OCD as a Barometer & How it Can Help
Anyone who’s been around obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) knows that completely erasing OCD from a sufferer’s life is unlikely. I’m not here to imply differently.
However, I do think people can feel much better than they do now. I believe we all have health barometers that indicate when something is out of balance. We feel the pressure building inside us. As individuals, we’re wise to recognize our own barometers and learn from them.
Many people with anxiety disorders have thought “it’s all in my head.” After getting a diagnosis of OCD, I’ve heard folks express great relief when they realize they’re “not crazy” and begin to recognize the sneaky ways OCD obsessions blossom in their mind.
A support group can recommend local practitioners who work with OCD and give you the opportunity to connect with fellow members who understand what you’re dealing with. There are now support groups online. Loved ones can learn how to be supportive without enabling.
Such support can be helpful in relationships when the person with OCD is clear about which compulsive act he or she is working to diminish. This can take the burden off of other compulsions and allow someone to concentrate on what is foremost in a person’s Exposure and Response Prevention therapy.
OCD can ramp up when someone is mentally stressed or physically ill. Anxiety of any kind contributes to the overall strain on your body. Stress comes in many forms. It is wise to evaluate how emotional, physical and lifestyle choices may aggravate your overall health.
Ever hear the term “gut feeling?” The gut is also referred to as the “second brain.” The gut and the brain communicate, for better or for worse.
Do you feel physically well? Has anyone tried to explain how discomfort in your brain and body can be connected? Have you sought out expertise to determine the reason why those chronic physical maladies plague you? If so, are those recommendations working for you? If not, those bothersome bodily symptoms may need to be readdressed in order for you to make progress with your OCD therapy.
One of the roadblocks here is that if you’ve always felt a certain (somewhat lousy) way, you may not consider it unusual. For example, I had terrible allergy symptoms throughout childhood. I had 20-minute sneezing fits morning and night with an itchy mouth and watering eyes. I distinctly remember how pleasant it was the first time I smelled spring flowers without a sick headache. I was 27 years old by then!
The list of physical imbalances that affect mental health is long. How it looks and feels individually will vary. Some of them include digestive distress, food intolerances (with or without gastrointestinal distress), a tired adrenal system, a poorly functioning thyroid, and substandard sleep. Of course, an anxiety-related disorder can exacerbate any of those conditions. A medical doctor should be part of everyone’s care team.
Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy is one of the most valuable tools for working on OCD. It’s important to find a psychologist who has significant experience with ERP and OCD. That professional can coach you not only with the process of ERP, but also help you recognize all the ways OCD creeps into your life.
Let’s look at another scenario where physical and emotional health can be connected. Folks in the height of OCD operate in panic mode much of the time. They can’t relax, at least not easily, because they feel they’re always on the brink of disaster. Sleep may not be restorative anymore. Their hypervigilant minds continue endlessly even when they are physically exhausted. Anxiety puts a heavy burden on the adrenal system.
This is one area where an integrative professional, such as a nutrition therapist, can help. Nourishment of the adrenal system is often necessary because it is being overused. Herbs, adrenal glandular supplements and B vitamins can help. Some commonly ingested food and drink activates the stress response. These include caffeine, alcohol, sugar and processed foods. They may give short-term relief, but will degrade adrenal function in the long run and should be reduced or eliminated.
It’s up to the individual to decide what method he or she wants to try to improve their OCD symptoms and whether to incorporate more than one method at the same time. It’s critical to work with a physician when medication or addiction is part of the equation.
An OCD toolbox should offer the opportunity for whole body and mental wellness, and provide the ability to function optimally in society. It’s all connected. What is your barometer telling you?
Shepard, D. (2014). OCD as a Barometer & How it Can Help. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 7, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/01/22/ocd-as-a-barometer-how-it-can-help/