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Our Mental Health Blogs

One Man, Many Disorders: Living with Psychiatric Comorbidity

One Man, Many Disorders: Living with Psychiatric Comorbidity

Kate White writes about what living with anxiety is like. Natasha Tracy shares her experiences with bipolar disorder. New HealthyPlace blogger Jack Smith writes about life with depression. And last year Rachel McCarthy James joined us on the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show to discuss what living with OCD is like for her. But Craig Ludvigsen can tell us what it’s like to have all of those disorders. It’s called psychiatric comorbidity – the presence of more than one mental illness in one individual at the same time – and it can be incapacitating.

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How OCD Affects a Teen’s Social Life

As a result of me sharing my story, I have helped two people get help for their own problems. For me, that makes it all worth it.

How OCD Affects a Teen’s Social Life

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is the fourth most commonly diagnosed mental disorder, making it so prevalent that aspects of the disorder have become characterized in society. “Obsessive-compulsive” has even entered colloquial English as a glib way to describe somebody overly fixated on something. Hollywood gives us shows like “Monk” with their quirky characters, but what is it like to have OCD while growing up as a teenager? How does that affect one’s social life?

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Dermatillomania: The Secret of Compulsive Skin Picking

Dermatillomania: The Secret of Compulsive Skin Picking

Katie Rios developed acne at 11-years-old and started picking at her skin. Ten years later, Katie still struggles with what she now knows is dermatillomania. An impulse control disorder marked by secrecy, compulsive skin picking holds sufferers hostage in a painful cycle of compulsion and shame. Many people with dermatillomania go to great lengths to hide their skin picking and the resulting scars, limiting their ability to get treatment and support. Severe cases can interfere with an individual’s ability to work, have relationships, or even spend much time out in public for fear of having the embarrassing secret discovered.

What Is Dermatillomania?

Characterized by the repeated, overwhelming urge to pick at one’s own skin, dermatillomania is sometimes considered an obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorder. Compulsive skin picking is also observed in some individuals with body dysmorphic disorder. A type of self-injury, dermatillomania can cause serious infections and permanent scarring.

katieheadshotfixedLife with Dermatillomania

Because of the shame and secrecy that goes along with compulsive skin picking, hearing from someone who lives with it is rare. We were fortunate to have Katie as a guest on the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show earlier today to discuss what living with dermatillomania is like for her. She talks about:

  • How and when her compulsive skin picking began.
  • The evolution of her dermatillomania, and what it’s like for her today.
  • What triggers her picking episodes.
  • Why sufferers of dermatillomania can’t “just stop picking.”
  • Treatment for compulsive skin picking – what helps?

Katie also runs a support blog for those with dermatillomania where readers can participate by sharing their own experiences and questions, as well as photos, video, audio, and links.

Video on Dermatillomania

Watch our video interview with Katie Rios, Living with Dermatillomania, and learn what compulsive skin picking is like for her. And here’s the table of contents for all mental health video interviews from the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show.

Share Your Dermatillomania Experiences

Have you been diagnosed with Dermatillomania or another impulse control disorder? Do you struggle with compulsive skin picking or hair pulling? We invite you to call us at 1-888-883-8045 and share your experiences and insights. (Info on Sharing Your Mental Health Experiences here.) You can also leave comments below.

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OCD: Coping with Obsessive-Compulsive Symptoms

OCD: Coping with Obsessive-Compulsive Symptoms

Rachel McCarthy James first noticed her obsessive-compulsive symptoms as a teen. She discusses the difficulty of coping with OCD symptoms. Watch OCD video.

Years ago I worked for a pharmacist who had obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). I only spent about 20 hours a month with him and didn’t immediately notice the struggle he lived with every day. But by the time he was snatching prescriptions bottles out of my hand as I was ringing up customers, dumping the contents out, and counting the pills “just one more time,” even I was having trouble coping with his obsessive-compulsive symptoms. After closing up the pharmacy one night, we said goodnight and he left. I took my time gathering my things from the back room and was headed for the door when I heard loud banging. Alarmed, I followed the sound and found him throwing his body repeatedly against the locked counter door, unable to trust that it was securely fastened. Watching him that night, I clearly saw the distress OCD can cause.

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My Personal Experience with Scrupulosity

My Personal Experience with Scrupulosity

My name is Kenneth Burchfiel (not to be confused with my dad, who is also Kenneth Burchfiel). I’m 18 years old, and a student at Middlebury College in Vermont.

It’s difficult for me to say when scrupulosity first appeared. On Christmas 2007, I received a book with a modernist take on Christianity and the gospels; that seemed to spark an intense period of doubt, searching and longing for answers.

What It’s Like Living with Scrupulosity

These were certainly religious obsessions, but I don’t know if a psychologist would call that scrupulosity. I do know that by early January 2009, I was experiencing a rather intense case of scrupulosity. I would apologize to God for extended periods, sometimes crying, for apparent sins like an unwanted thought that crossed into my head.

From January to late February, when I found out I had scrupulosity, I was very much in a disordered state, perhaps even delusional. I felt an immense and frequent urge to repent for sins, which was my way of dealing with the anxiety that scrupulosity created. (I would like to mention here that religion itself does not cause scrupulosity; the disease, a variant of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, stems more from neurotransmitter imbalances in the brain. Religion is simply the “theme” it assumes.)

Getting Treatment for Scrupulosity

Eventually, I acquiesced to my parents’ urging that I see a psychiatrist. They knew the state I was in. My dad saw me apologizing to God over a dozen times during dinner, making conversation all but impossible, and lying on the floor crying one day. I did not realize that the disease was a medical and not spiritual problem (though it certainly had spiritual consequences); that was why I had avoided going for help. That fact led to my recovery.

The psychiatrist suggested to me that I had a “mood disorder.” This struck me as odd, for I still felt this disease was spiritual. But once I got home, and started looking into the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (and namely scrupulosity), I was stunned to see how my symptoms of blasphemous thoughts (which appeared in my head without warning) and compulsions matched up so well with those on the site. I was never formally diagnosed with OCD, as that can cause complications in itself, but I certainly have suffered from it, and have worked with two psychiatrists to overcome my symptoms.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder resulted in many compulsions of mine, naturally, and put a number of disturbing thoughts into my head. If you have seen my Suite101 articles on Pure-O OCD, you’ll come to understand some of the experiences I went through. But the hardest symptoms to deal with were the constant feelings of guilt and sadness.

OCD took all the joy and fun out of life.  Instead of being elated that I got into Middlebury Collee, to which I had applied Early Decision, I was quiet and almost indifferent about it. I didn’t really listen to music for a good segment of time. Depression likely arose from my OCD, though a psychiatrist would know better than I.

I did tell a small group of people about my experiences with religious obsessions and compulsions. Everyone was understanding, though my father, who has his reservations about Christianity, felt that religion was the source of my symptoms before learning about OCD. (My psychiatrist happened to be Catholic, and that may have helped convince my dad that neurotransmitter issues, not religion, was the problem.) I know it hurt my parents to see me in that state, although everyone I talked to was compassionate and sympathetic, even if they weren’t able to fully understand my experiences.

I want everyone to know treatment for OCD can help. With guidance from a number of sites and an excellent book, I went through “Exposure-Response Prevention” therapy, a form of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, in which I would expose myself to the blasphemous thoughts I experienced–first by letting them come on their own, then deliberately thinking them, then even writing them and saying them out loud–to create a manageable level of anxiety in my head. I would then either delay my repentance or not repent altogether, which allowed my mind to get accustomed to the anxiety on its own. This is a fairly common and widely accepted treatment method for OCD.  It truly turned my life around.

Eventually, the thoughts no longer had control over me. I still repented for non-sinful things, and I still do, but my symptoms are fairly mild at this point. Also beneficial were a series of medications I took and continue to take. Finally, I cannot overestimate the influence of my friends’ and family’s prayers for me, which God answered in a powerful way.

Finally, I would like to emphasize that religion is not the cause of scrupulosity; rather, genetics and neurotransmitters play an important role.

(Ed. Note: This post was written by Kenneth Burchfiel, our guest on the Dec. 15, 2009, HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show on scrupulosity. Kenneth is a contributing writer for suite101.)

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The Sin of Scrupulosity – Dec. 8

The Sin of Scrupulosity – Dec. 8

At some time or another, we all worry that we’ve done something wrong and there’s going to be a price to pay. For most of us, we deal with it and move on. Those suffering with scrupulosity, however, are obsessed about religious or moral issues and experience intense, painful guilt.

Here’s an example of scrupulosity I came across on the Anxiety Disorders Association of America website. A therapist relates this story:

I pass by a picture of my kids and think, “Satan: they are my gift to you,” my new client John, a wonderful husband, father of three and successful businessman tells me. “Why would I think that? I would never sell my soul to the Devil.” On another day, he says in shame, “We are cutting shapes out of construction paper at the table and I’m thinking the Devil will make me lose control…In church finally, I’m feeling hope and then I think maybe God wants me to harm someone. I would never sell my soul; that is the last thing God would want.”

A form of OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder), scrupulosity involves an overzealous concern that behavior or thoughts may in some way be displeasing, or disrespecting to God. “Repetitive and excessive prayer continue to plague those persons with this type of OCD. Scrupulosity also can involve the need to adhear to a strict code of values or ridigidly follow the ethics of a law abiding citizen,” says Steven Phillipson, Ph.D., Clinical Director of the Center for Cognitive-Behavioral Psychotherapy.

Hit with Scrupulosity While Searching for God

Kenneth is an 18-year old college student, who just two years ago was searching for some meaning in God. On Christmas Day 2007, he received a book on Christianity and the gospels. By 2009, “I was experiencing a rather intense case of scrupulosity; I would apologize to God for extended periods, sometimes crying, for apparent sins like an unwanted thought that crossed into my head.”

As his mental health deteriorated, his parents urged him to see a psychiatrist.  How did things turn out? Join us Tuesday night on the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show (this show was rescheduled to Tuesday, Dec. 15, at 5:30p CT, 6:30 ET).

About the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show

The HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show airs live every Tuesday night at 5:30 pm PST, 7:30 pm CST, and 8:30 pm EST. Our guest and HealthyPlace Medical Director, Dr. Harry Croft, will be taking your personal questions.  If you miss the live show, which can be viewed on our site, you can always click the “on-demand” button on the player and watch the show at your convenience.

Share Your Experiences on Scrupulosity

We also invite you to call us at 1-888-883-8045 and share your experience – whether as a family member or loved one of someone with a mental illness. What has it been like for you and how are you coping? (Info on Sharing Your Mental Health Experiences here.) You can also leave comments below.

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Living with OCD – TV Show Recap

Living with OCD – TV Show Recap

Living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can cause a sufferer a lot of agony. HealthyPlace.com Medical Director, Dr. Harry Croft, says OCD sufferers are paralyzed by unwanted thoughts, doubt, and fear. It’s these irrational thoughts, reports Dr. Croft, that cause repetitive actions such as checking, counting, or washing hands, just to bring them to what they feel is a “safe” place.

The true inspiration of Tuesday’s show was our guest, James Callner. He took us through his journey with OCD from the very beginning, at age 29. Now in his late fifties, he still suffers from OCD, but is proud to say that he lives in a high-functioning state.

Popcorn and Walking?

Two simple things in life that people normally enjoy and may also take for granted, but for James, they are reminders that OCD will not take over his life.

In his early years with the disorder, James found comfort in his psychiatrist who became his champion. He challenged James to take risks and to have trust. It was these two things that allowed James to participate in sharing popcorn out of the same bowl with friends; something an OCD sufferer would never think of doing. The fear of contamination was too much for him to handle, but he took a chance and had a small kernel of popcorn and chewed it very fast. To his surprise, he didn’t die! Taking risks made him feel good.

Although he has small victories, he still experiences anxiety and has trouble facing the day. When James is having one of those days and can’t get out of bed, the word “walk” comes to mind. That’s right, taking one step at a time, one foot in front of the other until you get to the place you need to be to start your day. He promises it will get better and you will eventually get faster at it.

During the show, James mentioned several different types of therapy that can help manage OCD symptoms. He found great success with his psychiatrist, medication and through a Codependents Anonymous 12-step program. For a more detailed look into his inspirational recovery, visit his website, Awareness Foundation: OCD and Related Disorders. As we mentioned on the show, you can view one of Mr. Callner’s films on OCD titled “The Risk” in HealthyPlace.com OCD Center.

If you missed the show, we encourage you to visit the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show homepage and click the “on-demand” button on the player to see the show in its entirety. You may just find a champion in James Callner.

See you next week when we discuss the tragedy of losing a child to suicide. If you or someone you know has experience with this terrible loss, we invite you to share your story, or e-mail your questions to me at producer@healthyplace.com

See you Tuesday night for our live show.

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Managing Your OCD Symptoms: June 30

Managing Your OCD Symptoms: June 30

Have you ever experienced unwanted thoughts or felt the need to repeat an action over-and-over again until you felt safe? Have these thoughts or actions caused you anxiety, to the point of interfering with your normal activities? If so, we invite you to watch Tuesday night’s show focusing on Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

The Impact of OCD

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder also causes fear in individuals, which leads to unwanted repetitive actions. An example of these actions may be washing hands repeatedly due to fear of germs, or maybe even driving all the way back home numerous times just to check and see if an appliance has been turned off.

Bottom line, OCD symptoms can take away one’s sense of well-being by not allowing rest until the action is repeated. This can cause serious impairment to a normal lifestyle.

Treatment of OCD

Our guest on Tuesday’s HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show, James Callner, suffered from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder for many years and was first diagnosed with OCD in his late 20’s. Thirty years later, he is proud to say that he is living a high-functioning lifestyle, despite his disorder. Mr. Callner has also made several films, one of which is based on his own battle with OCD.

During the show, he’ll discuss his struggle with OCD and enlighten us on various OCD treatment methods that worked for him.

With his OCD under control, Mr. Callner is now a college professor as well as President and Co-Fonder of the Awareness Foundation for OCD and Related Disorders.

Learn How to Effectively Manage Your OCD Symptoms

As I’ve mentioned before, the goal of the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show is to educate those suffering from a mental illness as well as provide information to friends and family members. One way we stand by this commitment is to allow you, the viewers, to ask our guests as well as HealthyPlace.com Medical Director and Board-Certified psychiatrist, Dr. Harry Croft, any questions you may have during the show either via chat or email.

If you would like to contribute your personal story on dealing with OCD, either written or video, feel free to contact me at producer AT healthyplace.com.

See you Tuesday! You can watch the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show live or on-demand on our website.  Dr. Croft’s blog post on Living with OCD is here.

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