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!

So, What Is OCD?

PLEASE NOTE: I have absolutely no medical, psychological, or counseling training. I am just a Christian woman who has lived with anxiety for all of my life. I like to read books on OCD, to attend lectures and support groups for OCD, and I like to hear about the lives of other courageous anxiety disorder sufferers. The summary below is simply my understanding of OCD and it's treatment, from my own personal life experience, both as a sufferer, and as a CBT patient. I hope this is helpful for you.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an extremely painful and disabling mental illness with the potential to completely devastate lives and families. It is an anxiety disorder, because a person with OCD suffers from terrorizing anxiety.

OCD is grossly misunderstood across the board. Media portrayals seldom get it right. Not every person with OCD is anxious about contamination. Some couldn't care less about germs! In addition, it seems like everyone with OCD tends to struggle with a combination of different themes. My themes tend to focus mostly on contamination, hyper-responsibility, Hit and Run OCD, some mild Scrupulosity, and lastly, getting in "trouble" with the law or some other authority. Others might struggle with a combination of intrusive thoughts, symmetry issues, and a fear of illness/dying. Or others might just struggle mostly with a single theme, such as Scrupulosity. Each sufferer's symptoms might look wildly different from others who fight the same illness, but it is the thought processes that are generally similar amongst those who have OCD. Doubt, perfectionism (to an unbelievably unhealthy level), and an incredible fear of uncertainty are usually the driving forces behind the illness. Faulty brain wiring tells the sufferer that there is danger when there isn't any, and it also tells the sufferer that those ridiculous looking actions will prevent that danger. Some of these actions might be repetitive praying, checking a door lock many times, arranging things just so, avoiding certain "bad" numbers or colors, avoiding "emotionally contaminated" people or locations, reading and re-reading things many times, or touching a left shoulder because the right shoulder was previously touched and now the person feels "uneven."

OCD gets its name because those with the disorder struggle with obsessions and compulsions. An obsession is a frightening, anxiety causing thought. An example of an obsession is, "Oh, no, I think I hit someone with my car and unknowingly committed a hit and run." (This is known as Hit-And-Run OCD.) This horrifying thought will come without any real evidence or proof of a car accident. A compulsion is any thought, action, or non-action, that is performed to lower the anxiety caused by the scary obsession. Here are some example compulsions to the previous Hit-And-Run OCD obsession:

*Thought (mental) compulsion: The person replays the drive over and over in their head to reassure them-self that they don't remember hitting anyone;
*Action (physical) compulsion: The person drives back to the scene of the supposed "hit and run accident" to check and make sure there is no dead or injured body left on the road, and/or the person checks the local news to make sure there are no reported injured or dead bodies found in the area of where the supposed accident took place;
*Non-action compulsion (a/k/a avoidance): The person refuses to drive any more because they continually fear hitting people with their car (or they fear that they've already hit and hurt/killed someone, but that they just never got caught).

The person has no control over the obsessions which continue to replay repeatedly in the mind. So compulsions are performed, because, for a brief time, they do help the anxiety to come down. However, this relief is short-lived, sometimes only lasting seconds, so the compulsion will tend to be performed over and over again in order to bring that feeling of relief back. Sometimes, the compulsions do not appear to "make sense" or logically match up with the obsession. A person might wash their hands 3 times because they feel they are contaminated, but another person might wash their hands 3 times because they fear a plane will crash if they do not do this. Eventually, because the compulsions do not provide the needed anxiety relief, the sufferer often will unwittingly expand the compulsions to include other mental compulsions, action compulsions, or non-actions, in a never ending circle to try and end the pain. Unfortunately, with the way the brain is wired, performing compulsions often leads to encourage the performance of more compulsions. Over time, if a person has a severe enough level of OCD, life becomes nothing but a tormenting series of obsessions and compulsions, with no end in sight. Normal functioning can become nearly impossible. It is unbelievably agonizing and horrifying to live this way. I know this from my own personal experience.

In order to be diagnosed with OCD, a person has to be consumed with obsessions and/or compulsions for a minimum of one hour a day. The heartbreaking truth is that most people are way beyond one hour a day by the time they walk into a therapist's office, according to a recent study I came across. This doesn't surprise me in the slightest. Thankfully, there is effective treatment. This treatment is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT uses a technique called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). Essentially, a person will be exposed to something they are obsessing about (or are afraid of), and, with therapeutic encouragement and support, the patient will forgo performing the compulsion that would normally take place. When a patient first performs an ERP, he or she will often struggle with extreme anxiety. However, very often, (in fact, it always worked like this for me), each time the patient repeats the ERP, the anxiety will be less and less. At some point, ERPs may be performed with little or no anxiety. I have experienced this in some areas of previous struggle.

An example ERP for Hit-And-Run OCD might be to have the patient drive, and when he or she hits a bump in the road or feels for some reason that a person has been hit with their car, to keep driving and not turn back to check the area for injured or dead "victims." This is extremely difficult at first, but with repeated practice, it gets easier.

The cognitive part of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps to address the faulty and exaggerated thinking (cognitive distortions) that usually accompanies the illness. It is easier to fight something when you realize your perception of the situation is not accurate. I particularly appreciated learning how to undermine cognitive distortions as my thinking was dominated by them. However, ERP absolutely still must be performed in conjunction with this to achieve the best outcome.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) are also good additional treatments to CBT/ERP. Though, again, I believe ERP still needs to be the central focus of good treatment.

In addition, medication is often used to supplement CBT/ERP. Medications commonly used for this purpose are called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI). It is my personal opinion that it is best for a patient to only see a psychiatrist to obtain this type of medication, because psychiatrists are especially trained in the usage of these powerful drugs.

CBT/ERP is difficult and very painful. I will not minimize this fact. However, it is do-able, and best of all, it works! I can personally attest to this, as I saw my own life improve dramatically, and my overall anxiety level became tremendously lower after finishing treatment. I wish you well on your own journey to healing.

If you would like to discuss this further, please feel free to leave me a note under the page entitled "Got Questions?".