On today’s episode, sponsored by NOCD, designer and producer Sam Temple shares her experience living with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and her long journey to getting a diagnosis. Today’s episode is sponsored by NOCD (learn more at treatmyocd.com).

We delve into the many misconceptions about OCD, and Sam emphasizes how different forms of the disorder, like relationship OCD, severely impacted her life. Her psychiatrist recommended NOCD’s exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy, and she shares her experience with ERP treatment and NOCD.

Sam now advocates for treatment and community support, and she finds solace and purpose in helping others navigate their OCD journeys. Listen Now!

“I had the same misconceptions about OCD that most people had at that time. Where you think, ‘Oh, it’s just, you know, being afraid of germs or being super tidy.’ I’m the messiest person there is. So, you know, it didn’t make sense to me at first.” ~Sam Temple

Sam Temple

Calling into the podcast today, we have Sam Temple. Sam is an artist, designer, and producer in the YouTube industry for the H3 show. She lives with obsessive compulsive disorder, and OCD advocacy has become a huge part of her life. She is here today to discuss her life with — and her treatment for — obsessive compulsive disorder.

Gabe Howard

Our host, Gabe Howard, is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, “Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations,” available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from the author.

Gabe makes his home in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio. He lives with his supportive wife, Kendall, and a Miniature Schnauzer dog that he never wanted, but now can’t imagine life without.

To book Gabe for your next event or learn more about him, please visit gabehoward.com.

Producer’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.

Announcer: You’re listening to Inside Mental Health: A Psych Central Podcast where experts share experiences and the latest thinking on mental health and psychology. Here’s your host, Gabe Howard.

Gabe Howard: Hey, everyone, welcome to the show. I’m your host, Gabe Howard. Calling into the podcast today we have Sam Temple. Sam is an artist, designer and producer in the YouTube industry for the H3 show. She is someone who lives with obsessive compulsive disorder and OCD advocacy has become a huge part of her life. Sam, welcome to the podcast.

Sam Temple: Thank you for having me. This is so exciting.

Gabe Howard: Oh, it is exciting for me too. Before we jump in, I want to give a great big shout out to NOCD. They are the sponsor of this episode. You can learn more by going to NOCD.com or treatmyOCD.com. Now, Sam, I was really surprised to learn that it takes on average 14 to 17 years to be diagnosed with OCD. How long did it take you to get a diagnosis?

Sam Temple: 22 years.

Gabe Howard: Oh, wow. Wow. You’re on the other side of the average.

Sam Temple: Yeah, and when I got diagnosed, so much of my life made sense. In retrospect, I was like, oh, that’s what that was. Oh, okay. Okay. So lots of learning happened as soon as I kind of knew what was going on with my brain.

Gabe Howard: When you say going wrong with your brain, what are some examples of that for our listeners?

Sam Temple: I well, the intrusive thoughts. Number one, I thought that these were my real thoughts, my real feelings, like, oh, oh, I’m thinking about hurting myself. I must want to hurt myself. I’m thinking about what if I used to have this one when I was young, where I would say, what if I don’t love my cat anymore? And it would just it would cause me so much distress and I would just get in this loop, and every time I would see my cat, I’d be like, oh, there’s that cat you don’t love. And I’d be like, no, it’s not true. So I just kind of noticed that I would get stuck in thought patterns and loops that would cause me really extreme anxiety and distress, and these thoughts did not align with my values. They did not align with what I knew about myself. And I thought that was weird. That was really alarming. And it just got worse and worse.

Gabe Howard: Before you went for treatment, what was your life like? I mean, you’ve described some of it, but overall, was this a hindrance? Were you able to work? How debilitating was this?

Sam Temple: It was really awful. I think all the time. Like how was I functioning? I don’t know how I was getting out of bed. Just yes, it was definitely a hindrance. It was. It was preventing me from, I would say no to pretty much any plan. I didn’t want to leave the house. I wanted to stay just within familiarity in my comfort zone. What I knew was safe. I didn’t want to do anything. And actually, the only time that I felt somewhat normal was when I was working. But your brain is not designed to be working all the time. I deserve to be able to relax, and I wanted to train myself to be able to relax. But yeah, it was just I was work, work, working and just trying to prevent a thought from occurring all the time. And that’s not the way to live.

Gabe Howard: Before your diagnosis, were you ever able to relax or was it just nonstop?

Sam Temple: No, I not really. I always told myself I was doing active rest, so I would never just, I would I was unable to watch a TV show, is what I explain to people all the time. I could not watch a movie. Anything that required me to sit in one place and focus on something for the for just pure enjoyment could not do that because my mind would just wander and I would just start to get obsessive, because the way my brain is set up is if you’re not worrying about something, something’s wrong. You should always be on guard.

Gabe Howard: What made you realize this?

Sam Temple: I just kind of realized as I got older, it just became more and more of a hindrance. And I was like, I shouldn’t be feeling like. Adrenaline releasing all day long. I shouldn’t be on edge all the time. And then it was like the intrusive thoughts that I was having were getting scarier and scarier. And I was like, this, I need to do something about this. Because especially with OCD, a lot of times I can’t tell the difference between like a thought that’s intrusive and a thought that’s not. And because OCD is kind of the doubting disorder, I’m constantly doubting myself. I’m like, no, you do feel that way. No, you really do feel that way. And that’s not true.

Gabe Howard: I’ve never heard OCD referred to as the doubting disorder before. Can you expand on that a little bit? Because that’s fascinating to me.

Sam Temple: Well, it just causes you to doubt everything. So you doubt all of your values and your beliefs, and you think that these intrusive thoughts are what you believe. Because especially when I was younger, I would think, oh, I’m thinking it, so I must be feeling it. I’m thinking this. So this, this must be me. And it’s like, no, you can’t control your thoughts. You can only control how you react. So that was a huge learning curve.

Gabe Howard: In some ways it sounds a little bit like anxiety treatment. I live with anxiety and bipolar disorder, so I’ve. I do not have OCD. I want to be very clear with the audience and with you, Sam, but you know, with anxiety these things just pop in your head. You have anxiety attacks, panic attacks, and you’re just you’re just like, well, why do I believe this? And you’re right, we can’t control our thoughts. But the treatment for many people with anxiety is, you know, you can think it, you can feel it, but you don’t have to react to it. I’m just curious, though, how can you tell the difference then, between anxiety and OCD? Because I believe you’ve described that you have some anxiety as well? Or is that just part and parcel of the OCD?

Sam Temple: Both. I think I have anxiety outside of OCD, but I think most of my anxiety stems from my OCD. The difference with OCD is the level of distress that these thoughts cause and the frequency. So if it’s normal anxiety, I might be like, oh, I’m really I’m really nervous about this presentation that I have to give at work today. That is an anxiety that I can separate from. Oh my gosh, what if I drive my car off a cliff? What if I want to do that? And that’s a thought that cycles in my mind 50 times a day. And I’m getting like I’m having panic symptoms because of that thought. So yeah, with OCD, it’s just the intensity and the frequency that is different from normal anxiety. But I was told throughout my whole life that what I was experiencing was just anxiety. And I just thought, oh my God, well, I must have the worst case of anxiety that there is. But being told over and over that, oh, that’s just anxiety. It was kind of isolating for me because I thought. No one has it this bad. No one is as bad as me. People. I have friends that say they have anxiety that are not doing this. So, you know, I didn’t start to feel less alone in my diagnosis until I got out of talk therapy and into exposure and response prevention therapy with NOCD.

Gabe Howard: And what led you there? What was the turning point? I know you were 22 years old and you just decided, hey, this this must not be anxiety. This must be something more serious. How were you able to finally get that diagnosis?

Sam Temple: So I went to my psychiatrist and I was so afraid of medication. Petrified because my big, big theme especially at that time and in my adolescence was health anxiety. And I grew up with a family that didn’t really believe in psychiatric medication. And I it was very stigmatized for me, especially where I grew up in the South. It was just kind of a. Why would you do that? So I just got to this point where I was like, I have to do something. I can’t be like this every day. It’s affecting my creativity, which is my biggest value. It’s keeping me from, like I said, I didn’t want to leave the house. So I went to my psychiatrist and she said, this kind of sounds like OCD. And I was like, no, I don’t I don’t wash my hands a lot. I’m not a really tidy person. And she was like, no, there’s way, there’s way more types of OCD. So she referred me out to NOCD and I, my journey kind of started there.

Gabe Howard: One of the things that I learned about OCD is that you can be messy and have OCD. And I thought, well, how can that be? Whenever anybody is super organized, they have OCD. Like that’s the that’s the phrase that is thrown. You can’t just be organized if you’re organized, clean, tidy. You have OCD. That’s what everybody says. But nothing that you’ve described so far sounds anything like that.

Sam Temple: Yeah, not at all. That’s a theme that I’ve actually never experienced. There’s so many different themes and subtypes of OCD that I have never experienced. But yeah, most people do think it has to do with cleanliness. But I’m like, no, you guys don’t understand. If the next car that drives by is white, I’m going to jump off a bridge tomorrow. That’s the type of OCD I’m dealing with.

Gabe Howard: Wow.

Sam Temple: So yeah, there’s so there’s just so many different subtypes. Like relationship OCD is another one that I experienced sort of throughout high school and middle school. I ended every single relationship that I had and even a little bit in college, just because I would get so hyper focused on intrusive thoughts that I was having about this person, where I’d be like, you’re going to mess their life up, you’re going to break their heart. You are going to be the reason why they’re traumatized. You’re going to send them to therapy. These are all things that I was kind of telling myself. Yeah. It’s been it’s been a long road.

Gabe Howard: You said relationship OCD. And while you were talking, I was fascinated by this idea that you were breaking up with people for their own good because of those obsessive thoughts. Is relationship OCD an actual subcategory of OCD?

Sam Temple: Yes it is. It’s a pretty popular one. A lot of people experience relationship OCD, and I will say I don’t personally experience it anymore. I’ve been in a five year long, very stable, healthy relationship. But it was definitely difficult when I had to end things with someone because I’d be like, I, I would have to just make up other excuses because I can’t tell someone like, hey, I have to break up with you because 25 times a day I think about how I’m going to traumatize you or how I’m going to ruin your life, and I cannot do that to you. So I need to remove myself from the situation. There’s no way you can tell someone that that doesn’t have OCD or like a concept of an anxiety disorder. So that was it was very, very difficult. But I didn’t understand what was happening to me at that time. I didn’t know, I thought that was my thoughts. I thought those were my feelings. It’s not, you know. The OCD was definitely very loud at that during that time.

Sponsor Break

Gabe Howard: And we’re back with Sam Temple, who is talking about her journey with obsessive compulsive disorder. I know you mentioned talk therapy, but had you tried any other forms of treatment before the ERP with NOCD?

Sam Temple: No. I had mostly just done talk therapy, and I had been in and out of talk therapy for most of my life, and I was always wondering, like, why am I not getting better? Something’s not working. And then that sort of furthered the belief that, like, something is wrong with me, I have an unfixable case of anxiety. So it really wasn’t until I started doing exposure and response prevention with NOCD, that I was like, oh, I’ve actually just been seeking reassurance from a therapist for the last like 15 years. And that is counterproductive to OCD. Seeking reassurance, not going to help you at all. So yeah, exposure therapy. I can’t speak highly of it enough. ERP, I cannot speak highly of that enough. It is fantastic. I have to admit, in the very beginning I was like, how is this going to help me? I don’t get it. How is this going to help me? But it started helping so quickly and I was like, wait, the things that I originally went to NOCD for and started doing ERP for. I haven’t thought about those things in like two months and it’s like, oh, that’s like tremendous.

Gabe Howard: Can you walk us through what ERP therapy is like? Like a typical session for you, for our audience members who have heard of it but have never known anybody to have tried it.

Sam Temple: Yes. So the way, the way that NOCD does this, you will develop a fear and response list with your therapist. So you will kind of work with your therapist to organize all of your fears and obsessions. And then what are the behaviors that you do because of these fears and obsessions? And then you work with your therapist to create exposures that are kind of leveled. So there will be easier exposures. And you work up sort of to more difficult exposures. But the more that you expose yourself to these fears, the easier and easier it gets. You’re just training your brain to understand that this thought or this action or this feeling or whatever is not a threat. And it I can’t. It just works.

Gabe Howard: It just works. That’s where I

Sam Temple: Yeah.

Gabe Howard: Love that. It just works. You know, I’m thinking of Indiana Jones. You know, Indiana Jones is afraid of snakes. And in one of the movies, he talked about exposure to snakes, that the more he saw snakes, the more they that he still didn’t like them, but he just sort of became desensitized to them. Now, I know that Indiana Jones is a fictional character and this is a movie, and I’m not I’m not suggesting that pop culture is where we should get our medical advice, but is that a decent analogy for how

Sam Temple: Yeah.

Gabe Howard: ERP kind of works?

Sam Temple: ERP in the beginning is difficult because you it’s a process that you kind of it’s unfamiliar and you have to get acclimated to. I mean, it can be uncomfortable. You’re exposing yourself to like huge fears and just very like deeply rooted things that you are really trying to not think about all day long. But the more just building, little by little, it just truly just chips away at the severity. And it’s just extremely helpful.

Gabe Howard: Oh, I love that it’s extremely helpful. What drew you over to NOCD? Because of course you can get ERP from other providers, but you like NOCD’s ERP.

Sam Temple: Yes. I was recommended to NOCD by my psychiatrist. It was something that was covered under my insurance, and I was like, wait, there’s, like, an actual specialized thing for OCD? And it’s super easy. Super convenient. I love my therapist over there. So it’s just it gave me so much hope that there was something that was specialized for what was going on with me, and it wasn’t talk therapy, because I expected going into that psychiatry appointment being like, okay, they’re going to refer me to another. Therapist, and I’m going to start the routine over again because I was thinking, maybe my therapist is not good, or maybe it’s me or something like that. So I was fully expecting to be put back into kind of like a just a process where I have to start from square one again. But I have not started from square one in many years, and it feels really good.

Gabe Howard: So did your psychiatrist diagnose you with OCD and then refer you to NOCD for treatment? Does that, is that the order of events?

Sam Temple: Yes. Yes.

Gabe Howard: And so clearly your psychiatrist believes in in NOCD as well. Now I’m curious.

Sam Temple: Yeah.

Gabe Howard: I know that the NOCD therapists have to go through just a tremendous amount of training. Did that matter to you? Did that factor in?

Sam Temple: It did. Yeah. I really wanted someone who was qualified for OCD because and especially knowing what I, everything I know now about OCD, it definitely does take special training and understanding of how the OCD brain works. I mean, it’s worked wonders for me. So I definitely believe in that process very much.

Gabe Howard: It’s important to point out to our listeners that there’s no cure for OCD. So even as we’re talking, Sam, you still have OCD. Do you consider yourself to be in recovery? What word do you to use to describe your life now other than it’s better now?

Sam Temple: [Laughter] OCD, it’s a journey. I would say that I am in recovery right now. Obviously it’s not going. It’s not a curable condition. It’s not going to magically go away. I’m fortunate to have times where it’s the volume is turned down on it in my head a little more, and sometimes it’s turned way up. So what’s helpful, though, is that I when it’s turned way up, I’m a little more in control and able to turn it down myself. That’s what ERP has brought me. So it’s a journey. It’s a process.

Gabe Howard: And it’s one that you probably have to work on every day. You’re never going to be able to just forget about OCD. It’s a part of your life.

Sam Temple: Yeah, yeah. What helps me, I mean, advocacy means so much to me, and being able to talk about it has brought me. I feel so much less alone and just getting messages from people that are like, I had no idea what was going on with me until I listened to you talk about it or something like that. I’m like, I needed that. I needed to I needed people to talk about it. I needed to I needed people to relate to in the beginning of my journey. And I it’s important to me that I can provide that to other people.

Gabe Howard: That’s incredible. You mentioned that people reach out to you and what do advice do you have for the newly diagnosed? Just give us all your advice on OCD.

Sam Temple: Hmm. I would say to those who are early in their journey, seek out community. Seek out other people that have OCD. I would stay off of forums. Do not google. In my case, googling conditions was horrendous for me and obviously I would definitely give NOCD a shot. I mean it, it was just so tremendously helpful and still continues to be tremendously helpful for me. But definitely speak to a psychiatrist and find some options that work best for you. OCD is different for everyone. And it can be very isolating. So talking about it and seeking help is extremely important and it will change your life if you can do that.

Gabe Howard: Sam, we’re almost out of time. But I wanted to ask you, is there anything that you’re grateful for on your OCD journey?

Sam Temple: As hard as it has been, I am so grateful that I found proper care and being able to help other people is such a core value of mine. So I am so thrilled anytime I am given the space to talk about this and hopefully help other people. It was so I can’t even explain how scary it was in the beginning to not know what’s going on with yourself, but being able to learn and be around so many advocates and be able to express my feelings freely. I’m so tremendously grateful for that.

Gabe Howard: And just to just to be clear, you’re still using NOCD and it’s still showing results.

Sam Temple: Yes, 100%. Practicing every day. I have homework every day. And it’s great.

Gabe Howard: That is awesome. You talk about having homework every day and doing something every day to manage your OCD. How much time does that take you compared to how much time OCD was eating up?

Sam Temple: I the time it takes me to do my homework every day with NOCD is beyond worth it, compared to how much OCD has taken away from me. So I have no problem spending 30 minutes to an hour every day that is putting me like months ahead compared to what I was going through. It is. It is a labor of love.

Gabe Howard: That is a great way of looking at it. Now, for our listeners, where can they find NOCD?

Sam Temple: You can download NOCD from the App Store. And yeah, you can get started.

Gabe Howard: You can also go to treatmyocd.com or NOCD.com and check them out there. They have lots of testimonials from really cool people like Sam Temple. Sam, thank you so much for being on the podcast.

Sam Temple: Hey. Thank you so much. This was so awesome. I really appreciate it.

Gabe Howard: Well, you are very welcome, Sam. And I want to give a great big thank you to all of our listeners. My name is Gabe Howard, and I’m an award-winning public speaker who could be available for your next event. I also wrote the book “Mental Illness Is an Asshole and Other Observations,” which you can get on Amazon. However, you can grab a signed copy with free show swag or learn more about me by heading over to my website, gabehoward.com. You can also follow me on Instagram or TikTok at Ask a Bipolar. Wherever you downloaded this episode, please follow or subscribe to the show. It’s absolutely free and you don’t want to miss a thing. And hey, can you do me a favor? Recommend the show. Share us on social media. Share us in a support group. Send somebody a text message. Sharing the show with the people you know is how we grow. I will see everybody next Thursday on Inside Mental Health.

Announcer: You’ve been listening to Inside Mental Health: A Psych Central Podcast from Healthline Media. Have a topic or guest suggestion? E-mail us at show@psychcentral.com. Previous episodes can be found at psychcentral.com/show or on your favorite podcast player. Thank you for listening.