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OCD

OCD and Computational Psychiatry

There is a relatively new field of research known as computational psychiatry, which focuses on the development of mathematical models to better understand defects in the brain -- defects that lead to adverse behaviors.

A new study published in the journal Neuron discusses findings from this type of research into the fundamental processes of OCD. Senior author Benedetto De Martino says:
"Medicine today is very much about decoding the mechanisms in the body. When we are talking about something like a heart valve, that's a mechanical part that can be clearly understood. But the brain is a computational device that has no mechanical parts, so we need to develop mathematical tools to understand what happens when something goes wrong with a brain computation and generates a disease. This study shows that the actions of people with OCD often don’t take into account what they’ve already learned.”
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Anxiety and Panic

Screening Your Sanity

“Do you not give a damn about your father?” my Dad growled into the phone.

The truth is I cared -- probably too much. And for my own health and well-being, I had to step back from my Dad’s snark-filled comments and Mt. Vesuvius rage.

Family -- or at least the idealized notion of family -- is sacrosanct to me. I cherish my relationships with my beloved aunties and uncles. When they aren’t teasing me for the latest Mattism (losing my keys, wallet, or mind), they are prodding me about my latest love interest or travel escapade. And as for my late mother, she was equal parts mentor and matriarch. From joyfully recalling the day’s events to lunching with her and her tennis girlfriends to Thanksgiving bowl-a-thons, I smile -- ruefully -- at the fond memories. There is a tinge of sadness too as I recall our family’s joyfulness.
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Anxiety and Panic

Why We All Have Clutter and How to Get Rid of It

I feel like a massive hypocrite writing this piece, because substantial messes are found in virtually every square foot of my home.

In fact, the last time I broached the topic of clutter in a blog, I posted a photo of my book piles and nut collection and was immediately contacted by a hoarding show to be "fixed" by an expert.

Even though I fail miserably at decluttering my home, I do know it’s an important piece of
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Anxiety and Panic

The Smallest Talk

“Oh, the weather today was beautiful. Do want to talk about the meaning of life?” I ask.

While I facetiously save meaning of life questions for the second date (first date conversations generally revolve around morality tropes and ethical dilemmas -- I kid), I abhor small talk. Small talk is the conversational equivalent of a McDonald's Happy Meal: plastic and headache-inducing.

While I can smile along at small talk, my mind is jumping to more far-concerns concerns, "Why are we talking about Beyonce’s latest outfit when the refugee crisis is blotting Europe or the Republican health care plan threatens the Affordable Care Act? Or my mental health issues are strangle-holding me into submission?"
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Agitation

Just Right: OCD and Kids

Landon was a bright intelligent child. He had excelled academically and also enjoyed sports. However, OCD appeared to be getting in the way of his life. There were times when he could not get out of bed because the thought of having to get dressed overwhelmed him. His socks needed to feel just right as well as his shirt and pants. He would repeat the behaviors until he felt just right about it. He seemed to be late to school every day.

Things in his room had to be just so. He would be angry and become aggressive when he noticed someone had been in his room. New belongings were challenging as well. When his parents bought him new items such as a backpack, shoes, or clothes, he refused to use or wear them. He quit violin lessons because playing the wrong notes distressed him. His parents felt helpless and lost.
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OCD

OCD Awareness Week 2017

The 9th-annual OCD Awareness Week begins today.

It always takes place during the second week in October with the purpose of raising awareness and understanding of OCD and related disorders, as well as the appropriate treatment. Many people with obsessive-compulsive disorder know that finding the right help is often one of the toughest battles in the fight against OCD.

Some estimates say it can take as long as 14-17 years from the onset of symptoms to get a correct diagnosis and treatment. Though my family didn't realize it at the time, my son was one of the lucky ones -- it took about two years after his diagnosis to get him the right help.

While that's "not bad" in terms of OCD treatment, it is still much too long. It should have taken days, maybe weeks, but certainly not two years.
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Caregivers

OCD & Exhaustion

When my son Dan’s obsessive-compulsive disorder was severe, he was always exhausted. At first, I attributed his lack of energy to the fact that he rarely slept well. But it soon became obvious, even when sleeping was not an issue, that he always felt tired.

Why?

I think there are many reasons why those with obsessive-compulsive disorder are often exhausted. Living with nonstop anxiety can be draining. Many people with OCD are also depressed, and depression and lack of energy often go hand in hand. Additionally, some medications used to treat OCD are known to cause fatigue.
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Caregivers

OCD and Shopping Anxiety

By the time my son Dan entered a residential treatment center for OCD, he was barely functioning. Using exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy he tackled his hierarchy (a list of anxiety-provoking situations created by the person with OCD), and slowly but surely regained his life.

During his stay, one of his exposures was to go on shopping trips and make purchases. All types of shopping proved difficult for him -- buying groceries and necessities, clothing, etc. But the more expensive purchases, particularly if they were for himself, seemed to be the most stressful.

But he did it. And he felt the overwhelming anxiety. And he refrained from doing compulsions. Over and over again until shopping was no longer an issue for him.
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Anxiety and Panic

How We Inadvertently Increase Mental Health Stigma

Even if we see ourselves as advocates for increasing acceptance and understanding of people dealing with mental health issues, most of us are probably unconsciously contributing to mental health stigma.

We talk about being “depressed” on gloomy days, or “OCD” about the cleanliness of our homes. We remark that our friend has “PTSD” from a bad work week, or is “paranoid” about germs.

Most of us are guilty of having spoken these terms and phrases in everyday conversation. If not, then we've definitely heard others use them colloquially. We aren’t being literal, and there’s no real harm, right? Wrong -- and the damage we are doing is probably much more significant than we realize.
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Anxiety and Panic

Stroller Wars: Parenthood Isn’t for Everyone

“Just wait until you have your own kids; you will see,” a friend’s mother claims. “Kids are such a joy.”

Within ten minutes, I experienced that joy firsthand. As my college buddy and I attempted to fritter away a lazy Saturday, his kid was having a bigger meltdown than Chernobyl. First, she hurled a toy at her young brother. And when that flying projectile didn’t connect, she opted for a solid right hook. That connected -- and induced a shrieking cry heard 'round Seattle.

“Maybe, it is time for Uncle Matt to exit stage right,” I laughed -- exchanging merciful, pitying looks with my college buddy.
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Anxiety and Panic

Driftin’ Away

“Well, when I graduated from college, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. So what do most reasonably smart, analytical types do after college? They go to law school,” I wryly chuckled to my counselor. “It is a three-year holding pattern for the chronically undecided. It is the new open studies major.”

Unlike some friends (“I knew I wanted to be a pediatric doctor at age four,” a long-time confidante once told me), I drifted into my profession. There was no sense of calling -- unless you count my father’s hysterical phone calls about turning down a prestigious law school. Truthfully, law school was more of a fallback than bubbling “C” on those deceptively difficulty Iowa Test of Basic Skills multiple choice tests.
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