OCD Symptoms and Confusion

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I’m having problems with counting, thoughts, and more. I am 14 and I have been acting OCD for over two years. It started out small but it has worsened a lot! Two years ago my sister was having troubles and she was having mental conditions and physical problems. During this time all my family’s attention went to her. When no one was around I would do certain things in hopes that she would get better. My parents were arguing a lot and considering divorce and I tried even harder then. After a while things seemed to calm down but bad thoughts controlled my brain, I had to keep doing the “rituals” to get the thoughts of of my mind.

It’s been messing up my sleep patterns and I am just lost. I do stupid things like count. I count EVERYTHING! I count the stars when they come out until they have reached a certain number. I could/touch ever key on the computer before I get on cause if I don’t I think it’s going to break and my mom and dad will get mad because they need it for work. I’m completely paranoid and check that nothing is behind me several times in an hour. It’s been messing up my education because I can’t get thoughts out of my mind and I have to check 3-7 times that I have the right answer. One of my teachers told me my brain was broken in front of the whole class and I am in an advanced course. It just added to the rituals. Another things is that sometimes I have to blurt things out even if I don’t want to. It makes me seem really rude but if I don’t say them I get really shaky and I almost cry. My mom and dad get really mad because I “interupt” a lot. I’ve tried asking a website much like this before but they couldn’t help me a lot. I only think I’m OCD because I watched a movie and the girl had turrets and I noticed I had many of the same symptoms. This message isn’t even saying the half of it. I have to wash my hair four times because I’m scared that I will have to shower again if my hair isn’t clean enough and I’m super scared of water. I hate it but I have to stay in there as long as I can just so that I’m clean enough to not have to go again for a day.
I’m really scared because of all the symptoms that apply to me. Currently I have to listen to a song 27 times before I watch a TV program I want to watch cause if I don’t I think my parents are going to split. Today my mom told me that my dad was going to have to move out and I tried to stay strong and not cry by tapping on the chair. (I was pretending to play the piano. I was playing the same song as I am listening to right now) I feel bad writing so long, but I’m scared. I can’t remember anything anymore I loose all concentration. I can only stay focused when I’m with one of my friends. It’s weird but I hardly ever have to do rituals around her. Whenever I do a task for someone I have to make sure I did it right. I’ve had my mom tell me how to do something 4 times in a row just so that I won’t mess up and when I mess up I get really nervous. I have to add to the rituals. Every night I wake up 3 times. (3, 5, and around an hour or two before I wake up) When I wake up I go down the hall and make sure my sister is home and in her bed. I can always tell cause she locks her door. She is slightly OCD (along with more thing) and she has to lock her door. Her therapist is okay with it and everything. If it isn’t locked I lock it for her but I’m afraid if I don’t check on her she’ll die or have more severe problems again. I don’t wanna say her problems but for all of them I have to do something different.

I try not to do things around my family but sometimes I have to. Counting takes up at least an hour of my day. I am a dancer and an ice skater, when I am “working out” I have to do certain things. I have to do 27 or 54 single spin type things (on both sides) before I leave. It use to be every 30 minutes and just as many as I could do in 1 minutes. But I’ve made it take up less time by just having to do it before I switch rinks or studios and before I leave. I also check that the oven is off and the doors are locked a lot.

I mainly do things to thoughts and images out of my mind. I also do many other things but I don’t want to waste to much of your time. I can’t remember anything from one minute to the next and it’s really messing me up. And… (I can’t remember what I was going to write. Imagine that) Well, I feel like I can’t tell anyone because whenever I try something comes in the way. My sister said when she tried to tell my parents things they would just say she was being silly or making up things. My parents wouldn’t take me seriously and I REFUSE to talk to them. I really wanna talk to a therapist and if it really is a problem then I would tell them. My friend that keeps me focused is kind of like a therapist to me. She listens to me and helps me out. Lately I’ve been hallucinating and the only way I can get rid of the things I see is by doing weird things that I can’t explain. Stepping on certain tiles in a specific order and running up our 15 stairs in 5 or 6 steps. I keep falling and bruising my knees and my parents think it’s from ice skating. My bedroom is getting full of things because I have kept every item that has anything to do with my childhood in a different country. I can’t throw the stuff away, I’m afraid I’ll never get to go to the country again if I throw anything away and I need to go back because I didn’t have any problems then. My family didn’t have problems either.

I’m gonna stop here but I need help!!!! I don’t have money to go to a therapist to see if I might be OCD. How do they find out? Do I just tell them everything above and more? I’m scared of therapist’s cause of certain things. I have to leave my parents out of this for as long as I can because I don’t want to worsen things and I don’t wanna stick a hole in their pockets. They are gonna separate and I can’t do anything about it. The rituals aren’t working!!!! I need help! Please help me. I know you can’t give an official diagnosis but maybe you can help me feel more relieved. When I told my school councilor about everything mean one of my teachers had said to me he told me he couldn’t do anything about it. He talked to her and it worsened and I wasn’t aloud to not have her as a teacher. I’m scared to talk to people about my problems now. I am just confused and lost and sad and I just want some love and help to get rid of my problems. Please help me even if you feel this message was a waste of time, I know it’s long and I keep getting distracted I’m just really upset and confused and sad. Please help. Please.

A. I have great sympathy for your situation. I hope that my answer will provide some relief.

Based on the information provided, you may have OCD. This diagnosis would have to be verified by an in-person mental health professional who reviewed your current symptoms and psychiatric history very thoroughly.

You also have difficulty parting with certain items in your possession. This might be an early sign of hoarding which is a specific type of OCD. According to anxiety disorder research, hoarding occurs with relative frequency in OCD sufferers. Hoarders are sometimes referred to as “pack rats.” This is because they tend to amass items that to the outside world seem excessive and are of little or no value.

You learned that you may have OCD from a movie in which the character had Tourette’s syndrome. I am not certain if you also believe that you have Tourette’s syndrome but nothing in your letter would lead to that conclusion. Again, I cannot know what your diagnosis is because of limited information. I would strongly encourage you to see a mental health professional in person.

It is believed that individuals develop OCD in response to a traumatic event. You named two events that may be considered traumatic: your sister’s illness and your parents’ forthcoming divorce. These events may have caused you to feel overwhelmed, insecure, anxious, and vulnerable. All of these feelings are very unpleasant. In an attempt to decrease the unpleasant feelings, you may have developed rituals. Rituals, or repetitive behaviors, are maladaptive attempts at controlling chaotic or unpleasant events or situations. The repeating, tapping, and counting are likely the rituals that you developed to deal with your anxiety regarding the impending divorce. The rituals are your attempt at controlling an uncontrollable situation.

Rituals are maladaptive because they are ineffective. You seem to realize this in regard to your parents’ divorce “they are going to separate and I can’t do anything about it. The rituals aren’t working…”

The reality is that no amount of repeating, tapping, or counting will keep your parents together. It is important to understand that your rituals will never bring about positive change. There is no connection between your rituals and events in the world.

Currently, your stance is that you do not want to speak to your parents about accessing help. You also said that you purposefully try not to engage in your rituals in front of your parents. These might be ways of avoiding dealing with reality. OCD feeds on avoidance. I believe there is a better way to approach this situation.

Reconsider your position of “refusing” to speak to your parents. Your parents need to know about the problem you are dealing with. They also need to be told that their possible divorce is affecting you in a negative way. You should not hide this information from them. The only way your parents can help you is if they know the truth. If you continue to withhold the truth then the risk is that your OCD may increase in intensity. The sooner you seek help for OCD the better. According to your letter, your sister has a therapist. The same type of help would likely be available to you if your parents were aware of your situation.

In the meantime, you should resist the urge to engage in your rituals. I understand this is very difficult. Individuals with OCD engage in rituals because it helps them to feel better. The rituals can decrease anxiety but only in the short-term. The decrease doesn’t last. Usually, individuals with OCD often find that they have to engage in more rituals, more often. If untreated, OCD can be debilitating. This is why it is important that you receive help sooner rather than later.

I would also encourage spending more time with your friend who helps to decrease the desire to engage in rituals. The more time you can spend with her the better. Try to analyze what about her presence helps you to relax. Knowing this information might help to uncover important strategies for dealing with your anxiety.

You should also attempt alternative and healthier methods of decreasing your anxiety that include: exercising, stretching, deep breathing, watching television, reading a book or a magazine, writing your thoughts in a journal, writing a letter to a friend, and other related activities. I would also recommend educating yourself about OCD.

There are specific treatments for OCD that have been proven to be effective. One of the best treatments for OCD is exposure and prevention response therapy. It is a specific type of cognitive behavioral therapy. Sometimes medication can help as well. There is no reason for you to continue to suffer when effective treatments are available. This is the attitude you should take your possible OCD.

I hope you are able to receive the help that you need. Please talk to your parents immediately. Thank you for your question. I wish you well.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 25 Jul 2010

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2010). OCD Symptoms and Confusion. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 24, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/07/25/ocd-symptoms-and-confusion/