Why "71º & Sunny?"

I consider 71º to be the perfect temperature. Not too cold and not too hot. I also love perfect sunny days. The vast majority of days are not 71º & Sunny and yet, all days were created by God's hand and they are still gifts, even if they don't fit my ridiculous definition of perfection. My struggle with OCD has at times imprisoned me in an impossible attempt to achieve perfection. I'm now learning to love all kinds of days that don't even come close to 71º & Sunny.

Please leave me a comment below. I really want to know what you are thinking!

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Misnomer of "Pure O"

Have you ever heard of "Pure O"? It's a term used to describe a type of OCD where the sufferer has no compulsions, but only obsessions. Obsessions are the unwanted, and often frightening thoughts that enter a person's mind, and they can cause an incredible amount of distress. Compulsions are what a person does to try to either get rid of or neutralize the terrifying obsessions - like washing their hands or turning the light switch off and on multiple times. (For a broader, but brief, explanation of the basics of OCD, including more detail on obsessions and compulsions, please see my tab entitled "So, What Is OCD?".) Many people use the term "Pure O" to describe themselves if they are consumed with horrible obsessions and they appear to have no compulsions. For example, Scrupulosity is a sub-type of OCD that at times is placed under the category of "Pure O." People with intrusive thoughts are commonly labeled "Pure O," as well.

After speaking with many OCD sufferers over the years, including several who consider themselves "Pure O," I am convinced that the term "Pure O" is not accurate. I have come to the conclusion that every OCD sufferer has compulsions of some type. Many times, the compulsions will only be mental, and because they are not physical, the sufferer (and often their therapist, if he or she is not properly trained or has limited experience with OCD) will not recognize that these compulsions exist. Moreover, if you look very closely, I suspect that most of these people also have at least some physical compulsions as well.

One of the reasons that I cringe every time I hear the term "Pure O" is that it can (incorrectly, in my opinion) reinforce the idea that the person does not have compulsions. And more importantly, it may give the idea that ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention) would not be effective for this type of OCD. I have heard more than one sufferer express their dismay that ERP won't work for them, because they think that they have no compulsions to attack with ERP.

First, it is important to recognize the compulsions. If a person tries to keep on thinking about something in a certain way, or the "right" way - that is probably a mental compulsion. Re-thinking things over and over again, to try to remember what really happened, is probably a mental compulsion. Avoiding looking at someone or something, or looking away from someone or something, because it is triggering is - yep, you guessed it, probably a compulsion (and I would say that qualifies as a physical compulsion). Leaving a room because something or someone in that room is triggering - physical compulsion. Praying over and over again to get it just right - mental compulsion. Having to be seated a certain way or in a certain position while compulsively praying - physical compulsion. Confessing things to people over and over again to reduce anxiety - physical compulsion. Avoiding going to church because it triggers fears - physical compulsion.

Essentially, anything a person actively does (mentally or physically) to minimize the pain and anxiety of the scary thoughts, is a compulsion. If the patient and therapist can identify the compulsions and separate them from the obsessions, then a plan of action can be taken to create and tailor specific ERPs to fight the OCD.

I truly believe "Pure O" sufferers are absolutely not beyond help and that there is hope for this type of OCD too.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

It's Time!

                                    Photo Courtesy of Int'l OCD Foundation

It's time once again to register for the International Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Foundation Annual Conference! It is being held in Boston, Massachusetts (why that's practically my backyard!) on 7/31-8/2. So, of course, Jim and I will be there and we hope to see you too. There are also some pre-conference events taking place on 7/30, and in addition, there is a special two day intensive CBT treatment program available on 7/29-30, with another program on 8/2-3. This special program is a great opportunity for conference attendees who can't find treatment in their home area.

I love seeing the historical
Boston architecture juxtaposed
against the new.
I have already attended 3 conferences, and I've learned something new at each. From what I understand, it is the only conference of its kind, bringing patients, researchers, and treatment providers together all at once. It is a unique opportunity to meet (and learn from) some of the very people who are working hard to bring hope and healing to the OCD community and I highly recommend attending. In addition, Boston is a great place to visit and explore.

See you in Beantown!