Mind Matters: My Brain on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
My personal journey with OCD, in the form of intrusive thoughts, began when I was only 11 years old. These thoughts would get “stuck” in my head and would play over and over again. This became increasingly stressful. My temporary solution was to go through my own personal ritual which made things better for awhile. This was not a permanent solution and the thoughts always resurfaced. At this age, I had no idea how to verbalize the mental pain I was in and I didn’t want people to think I was “crazy”, so I suffered in silence. I noticed that these thoughts would occur more often during times of stress or when I was fatigued.
I was told one time by a well-meaning therapist that I should just avoid getting under stress. Really? What universe was she from? As everyone knows, that’s easier said than done if not impossible. Now I know that advice like “live a healthy lifestyle” didn’t work, since at the time I was a committed bodybuilder who practiced very healthy eating, exercise and other healthy principles and was still plagued by my OCD. Additionally, advice such as trying to “control” unwanted thoughts only ended up backfiring. In fact, popular “coping strategies” I was so eagerly given did little to help me and now I know they were counterproductive. The truth is that coping skills stop working even though helpful at first. I tried many other recommended solutions, but in time, these too failed to control the unwanted thoughts adequately.
What works is a cognitive behavioral therapy designed for the specific type of OCD that one is suffering from. Additionally, learning strategies such as how to recognize symptoms, accept and allow the symptoms to persist instead of resist (i.e. “what you resist persists”) as well as learning about how the brain works and often sends out false messages and alarms—are just a few things that work well once one knows how to implement.
Fast-forward many years, I now have a somewhat symptom free life. And now when these unwanted thoughts raise their ugly head, I am well prepared for what to do. I feel my suffering has made me more uniquely qualified to help my own clients with this disorder. I start by helping them understand that intrusive thoughts are quite common among people. Often times clients' immediately begin to feel better when they learn that these “sticky thoughts” are through no fault, personality detect or mental illness of their own.
Now you know why as a therapist I have taken a personal interest in helping people find the solutions that I wish I had found at a young age. The right customized solution that really helps in changing the way the brain works can make all the difference in how one feels. The therapies that I have found work best with my clients are EMDR, exposure therapy and a custom plan based on their particular symptom set. Finding a therapist that uses the latest evidence based treatment is paramount in getting on the road to recovery. How do I know? Because I truly get it!
Renee Trimble, MS, LPC, LCDC, Founder Free Indeed Therapy