD has revealed a link between OCD and insufficient levels of the brain chemical serotonin. Serotonin is one of the brain’s chemical messengers that transmit signals between brain cells. Serotonin plays a role in the regulation of energy levels, mood, aggression, impulse control, sleep, and appetite. All of the medicines used to treat OCD raise the levels of serotonin available to transmit messages (1).

How common is OCD?

It is estimated that OCD affects approximately 1% of American adults. The average age of onset is 19 years old (2) which is the typical age of a college age freshmen.

What do these rituals look like?

Remember that you can have the obsessions ONLY and still be diagnosed with OCD (they cannot get obsessional thoughts to go away or move from one obsession to another). People who also have the “compulsions” do rituals to try to make the obsessions or anxiety calm down or go away. Frequent rituals are checking items over and over (the stove being left on or the locks on the windows/doors), washing hands/avoiding germs by extreme rituals, tapping and clicking objects, counting (the number of stairs, ceiling tiles, telephone poles, etc), or having to have all objects in a row, lined up evenly, or symmetrical.

What do you do if you think you (or a loved one) has OCD?

Well, first of all – don’t obsess about it! A mental health professional can diagnose the condition properly and knows how to treat the condition. OCD can be treated by counseling, medication or a combination of both. Family physicians and psychiatrists are more prone to use the biological model in treating OCD and prescribe medication.

Remember, it’s not the presence of a few obsessive thoughts or checking a couple of times that makes the diagnosis real, it’s the excessive degree of these things which interfere with one’s life that makes it a diagnosable condition. The next time you hear “he’s OCD”, ask a few more questions!

(1) Centre for Addiction and Mental Health – website 2012 – Toronto, CAN

(2) NIMH Website 2015 The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Call Perspectives of Troy Counseling Centers at (248) 244-8644 if you or someone you know could benefit from speaking with a caring, qualified therapist.

by Eric Nordquist, MA, LPC

Are You A Hoarder? Common Signs Of Hoarding Addiction

Hoarding Addiction Signs

Hoarding addiction has gained massive attention over the last decade, thanks to popular shows like Hoarders and Hoarding: Buried Alive. People who were once thought to be packrats or simply “messy” are not seen as victims of a problematic addiction. This begs the question: Are you a hoarder? What is the difference between a hoarder and a collector? Can you be both?

Let’s take a look at some common signs of hoarding addiction so you can seek treatment as needed.

Clutter That Reduces Your Quality Of Life

Clutter itself is not necessarily a sign of hoarding. If you have more necessary belongings than your home will accommodate for, you’re bound to have full shelves and packed closets. However, if your clutter starts to impact your quality of life, you may in fact be a hoarder. If you can no longer access your kitchen or bathroom because of the amount of items you have accumulated it is time to seek out therapy for your addiction.

Self-Isolation And Depression

If you feel embarrassed to have people over because of the state of your living conditions, you may turn to self-isolation. Many hoarders find more comfort in their belongings than they do in their relationships with friends and family members. They use shopping and collecting as a form of depression treatment, using “stuff” to fill a void in their lives. If you have become more of an introvert as your “collection” has increased, you may be considered a hoarder.

Disorganization, Both Mentally And Physically

Hoarders often struggle with organization in all areas of life, both in terms of their surroundings and in their train of thought. If you have a hard time finding items in your home or making decisions in your personal life, you may be developing a hoarding addiction. You may even go as far as exemplifying signs of ADHD because of your inattentiveness and lack of focus. As your addiction develops, these symptoms will become more intense and more damaging.

Guilt And Shame

Hoarding addiction is a vicious cycle. Many of the symptoms of hoarding often lead to feelings of guilt and shame, either when people come over or when you bring new items home. For instance, if you suffer from shopping addiction as part of your hoarding, you may feel guilty after everything is unbagged. The hunt for bargains and great deals is invigorating, but it is followed by a terrible downward spiral.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our discussion where we will go over even more signs of hoarding addiction.

Bipolar Disorder More Apparent In Children With Bipolar Parents

Parents With Bipolar Disorder

A new research study in Pittsburgh suggests that children are more likely to show signs of bipolar disorder if they have one or more bipolar parent. This information could be vital in the early diagnosis and treatment of bipolar disorder, improving the lives of at-risk children and their loved ones.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Before we go into detail about how this new research could improve bipolar treatments in the future, we need to go over what bipolar disorder really is. This condition, also known as manic depressive disorder, involves extreme mood shifts that occur without warning or stimulation. Someone suffering from this condition may go from a state of elation to a state of deep-set depression in a short period of time, creating a series of struggles that only get worse if left untreated.

If you or someone you know may have bipolar disorder, talk to your physcian about getting a evaluation. You may also read over the signs of bipolar disorder to see if you are showing symptoms of this condition.

How This New Bipolar Study Impacts Treatments In The Future

In order to have the best chance at success with manic depressive disorder, it is best to being treatment at the first signs. This new study shows that children whose parents suffer with bipolar disorder may exemplify signs of the condition themselves long before a medical diagnosis. Recognizing these symptoms may allow therapists and physcians alike to create treatment plans for children before their symptoms spiral out of control.

In the study, researchers assessed 391 children with at least one bipolar parent and 248 children without bipolar parents over the course of seven years. The children were all from the Pittsburgh area, and they ranged in age from 6 to 18 years old. In the group with a bipolar parent, moderate bouts of manic behavior during childhood proved to be indicators of serious problems later on in life. These episodes were not severe enough to warrant a psychiatric evaluation at the time, but they appeared to be predecessors for mental health issues to come.

The lead researcher for the study, Dr. David Axelson of Nationwide Children’s Hospital, says that carefully monitoring children from bipolar households may prompt early-testing and treatment for developing manic conditions. Dr. Axelson referred to the subtle signs as “a distinct period of a mood change where they might be excessively happy and or angry or explosively irritable beyond what you would expect.”

As research scientists continue to look for early indicators of manic depressive disorder, therapists here at Perspectives Of Troy work to improve the lives of clients ongoingly. If you are in need of treatment for bipolar disorder, or any mood disorder, do not hesitate to reach out to us at: 248.244.8644.    Remember, “You Need Not Walk Alone”.