Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What is OCD?

I decided it is time to explain a little about my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. First off, I do want to say that everyone to some extent has a little "quirk" or something that they feel they must do. Some people have to close all the closet doors before bed, some people don't like their food to touch on their plates, some have to have their clothes hung a certain way. All these are little OCD tendencies, but what make OCD really debilitating is when it is all consuming and completely interferes with living. I do get upset when people think that OCD is funny or amusing (although looking back, all I can do is laugh at certain things I did), but it is truly agonizing for the person living with it.

Obsessions are intrusive thoughts that are uncontrollable to those dealing with them. An example would be someone who is afraid that they left the stove on. Yes, we all have dealt with this, but the person who has OCD knows somewhere deep down, that they did not. The problem is that no matter how many times they might return home to check, they can't get the certainty they need. A person who has OCD might return home five or six times just to make sure. Even though they know they turned it off, they feel the need (or compulsion) to go home and check again. "What if" becomes the motto for those with OCD. What if I accidently looked at the stove the wrong way and thought it was off but it is really on? What if I didn't turn it off, but thought I did? What if I burn the house down and hurt someone? People with OCD are often worried about causing harm to others, this is also known as responsibility OCD.

Obsessions can manifest themselves in many ways, and often those who deal with OCD have many different ones throughout their lives. Mine seemed to hit hard when I got pregnant and that began a very difficult 8 years of my life. One of the obsessions I can look back and laugh at now is my "hit and run" obsession. This is just one of many I dealt with, but this one I feel comfortable sharing.

I went through a good six months where I hated to drive. The reason being, is that I was certain I hit someone while driving and somehow had not known. I would check my car as soon as I got home for dents or any tell-tale sign that I hit a person. I would also make Jeff check my car for dents or blood. I would circle the blocks for hours in my car, often making myself late for work just so I could get a sense of peace that I indeed did not kill anyone while driving (crazy, I know). Any pothole or bump in the road would send me into a tailspin. I checked all the local traffic sights for hit-and-run accidents in my neighborhood and I would look at the Highway Patrol sight daily. It got so bad that at one point I called the police on myself. I wanted to make sure that I didn't hit the man I saw in the crosswalk. Yes, I know how crazy it sounds, but I felt I needed certainty. Luckily, the woman on the phone must be used to crazy people because she told me she would send someone out to check, but not to worry about it. I seriously wonder how Jeff managed to stay with me during all this.

I had many more obsessions that caused lots of anxiety. A lot of my compulsions were mental compulsions. I would spend hours going over situations in my mind to make sure that I didn't do anything "bad" or "wrong". Even now it is hard for me to explain, but I can tell you that it was a tough time. I was put on Prozac, Zoloft, Xanax, you name it I tried it. The problem was that these drugs worked for a little while, but then eventually they stopped and I had to switch to another medication. OCD requires higher doses of medications than depression or other mental illnesses do, so the side effects tend to be worse. I probably gained 20 or so pounds just from the medication. Couple that with how tired the pills (and the worrying) made me, I just was not active. I would eat and sleep most of the time.

I finally decided it was time to try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I found a great therapist who taught me ways to cope with my obsessions and compulsions instead of feed into them. The problem with compulsions is that even though you might get temporary relief by performing them, it is cyclical. You do a compulsion (ie driving the block), feel better, then five minutes later you feel you have to do it again. I learned other ways to deal with my obsessions and compulsions and finally decided I might have the tools needed to control my OCD without medication. I went off my meds and began to work out. I knew I needed the endorphins to help me maintain my sanity. I also started to eat better and began following Weight Watchers. The weight started coming off and it has been about a year now that I have lost my weight. I will always struggle with my OCD. I still have days now that I obsessively worry about things and do mental compulsions, but it is not debilitating like it was before.

I know that I am very blessed to be able to control my disease without medication. I am also extremely blessed to be married to my husband. He has put up with a lot of ups and downs. Although I would never wish this disease on anyone, it has given me great empathy towards others dealing with mental disorders. It is so tough to live in your head and know that you can't control your thoughts. You want to, but you just don't know how.

Sorry this is such a rambling post, but I felt I should explain a little about my battle with OCD.

Thanks for reading,



  1. Hi Kellie - I found this post really interesting and thank you for posting it. Sometimes I think I have a little OCD but it's not debilitating - its more like go back and check once to make sure something is turned off or the door is locked even though I know it is, but then I'm Ok. I appreciate you explaining the difference and am so glad you got yours under control without meds!

  2. Great post Kellie. It's a very vulnerable topic. I don't talk about it on my blog but I suffer from OCD too. I go through phases where it will be overwhelming. I also have anxiety. So basically I'll become anxious about something (usually something ridiculous or far-fetched) and my OCD will kick in and it will become an obsession! It's frustrating and scary. Luckily, my BF is understanding and he can tell me to calm down, my fears are NOT real and there's nothing to be anxious about. I refuse to take meds. I did for years and gained a lot of weight.

  3. @Beth- Thank you for your comment. I do think everyone has some form of it, as long as it doesn't control you, then I say it just gives you character :)

    @Lisa- I am sorry you deal with it too. My therapist actually told me to say. It's not real. It's my OCD, NOT me. I know it is easier said than done. I wish they would have meds that make you sane and skinny :) It is hard to explain OCD to those who have never had it. We are both very blessed to have GREAT significant others.

  4. Great article on OCD! I think it's great to understand what's going on with your own body!

  5. I wanted to thank you for sharing.

    I've struggled with OCD my entire life, but only recently realized there was a reason for what was bothering me. OCD is generally typecast as, "Oh, she checks the lock all the time," or, "He's a germophobe and compulsive hand washer." My OCD is very much the responsibility type you named (I didn't know that it even had a name!) where I'm afraid a thought or action of mine will harm somebody. Totally irrational, of course, but I can't help it. I also have other, peripheral symptoms, but they're not as intense as the fear that I may hurt somebody.

    I never thought I may have OCD, though, since it doesn't manifest in the typical way. I've never taken medication for it, but I'm trying my own CBT. It helps to know that, when an obsession strikes, I can generally talk myself down and realize that it's just the OCD talking. It doesn't always help, but it does a bit.

    Again, thank you for your post. <3