Brain and Behavior

Dirty Little Secret: Help for Children of Hoarders

Amanda grew up with a mother who hoarded everything from shoes to coupons. Newspapers were stacked in the bathroom of her childhood home, clothes were piled so high on her mother's bed that she slept on the living room sofa. Amanda rarely ate at home because the kitchen counters were covered with Penny Savers, and on the kitchen table was a mound of bills and letters that had yet to be filed or thrown out.

In fact, “thrown out” was a term Amanda never heard growing up.

Like most children of hoarders, Amanda kept her mother’s disorder to herself, because she didn’t understand it and because she feared that friends would treat her differently and make fun of her behind her back. She simply made up reasons why they could never meet at her house. She suffered from the hang-up that practically all children of hoarders describe as “doorbell dread,” the panic felt when someone arrives at the door.

As an adult, Amanda eventually cleared out her mother’s house and helped her settle into a retirement community. Although the hoarding is considerably better, Amanda still feels the need to barge in once a month to make sure that boxes aren’t collecting in the hallway and the bathtub isn't storing newspapers or clothes.

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ADHD and ADD

Is Anyone Normal Today?

Take a minute and answer this question: Is anyone really normal today?

I mean, even those who claim they are normal may, in fact, be the most neurotic among us, swimming with a nice pair of scuba fins down the river of Denial. Having my psychiatric file published online and in print for public viewing, I get to hear my share of dirty secrets—weird obsessions, family dysfunction, or disguised addiction—that are kept concealed from everyone but a self-professed neurotic and maybe a shrink.

“Why are there so many disorders today?” Those seven words, or a variation of them, surface a few times a week. And my take on this query is so complex that, to avoid sounding like my grad school professors making an erudite case that fails to communicate anything to average folks like me, I often shrug my shoulders and move on to a conversation about dessert. Now that I can talk about all day.

Here’s the abridged edition of my guess as to why we mark up more pages of the DSM-IV today than, say, a century ago (even though the DSM-IV had yet to be born).

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Brain and Behavior

10 Steps to Conquer Perfectionism

Perfectionism.

It's the enemy of creativity, productivity, and, well, sanity. In The Artist's Way, author Julia Cameron writes: "Perfectionism is a refusal to let yourself move ahead. It is a loop -- an obsessive, debilitating closed system that causes you to get stuck in the details of what you are writing or painting or making and to lose sight of the whole."

But you don't even have to be creating anything to be crippled by perfectionism. It can also frustrate your efforts as a mom, a wife, a friend, and a human being. Because no one and no thing is perfect in this blemished world of ours.

I tackle this adversary everyday. And although my inner perfectionist clearly has hold of my brain many days, I do think I am handcuffed less often by the fear of messing up than I used to be. Here are 10 techniques I use to break out of the prison of perfectionism in order to live and create as freely as I can in an imperfect world.

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Brain and Behavior

Good Perfectionism versus Bad Perfectionism

Although perfectionism undoubtedly brings me suffering and pain, I’ve come to appreciate the snobby part of my personality because it also bear gifts, especially over time.

For the last three years, perfectionism has placed me in an okay spot in a terrible economy. Had I not invested so many hours into networking and writing blogs the last five or so years -- sometimes on top of full-time employment and other responsibilities -- I would not have a job right now. And spending a night or two recently with friends of friends I knew back in high school made me proud of all the therapy and recovery I have done since graduating.

Had I not held myself to a high standard back then, I wouldn’t have quit drinking at the age of 18, and may still be hitting the bars at night.

Perfectionism can even be noble when we are able to turn the neurosis into acts of service, where we help others in similar pain.

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Brain and Behavior

Dr. Jon LaPook: Living With OCD

In case you missed it, Dr. Jon LaPook, chief medical correspondent for the CBS Evening News, penned an important post on the Huffington Post about OCD.

For his CBS segment, he interviewed Jeff Bell, KCBS radio broadcaster and author of "Rewind, Replay, Repeat: A Memoir of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder" and "When In Doubt, Make Belief: Life Lessons from OCD."

In his Huffington Post piece, Dr. LaPook writes:
"It's my OCD." I hear that on and off from friends and patients who half-jokingly use the term to describe overly careful behavior (such as double-checking to make sure the stove is off) but don't actually have obsessive-compulsive disorder. True OCD can be a devastating disease. Patients have intrusive, uncontrollable thoughts and severe anxiety centered around the need to perform repetitive rituals. They can be physical such as hand washing or mental such as counting. The behavior significantly interferes with normal daily activities and persists despite most patients being painfully aware that the obsessions or compulsions are not reasonable.
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Brain and Behavior

Compulsive Hoarding and 6 Tips to Help

It's been awhile since I covered the topic of compulsive hoarding, because the last time I did I posted photos of my nut collection and book pile, and the next thing I know I was contacted by Discovery Disney to be fixed on some hoarding special show. Seems like that's kind of a pattern, now that I think about it. I go public with my stuff ... I get invited onto shows!

Well, anyway, I was reading an article in the Fall 2007 issue of The Johns Hopkins Depression & Anxiety Bulletin -- an interview with Gerald Nestadt, M.D., M.P.H, Director of the Johns Hopkins Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Clinic and Jack Samuels, Ph.D., an assistant professor with a joint appointment in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Department of Mental Health at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins. Wow. That's a lot of school.

I found out that, even though most folks lump compulsive hoarding into the same illness umbrella as obsessive-compulsive disorder, hoarders actually have different brains. The brain-imaging research shows that people with compulsive hoarding have distinct abnormalities in brain function compared to people with non-hoarding OCD and those with no psychiatric problem.

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Depression

Why Ruminating is Unhealthy and How to Stop

Ruminating is like a record that’s stuck and keeps repeating the same lyrics. It’s replaying an argument with a friend in your mind. It’s retracing past mistakes.

When people ruminate, they over-think or obsess about situations or life events, such as work or relationships.

Research has shown that rumination is associated with a variety of negative consequences, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, binge-drinking and binge-eating.

Why does rumination lead to such harmful results?

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Accepting Imperfection

Professional organizer Debbie Jordan Kravitz was a perfectionist through and through.

“I’ve struggled with perfectionism all my life. Between having parents with perfectionistic tendencies and my own people-pleasing and competitive nature, it’s been a part of me for as long as I can remember,” she said.

As a wife and mom of two young kids, her perfectionism seeped into everything, no matter how big or small. She dwelled on her flaws and failures — defined essentially as “anything less than perfect.” But as any perfectionist truly knows, perfectionism is unreachable. It sabotages your self-image, squashes your satisfaction and turns life into a series of disappointments.

In the book The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, researcher Brené Brown says that perfectionism is a shield, a self-created safety net that we think will shut out the bad stuff. (It doesn’t.)

“Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment and shame,” Brown writes.

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General

8 Ways To Pitch Perfectionism

Although it can lead to imperfect -- or even damaging -- consequences, many of us strive for perfection anyway.

Procrastination, ironically enough, is one of those unfortunate consequences.

"In our pursuit of unreachable standards, we endlessly spin our wheels rather than move forward. In some cases, we never even start. The quest for perfection can be so intimidating that our productivity screeches to a halt,” said Debbie Jordan Kravitz, professional organizer and author of Everything I Know About Perfectionism I Learned from My Breasts. For some people, perfectionism can become all-consuming, so “reaching perfection is all they can see, feel, want or even need,” she said.

Fear of failure is part of perfectionism.

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ADHD and ADD

Evidence Based Treatments for Children, Teens

We talk a lot about the different types of research conducted in psychology that measure the effectiveness of various treatment methods. In fact, we publish daily news stories that cover a lot of new research findings every week. Some of the treatment research has to do with medications, some with psychotherapy, and some with other methods of treatment.

But it's all confusing and can be more than a little overwhelming. Take, for instance, the contradictory findings and results surrounding antidepressant medications. Some research says they are no better than sugar pills -- placebos. Other research says they can be effective, but you just need to find the right one at the right dose. It's hard to know what the research really says as a whole.

Wouldn't it be nice if there was a central database or clearinghouse where you could find such information?

Well, at least in the world of psychotherapy and interventions for children and teenagers, now there is.
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Alcoholism

The Pocket Therapist: Mental Health To Go!

Imagine a GPS navigational system that said something like this: "In approximately 30 minutes, you will run into your old boss, who will want to make you feel like a worthless pile of feces. Erect personal boundaries immediately.... I said, Get in your bubble, Woman ... Are you listening? She's approaching you on your left. Lock up all childhood tapes now (the ones that convinced you that were weak, ugly, and pathetic) and DO NOT, I said DO NOT play them for her. Remember, their messages are no longer valid. Proceed carefully. You will speak to her in approximately 3, no 2, no 1 second."

Me? I would like one of those.

So I made one. In book form.

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