“Help! My parents won’t believe me!”

I got this question just today:

I’m a 12 year old girl and I have ocd but my mom doesn’t believe me I’ve emailed many people who study ocd and they have said that I have pure ocd so what do I do.

This is hard stuff. Really hard.

What do you do when you are truly struggling but you feel too young and dependent to do much about it? When the person or people you rely on for help tells you that you’re fine?

Here are a few ideas, dear one. I also invite readers to leave ideas in the comment section, so be sure to check that out as well.

  1. Continue to educate yourself. The more you know about OCD, the more power you have over it– and the more justification you have when you discuss it with your mom next time. Read about it online, check out books from your local library, etc.
  2. Consider free resources. It’s hard to get treatment when you’re 12 and under your parents’ insurance and likely have very little means to an income. Sadly, babysitting money just won’t cut it here, and that stinks! But there are free resources. For example:
    * If you have a smartphone, download the nOCD app.
    * On Facebook, search for Pax the OCD Bot.
    * Check out a book at the local library about how to do ERP therapy (exposure and response prevention) at home on your own.
  3. Think through why your mom won’t believe you. I’m not saying that there are any good reasons, but I do know that sometimes our parents, who are often our biggest fans, don’t want to believe that we have something wrong with us. It’s scary for them, and actually, sometimes it makes them feel guilty– they wonder if it’s their fault. Again, not great reasons, but if this seems to be the case, it might help you in how you approach your mom the next time.
  4. You might find a book that really resonates with you– share it with your mom. For me, I gave my mother a copy of Kissing Doorknobs by Terry Spencer Hesser– a copy in which I had underlined all the quotes that resonated with me. At that time, it was the best I could do to explain what I was experiencing.
  5. Speak with another trusted adult. From Angie, one of my blog readers:

    I’m wondering if there are other people in your reader’s life that she might confide in and who might talk with her mom with her (or for her). In particular, I was thinking about other family members, like a trusted aunt; or perhaps a close family friend; or even a teacher or counselor from school. As an OCD therapist (and also the mom of someone with OCD) sometimes young people end up in my office for treatment because a teacher or another family member had a talk with the parent. Thinking of you, question writer! You are brave for reaching out. – Angie

I’m not an expert or a therapist, and I always encourage people to get professional help, but in this case, I can see where it’s feeling impossible to get that. Keep learning. Educating yourself about OCD empowers you, disarms OCD, gives you ideas for now, and prepares you for later. 

Hang in there, sweetheart, no matter what. And if you are feeling suicidal, call the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255 and be sure to let your mom know how serious it is.

joseph-gonzalez-273526-unsplash.jpg

5 Months of OCD Questions

Back in November, I noted that 99% of the questions I’m asked are related to HOCD. So I tried to write ONE GIANT REPLY (which you can read here), but it didn’t stop the questions from pouring in.

Frankly, I was exhausted and overwhelmed by HOCD questions, especially when I felt like I’d shared everything I could on the subject. But of course, everyone wants a personalized answer. I understand that, but I’m also not an HOCD expert or any kind of therapist.

So I let the questions sit for a while. Especially when I have a link to the above article right in the form where people can ask their questions.

But today, home sick on the couch, I wanted to tackle some more. A lot more. 🙂

Here we go.

I’m doing self-directed ERP now but I don’t know when should I stop doing exposure works. Do you have any clue?

I do. When you begin, you should rate your anxiety level 0-100. Continue to rate your anxiety level before, during, and after each exposure. Keep doing the exposure until your anxiety level drops to 50% of your original level.

Since my onset of OCD, I’ve become plagued with these fears and dark thoughts…especially the feeling that i am an a ‘bad’ person. Who will hurt others or myself. i feel unworthy and yearn to be the person i was before this illness- light and ‘good’ and kind. I fear greatly that I am an awful and terrible person. Is this normal and what can be done to help?

It is normal for OCD. 🙂 This sounds a lot like a combination of harm OCD plus hyper-responsibility plus depression, if I had to guess! ERP therapy will help. Check out http://www.jackieleasommers.com/OCD.

I don’t know anymore if it’s compulsive or not.. I used to watch different kinds of porn like gay or cuck*old to figure out what I may like.. I watched it but didn’t think about it a lot afterwards but felt disgusted.. like hijacked..maybe I’m looking for an excuse.. Just tried to sleep when images of a porn came and scared me.. like that must be the final proof that its not HOCD.

Proof that it’s not HOCD? To me, being scared or feeling wrong about it is proof that it is HOCD. ERP will help!

Please read https://jackieleasommers.com/2017/11/01/hocd-4-steps-to-freedom.

I live in a country where there is probably no erp therapy available (I’d be very surprised if there was), and these apps you listed are for iOS, i have an Android :(. Do you have any other tips/resources for self therapy? Thanks ❤ much love. I appreciate what you are doing :))

(My kind of ocd is religious one if that matters, I’m a christian) 

Hello dear one, yes, if you have Facebook, try the Pax the OCD Bot (just search it in your Facebook searchbar). This article might also help: https://jackieleasommers.com/2014/10/05/self-directed-erp-therapy.

You don’t have any intrusive thoughts then? Or you do, and just don’t care?

I don’t have them nearly so often! When I do, I am usually able to pass them off now because ERP has re-wired my mind not to give them more worth than they deserve. On the occasion (usually once or twice a year) that the intrusive thoughts do get to me, I use my ERP tools and exposures and usually can get past it within a matter of hours and a good nap.

What is erp, to be honest? They expose you to your fears until you don’t care/find they annoying? Sorry for my ignorance

ERP is exposure and response prevention therapy. Here are some links where you can learn more:

About CBT/ERP
Gaining Certainty through Embracing Uncertainty
Resisting treatment?

What life was like before & after CBT
Obsessing vs. Brainstorming: before & after
A Detailed Post about ERP
ERP is the RIGHT Answer
Better than a Band-Aid
Embracing Uncertainty
What CBT was like for me
Will treatment change me?
Why You Need CBT/ERP
Have Reservations about ERP?
Preparing for CBT/ERP
ERP & Imaginal Exposures
Uncertainty is the Key
The Problem with Seeking Reassurance
Finding a cognitive-behavioral therapist
Medication vs. Exposure Therapy
Can’t afford CBT/ERP?  Try this app or do self-directed ERP!

 I already am no longer afraid at my thoughts, no longer check, i just find them to be annoying as hell. Will i live with this “annoying friend” forever? Ugh. (i mean i believe one day God will heal me but while He doesn’t, will i just have to tell my brain to shut the hell up everyday? Man is that annoying). Thanks 🙂

Essentially, are you saying that you still have intrusive thoughts but they don’t cause you to perform compulsions? This is just real life, unfortunately! Everyone has ugly thoughts that come and go. The important thing is that when they come, they can also go. If you have a hard time letting them go, then ERP is your answer.

I’m afraid to go thought erp because my ocd is the religious kind. Is the doctor going to “make” me (i know no one can make anyone do anything, it’s just a manner of speech) do bad things (ex denying Jesus, wich i wouldn’t do not now not ever but my brain keeps shouting at me to do so)? I rather live my life like hell then actually going to hell, thank you

Completely understand that. Here’s a fictionalized version of how I had to approach such a tricky concept: https://jackieleasommers.com/2012/09/05/tipping-point-my-entry/

I really don’t want to be gay and I used to be so confident in my sexuality (I’m a girl btw) I just recently got a boyfriend and I didn’t like him that much but I still kinda liked him and I thought being with him would make me know I’m not gay but for some reason I just don’t want to hang out with him does that make me gay 

Doesn’t make you gay at all. Probably just means what you said it does: you don’t actually like him that much. Don’t date a boy as a compulsion to prove your heterosexuality. Date a boy because you truly care about him. ERP can help with both HOCD and ROCD. Check out http://www.jackieleasommers.com/OCD.

I think I have HOCD but I’m not sure. My therapist is doing CBT but I don’t think it’s ERP and it’s making me anxious. Like what if this therapy goes know where and just becomes me talking about my problems.(what happened with my last therapist). Should I trust that she knows what she is doing? Her Website says she does CBT so by saying she does CBT does that mean she is also an expert on ERP? 

CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) is the umbrella term, and ERP (exposure and response prevention therapy) falls beneath the CBT umbrella. The best way to know if your therapist knows what he or she is doing is by educating yourself about what ERP looks like. I suggest reading the posts at http://www.jackieleasommers.com and also going through the list of questions to ask a therapist at https://iocdf.org/about-ocd/treatment/how-to-find-the-right-therapist.

am I actually recovering from HOCD? I am trying to manage my intrusive thoughts and no checking as well. I’m feeling much better however what’s causing me anxiety is that all my straight attraction is gone for a toss. I have had no history of experimenting with girls or having a crush on them. But I feel  scared. I have always wanted to be with a guy. Will my attraction for guys ever come back?

ERP cannot change your sexual orientation. But I do hear from many sufferers that their attraction to others (the opposite gender if they are straight and have HOCD; same gender if they are gay and have HOCD) vanishes for a time. It’s normal for OCD.

Hi Jackie, I’m not having any kind of anxiety over my thoughts anymore. So I woke up and I got a feeling which said “I want to be lesbian” but there was no anxiety that followed. Which freaked me out. And today I was like okay fine, what if I am? That doesn’t change anything. But i know i want to be with a guy. Does that mean I’m recovering or does it mean I’m gay? I want to be with a guy.

This is meant gently and tongue-in-cheek, hon: “there was no anxiety” is followed immediately by “which freaked me out.” Which means there was actually still anxiety. 🙂 Your thought process here is actually correct! But I suspect it will still be bothersome for you until you do ERP. This will help: https://jackieleasommers.com/2017/11/01/hocd-4-steps-to-freedom.

G~Always thought of myself as straight,loved women and the female body always had 100s of crushes. Lately ive watched some gay porn and it actually has excited me to a certain point and i hate it so much.have felt like i would enjoy doing certain things and cant believe im thinking like this. Even been losing my attraction for the female body which i used to be crazy for. Is all this hocd related?

Very, very consistent with the HOCD experience. ERP can help! https://jackieleasommers.com/2017/11/01/hocd-4-steps-to-freedom/

So I’m a 16 year old and a female, for he past few months I’ve been having a thoughts like “what if I’m bi? Or a lesbian?” I know deep down that I’m not but these thoughts are making me think I am. I’ve always liked guys my whole life and have had crushes on them. I’ve never had a crush on a girl or liked one either. It makes me anxious every time I’m around a girl could it be HOCD?

Sounds exactly like HOCD! Exposure therapy can help: https://jackieleasommers.com/2017/11/01/hocd-4-steps-to-freedom/

I keep on crying idk what to do I feel alone I keep on thinking about having s*x with other girls but when I think about i get discussed I’m only 14 years old I can’t be going through this please give me advice on how to control it or get rid of it please I cant even look at my friends anymore without thinking do I like hereading? It’s really uncomfortable and weird I can’t stop crying please help

Oh you poor dear! OCD is hard at any age, but to be 14 and dealing with it … and with something as personal as HOCD … so uncomfortable and lonely and difficult. Exposure therapy can help. It’s up to you whether you’d like to tell your parents what you’re dealing with in detail, or whether you’d like to just tell them you’re confident it’s OCD but you want to discuss details only with a therapist, or if you’d prefer to do ERP on your own. Here are some links that might help:

Can’t afford CBT/ERP?  Try this app or do self-directed ERP!
https://jackieleasommers.com/2015/07/29/hocd-a-letter-to-loved-ones/
Also please considering trying Pax the OCD Bot on Facebook. Just look it up in the FB searchbar and enable it. It’s a computer program, but feels like you’re chatting with a therapist for real!

Is it a normal symptom to feel an urge to kiss the same sex then get extreme anxiety during hocd? I feel so lost.

That is almost the literal definition of HOCD! ERP therapy can help: https://jackieleasommers.com/2017/11/01/hocd-4-steps-to-freedom/

Jackie, I need help. My boyfriend and I are believers and he has been struggling with OCD. Much of it is related to his faith. He just graduated Bible college and he can convince me it’s all spiritual warfare. I’m exhausted, he is too but he doesn’t think he’s OCD. I’ve looked all over for a therapist who does ERP near Rochester NY and I can not find a male. He won’t go to a woman. Plz help!Thanks

My OCD specifically attacked my faith. It goes after the things that are most important to a person, so that makes sense that– for someone like your boyfriend who cares about scripture and God– it would attack that in his life. I hope he will read through the following posts:

OCD & Christianity
(or other religious scrupulosity)
OCD, ERP, and Christianity
I’m a Christian and Take Meds!
Unashamed of my OCD
Is the thought from OCD … or God?
God’s Sovereignty, OCD, the Cross, & His Purposes
Is Mental Illness a Spiritual Issue?
Is ERP Sinful?
OCD & Faith (or Lack Thereof): a Double Interview

The past year I have been struggling with a  fear of selling my soul through intrusive thoughts. I recently had a thought that if I didn’t write everything I write in perfect grammar, then my soul belonged to Satan. I didn’t fight the thought as I usually do, and this was before I learned that I was supposed to ignore the thought. Does that mean that I meant the thought?

I’ve had similar thoughts before. I think most people have, except that for those of us with OCD, it’s far harder to say, “Well, that was ridiculous!” and move on. 🙂 ERP therapy changed my life in this manner; I’m not being dramatic. I hope it will help you too. Lots of details at http://www.jackieleasommers.com/OCD.

I think I am suffering from hocd I’d like to talk to you about it please

Hi friend! I am not a therapist. Here’s how to find one: https://iocdf.org/about-ocd/treatment/how-to-find-the-right-therapist/

Also consider trying Facebook’s Pax the OCD Bot. It’s just a robot, but it feels like chatting with a therapist!

Is it normal to feel false attractions and feelings towards the same sex with OCD. I was clinically diagnosed by 2 doctors with OCD yet I still doubt I have it and am scared that some things aren’t OCD even tho I never felt them before this obsession started. Sometimes I notice that the “attractions and feelings” are just normal feelings and such but they feel really real and unwanted and scary.

This is all normal for OCD. In fact, doubting that you have OCD is also normal for OCD– I’m not sure I’ve ever met someone with OCD who hasn’t doubted that they truly have it! Exposure therapy is the key to disarming the doubt. Check out http://www.jackieleasommers.com/OCD.

Continuing from the false feelings and attractions thing. So they don’t feel good and I get them for my sister and mom too!!! And objects like random objects! They confuse me because they feel like attraction or something but I know it can’t be cause it just doesn’t make sense but it can feel pretty real. How do I know for sure they aren’t real??? What if I’m bi/gay??? I fear both I fear all attra

cont’d below

Continuation again these attractions and such Do not feel good no matter how much my mind convinces me they do like I don’t lay back and just think about them and be happy no I fear them and hate them and when they show up it’s like LEAVE ME ALONE YOU RUON MY LIFE. Ok do u think I really have hocd???? How do I know for 100% sure I don’t feel anything for the same sex I don’t want to feel anything 

OCD is a real beast, isn’t it? It goes after things that are most important to us, like our personal sexuality and even the pure feelings we have toward our families. You can take down this beast of an illness with exposure therapy. Check out http://www.jackieleasommers.com/OCD.

Our son, Nick is 17 yrs old, turned 16 yrs old, and developed signs of depression. He appears to have HOCD. Older brother revealed to family that he was gay. Nick was then 13. Nick was a very social and talkative kid until the last 2 yrs. One love – very gifted competitive swimmer. Seeing a therapist and psychiatrist,, taking meds- not seeing great results. No ERP close by? Struggling terribly.

First of all, it’s clear you are an amazing parent. Great work!! ERP is truly the answer here, and the great thing about it is that you don’t need a professional in order to do it.

Read this post about self-directed ERP. Also consider the free app nOCD or the Facebook bot Pax the OCD Bot. They are both amazing tools.

Hi jackie, I’m suffering from i think religous OCD, i keep on praying until i am satisfied with my praying. Also i am thinking about Jesus Christ is different from God, can you help me please? Thanks jackie

The important thing here is to understand that OCD is an illness, treated like an illness. You don’t treat OCD with learning theology. You treat it with ERP therapy and meds, okay? Once you do that, then you will be able to enjoy your relationship with Christ and dive wholeheartedly into theology in a healthy way. Check out https://jackieleasommers.com/2017/07/25/does-my-erp-therapist-need-to-share-my-faith.

I am being treated by a Psychiatrist for depression/anxiety. I am also rather sure i have OCD, as I have all the symptoms but I am afraid to tell my doctor about my intrusive HOCD related thoughts as they are strange and taboo. I am also worried she will think I am crazy and maybe not know about HOCD. My HOCD is also under control now and that making me procrastinate telling the DR. Any advice?

I can appreciate the fear that goes into telling someone about taboo intrusive thoughts. If your therapist or psychiatrist is an OCD expert, they will not be shocked at all. This is common territory within OCD. Unfortunately, many doctors and therapists are still unfamiliar with OCD/HOCD and end up giving awful advice that only makes things worse. The more you educate yourself on OCD and HOCD, the more you will be able to recognize whether or not your therapist/psychiatrist knows about it!

This article may help: https://iocdf.org/about-ocd/treatment/how-to-find-the-right-therapist/

Dear Jackie, sorry for another HOCD question (I am a straight male), I know HOCD can make you feel a loss of attraction to the sex you’ve always been attracted to, but can it make you fearful of that sex? This occured after reading an account from a female perspective of HOCD that got me really confused, like I’m now afraid of women despite wanting to be attracted to them like my normal self.

I hear narratives like this all the time. I always say “normal for OCD.” 🙂 ERP can help, friend. Check out http://www.jackieleasommers.com/OCD.

Hi Jackie,

I’ve been suffering with hocd or what I think is hocd for just over 3 years. I have just recently started to see a cbt therapist. I was wondering when you went through this did you have a nagging feeling constantly in your head. Also how did you accept the uncertainty that all of this brings to get rid of the obsessional ruminations. 

First of all, check out https://iocdf.org/about-ocd/treatment/how-to-find-the-right-therapist. It’s important to find a therapist who truly understands OCD and how to treat it with exposure therapy.

Secondly, ERP therapy is how you learn to accept the uncertainty. It takes about 12 weeks, and it’s very hard, but it’s life-changing. It re-wires your brain back into a healthy pasture. 🙂

Hi I’m not sure if Hocd or am I gay or bi I keep checking gay porn hundred times a day but my mind telling me I like it but I have no arousal then when switch to female I get aroused instantly so I can’t figure what going on 

The key word here is “checking”– that is a very, very common compulsion. ERP therapy can help: https://jackieleasommers.com/2017/11/01/hocd-4-steps-to-freedom/

Was diagnosed with other types of ocd, but now not sure if I have HOCD or gay? Always had crushes on boys/had straight relationships.I feel like my personality is straight but once I started worrying I was gay i put pressure on sexual arousal to men/penises and now it feels like I’m no longer sexual attracted to men but am to women..emotionally speaking/crushes never wanted to be with a woman. 

You can have OCD and then experience many different “themes” within it. For me, until I treated OCD with exposure therapy, my themes just got harder and worse as I went along untreated. Once I treated OCD for one theme, it took care of them all. 🙂 Read about it at http://www.jackieleasommers.com/OCD.

Hi Jackie I’ve think I’ve been suffering from pocd but I can’t tell it started once I graduated high school I’m an 18 yo male I had never worried I was attracted to kids but now I’m constantly worried about it all of a sudden I started having thoughts of kids but in sexual situations and they tormented me I’m seeing a therapist and she says it’s ocd but I’m scared it’s not

Ahhh, the doubting disease … where it even causes us to doubt whether we have it! What you wrote is the textbook description of POCD, and it means that you actually value healthy sexuality and would never hurt a child. That’s why you have all the anxiety and torment! (A pedophile would enjoy it.) Exposure therapy can help, even though it is really difficult. It’s 12 hard weeks, but it is wayyyyy better than a lifetime plagued by such thoughts. Check out http://www.jackieleasommers.com/OCD.

Is this HOCD or am I in denial?  I am 13 and I suffer from depression and anxiety, a month ago I thought to myself ‘what if I’m gay?’ Which stared this torment. I had never had any crushes on girls only guys and I felt it getting worse each day. Now I feel like I have no orientation but still an plagued with thoughts images and sensations. I don’t know if it’s the antidepressant or I’m in denial. 

May I introduce a third option? What if it’s not the antidepressant OR denial, but you just suffer from HOCD, a treatable illness? ERP therapy can help, truly: https://jackieleasommers.com/2017/11/01/hocd-4-steps-to-freedom/

Hi Jackie, I was in therapy but left because the exposures were too scary: he wanted me to ‘agree’ with my thoughts…I was worried I was aroused by horrible sexual intrusive thoughts, so I would say “yes, I was turned on by that!” I saw that this is basically what you did?  I thought saying “maybe I was” would be effective, too…or even “it’s just OCD.”

I completely understand this. Here’s a fictionalized version of how I was able to side-step things in ERP and still beat OCD: https://jackieleasommers.com/2012/09/05/tipping-point-my-entry/

hi

Hello buddy. 🙂

I’m a 16 year old girl who is struggling w HOCD. I am 99% sure I have HOCD. However, when I read about the difference between gay and HOCD or even about gay, my mind makes me feel like I am truly relating to the gay side of things even if I relate more to hocd when it comes down to it. Is that normal?

OCD/HOCD will make you doubt everything. Does the idea give you anxiety or stress? If so, that’s very telling! Try to take deep breaths and continue to read up on HOCD. Knowledge is powerful!

Hi Jackie, this question is also about HOCD, it’s just that I can’t find anyone who at the moment has the same problem. Not only am I scared of people of the same sex but also of people of the opposite sex because I’m so worried I might not be attracted to them. So basically I am avoiding both genders.. What should I do? Should I be doing ERP for both?

As you can see, I was asked this question (or something similar) by two other people even in this thread! So you are not alone. 🙂 Do ERP for HOCD, and it should eventually kick everything else’s butt too. I did ERP specifically around my religious/spiritual obsessions, but it also took care of any other themes I was experiencing too, because ultimately ERP is restoring a healthy brain wiring to you.

Hi Jackie i am 15 year old girl and i feel like am going crazy. I think i am dealing with HOCD i never been diagnosed with ocd before but am not sure i been dealing with this ever since i was 13 but i never told anyone or gotten help. I feel like it’s different this time i feel like am always in denial. I have lost my attraction to the oppsite sex it it depresses me.i always had crushes on guys

You’re not crazy. As you can read above, what you’re going through is a very common experience within HOCD, even down to losing attraction to the gender you’re usually into.

It’s up to you whether you’d like to tell your parents what you’re dealing with in detail, or whether you’d like to just tell them you’re confident it’s OCD but you want to discuss details only with a therapist, or if you’d prefer to do ERP on your own. Here are some links that might help:

Can’t afford CBT/ERP?  Try this app or do self-directed ERP!
https://jackieleasommers.com/2015/07/29/hocd-a-letter-to-loved-ones/
Also please considering trying Pax the OCD Bot on Facebook. Just look it up in the FB searchbar and enable it. It’s a computer program, but feels like you’re chatting with a therapist for real!

When Parents Don’t Believe You Have OCD …

Wow, is this article by Dr. Fred Penzel ever relevant! I hear similar stories to this all the time from teen readers.

It begins:

Living with OCD is never easy, and this can be especially true if you are a teenager. At a time when you’re trying hard to learn about who you are and how to find a place for yourself in the world, having a disorder like OCD can make you feel so different from everyone else.  And the thought of having to talk about the disorder with anyone, let alone your friends and classmates, can be very scary. School is a small world, and things have a way of getting around pretty quickly, or so it can seem.

But talking to people and asking for help are the best ways to improve your situation. Your schoolmates may surprise you with their capacity for understanding. We often fear what we don’t understand. And your parents can help you to get the help and resources you need to succeed in school and beyond.

But what happens when your parents, the very people who should be most concerned about your well-being, don’t understand OCD and don’t know how to help you? Or worse yet, don’t believe that you are suffering from a disorder at all?

To read the entire post, click over the article on the IOCDF website here.

Should You Trust Your Therapist? Depends.

Got this excellent question from a blog reader:

I think I have HOCD but I’m not sure. My therapist is doing CBT but I don’t think it’s ERP and it’s making me anxious. Like what if this therapy goes know where and just becomes me talking about my problems.(what happened with my last therapist). Should I trust that she knows what she is doing? Her Website says she does CBT so by saying she does CBT does that mean she is also an expert on ERP?

It’s sad, but so many mental health professionals are not very educated on OCD or how to treat it. CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy) is a pretty vague, blanket term, whereas ERP (exposure and response prevention) is a specific type of CBT.

Two things I’d suggest:

  1. Read up about ERP. As much as you can. It will help you recognize if it is being done correctly. Start with this article on the IOCDF website. Also read any/all of the CBT/ERP posts at www.jackieleasommers.com/OCD.
  2. Ask your therapist the following questions. These questions– and the answers you should listen for— are pulled from this page on the IOCDF website.
  • “What techniques do you use to treat OCD?”If the therapist is vague or does not mention cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) or Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) use caution.
  • “Do you use Exposure and Response Prevention to treat OCD?”
    Be cautious of therapists who say they use CBT but won’t be more specific.
  • “What is your training and background in treating OCD?”
    If they say they went to a CBT psychology graduate program or did a post-doctoral fellowship in CBT, it is a good sign. Another positive is if a therapist says they are a member of the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) or the Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapists (ABCT). Also look for therapists who say they have attended specialized workshops or trainings offered by the IOCDF like the Behavior Therapy Training Institute (BTTI) or Annual OCD Conference.
  • “How much of your practice currently involves anxiety disorders?”
    A good answer would be over 25%.
  • “Do you feel that you have been effective in your treatment of OCD?”
    This should be an unqualified “Yes.”
  • “What is your attitude towards medication in the treatment of OCD?”
    If they are negative about medication this is a bad sign. While not for everyone, medication can be a very effective treatment for OCD.
  • “Are you willing to leave your office if needed to do behavior therapy?”It is sometimes necessary to go out of the office to do effective ERP.

 

Advocacy & Boundaries

advocacyTwo recent, semi-related questions I received:

  1. Can you give any recommendations for getting involved in the OCD community and doing advocacy work? 🙂
  2. I am getting very drained and upset by certain advocacy interactions. Do you have any advice on how to handle this? 

First,
Getting Involved in OCD Awareness Advocacy

I don’t think I can answer this any better than by directing you to the IOCDF website, specifically this page, which talks about support groups, research studies, OCD Awareness Week, and getting plugged into your local affiliate!

Next,
Proper Boundaries in OCD Awareness Advocacy

I am so happy and eager to help people, but sometimes it’s as if they want different answers, so they keep asking things hoping I’ll suggest something easier than exposure therapy. Or something that alleviates their anxiety immediately. Sometimes asking the questions themselves is the compulsion.

Sometimes it gets to the point where it is damaging to MY OWN mental health or the freedom I worked so hard to achieve via treatment.

In these cases, I have to cut it off.

I can’t be a personal, free, on-call therapist. I can’t be a therapist at all. I can provide resources, and then it is up to individuals to act.

So, set your own standards and stick to them. Be kind but firm. Gently point out when someone appears to be compulsively asking the same questions again and again. Sometimes you might have to say, “I can’t reply anymore.”

One thing that has been especially difficult for me is hearing from people who are in crisis-mode. My own therapist pointed out to me that even she– with her master’s in counseling– is not trained as a crisis counselor. Certainly I– with no formal therapy training at all– am not equipped to handle folks in crisis. It is better to recommend the suicide hotline (1-800-273-8255) or suicide hotline chat (here).

OCD & Depression Book Recs

A blog reader asked:

Hi Jackie. I’m recovering from OCD and depression right now and i am looking for a few book recommendation(fiction and non-fiction) about themes related to these mental illnesses? Something inspirational and perhaps even educational?

Well, I’m so glad you asked!

book recs_1.png

Fiction:
Kissing Doorknobs by Terri Spencer Hesser
The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
Truest by Jackie Lea Sommers (hey, she sounds familiar …)

Non-Fiction:
Overcoming OCD by Janet Singer
Stop Obsessing by Edna Foa
Being Me with OCD by Alison Dotson
The Imp of the Mind by Lee Baer

More resources:
My friend Shannon does a really cool feature on her blog called #ShatteringStigmas, which you definitely need to check out. I even wrote one. 😉
All the #ShatteringStigma posts
My #ShatteringStigma post

 

 

 

 

HOCD: 4 Steps to Freedom

Every month, the majority of questions I am asked are related to HOCD, and many of the questions come from teens. Below, I want to show you the list of HOCD-related questions I received this month; I am hopeful that these question-askers can read through this list and understand that there are so, so many others going through the same experience right now.

Because I have said just about everything I think I can say about HOCD– and had several guest bloggers add their thoughts about HOCD– I am going to answer all of these questions in one response at the very end. I hope it will help.

I wanted to know if you can get aroused by the same sex and not be gay. I do this but the thought of being with the same sex repulses me. also I recently got a crush on someone of the opposite crush and I had a good feeling.   I get anxiety when thinking of being with the same sex for society reasons and just the fact of being gay. Sometime I feel gay, frustrated and not right.
I feel so scared. I don’t know for sure if I have HOCD or not, and I’ve been doing so much research on the topic that I’ve become bored of reading everything. But now I’m scared that this means I’d rather be gay, and that if I looked for treatment I’d just turn out to be gay. I don’t want to be, I’m even starting to doubt that, too and it’s scaring me so much. I don’t know what to do, anymore.
I’m a 14 yr old female and I was recently reading fanfiction smut aka sexual description and it was boy x girl, I was comfortable with it and then got a compulsion to look up girl x girl to see how I reacted, I read it and felt a little aroused but mainly disgusted, I think the arousal was left over from the earlier stuff but I can’t get it out of my head! I’ve had HOCD for a while now, help?
Just an update on my earlier post (I was the 14 year old smut one) I attempted to read another girl x girl story without reading boy x girl before and I had no reaction just a bit of grossed out-ness (I don’t mean to offend anyone). I wanted to also say that I have had anxiety age 7 and talked to a therapist about HOCD, so this isn’t new, and I have never had doubts that I wasn’t hetero before
Hi Jackie. I’m a female with hocd, and I’ve had it for nearly 1.5 years. I know it’s common to be uncomfortable and scared around your friends, but I just can’t stop being so anxious and terrified around my best friend. We talk normal and everything but as soon as I’m alone I start seeing her face in my head or the way she dresses and I dread seeing her. I don’t want to like her is this my OCD?
Hello! I believe I’m suffering HOCD (I’m 14-16), and I’ve definitely had it more than once (I was unaware though). I feel absolutely numb, devastingly though, I can tell my anxiety is lurking in the background. Although I don’t feel it quite yet. I still notice I’m very subtlety panicking and checking, but without the intensity of before. Is this normal? (Well obviously not, but you get my point).
Im a 14 year old girl who has been diagnosed with HOCD, and every time I think it’s gone I see something that brings it back. For instance today I saw an article about someone who thought they was straight and fell in love with a girl and here it comes again. Any suggestions as to how I can stop this cycle?
I have been struggling with unwanted, intrusive thoughts for almost a month now. It just started out of nowhere when this weird sounding voice in my head said, “I’m gay.” It didn’t feel like me at all, but I have suddenly lost all interest in boys (I’m a girl). I had a massive panic attack about this, and my medicine was changed. I am talking to a boy right now, but the thoughts keep coming back!
Sometimes I admire other girls and really wish I was them, but I don’t want to be with them, I just want to be them . . . I have HOCD and it scares me that it might be a crush and I just don’t know it? Sometimes I just get intense feelings of admiration and having HOCD makes me terrified! Any suggestions?
I am 15 years old and really confused. Before this I never worried about it and didn’t question it at all, because I would never be gay. Now these unwanted gay thoughts and urges are driving me crazy. I don’t know if I have HOCD because I was never diagnosed with OCD but I have always been an anxious person. Can puberty make me gay or is this just HOCD? I want my old life back so bad.
Hello! I am an 18 year old girl and believe I am suffering from HOCD. For my whole life, I have had crushes on guys NEVER on a girl (I did watch lesbian porn in the past and it’s really bothering me that I did). I wake up worried that my past was a lie and that i am a lesbian and just repressed it. I just moved in to college and these thoughts of “you’re probably a lesbian” will not leave me alone
I have been struggling with HOCD for over a month now. I hate the intrusive thoughts that I have. I went on a date with a guy I like a few days ago, and I had an amazing time! But now the thoughts are flooding back again, and they feel way more real this time. Please help!
Hi there, I believe I have suffered with hocd for 8 months now and I still doubt whether I am gay or not, growing up I used to be very shy and didn’t really do anything with girls, recently I have been looking at my past to see if there are any gay expierences. Can it take 8 months to realise your gay or is it all just hocd
I’m 15 and my hocd is pretty bad. When I was young I was a part of some “experimental” play and this is the origin of all these thoughts. Anyways I at this point feel way less anxiety but these thoughts are still always here. Whenever I look at a girl and she is pretty I know that I want that but I get worried because I don’t have the same reaction I used to. Is that normal

Hi my dear ones, my dear, dear ones.

I am so sorry for the torment you’re going through. I really am. Can you see above how you are not alone? I’m sure you feel alone because OCD is not something most of us like to talk about, not even with the people we’re closest to.

So, here is my best advice:

1. Please read the following posts:

HOCD
A Closer Look at HOCD
Interview with a Former HOCD Sufferer
A Big Ol’ HOCD Post
Another Interview with a Former HOCD Sufferer
A Third Interview with a Former HOCD Sufferer
A Fourth Interview with a Former HOCD Sufferer
Q&A with Former HOCD Sufferer
HOCD Story: Meet Mae, Part One
HOCD Story: Meet Mae, Part Two

Also, please check out the question and dancer tag since most of those questions are about HOCD.

2. Read about treatment:

Gaining Certainty through Embracing Uncertainty
Resisting treatment?

What life was like before & after CBT
Obsessing vs. Brainstorming: before & after
A Detailed Post about ERP
ERP is the RIGHT Answer
Better than a Band-Aid
Embracing Uncertainty
What CBT was like for me
Will treatment change me?
Why You Need CBT/ERP
Have Reservations about ERP?
Preparing for CBT/ERP
ERP & Imaginal Exposures
Uncertainty is the Key
The Problem with Seeking Reassurance

3. Decide on your next step. Here are your options:

A) Do nothing. This is not recommended. OCD usually continues to switch to harder and harder obsessions and compulsions the longer it is untreated.

B) Continue to educate yourself. This is always recommended because one of the ways we fight OCD is with education and knowledge. You might find that you are only at this step and can do no more at this time. That’s okay. Keep learning about OCD and ERP so that you are ready for the next step when it comes.

C) Pursue ERP on your own. If you choose to do this on your own, you will still want a book or app to guide you. Here are my suggestions:

Self-Directed ERP with a Book
Self-Directed ERP with an App

D) Pursue ERP with the help of a parent/loved one and a therapist. It is always up to you which people you feel safe telling about your OCD and how much detail you want to share. It is fine to say, “I have been doing research on my own and I believe I have OCD. I’d like to see a specialist for a diagnosis.” If you want your parent or friend to know more about what you are dealing with, feel free to send them to the top link. The second link will give you ideas on how to find and interview an ERP therapist.

HOCD: A Letter to Loved Ones
Finding and Interviewing an ERP Therapist

E) Consider meeting with a psychiatrist to add medication to your treatment plan. Don’t neglect ERP therapy in lieu of medication. Medication is best when combined with ERP therapy.

Medication vs. Exposure Therapy

4. Take that next step toward freedom. 

a step

 

OCD & a Career? You Bet.

Yesterday, I got this question from a blog reader:

Do you think people with OCD can have a successful career? Do you know people who have OCD but also got a great career? Thank you very much Jackie. You’re the best 🙂

careerHello dear, thanks for the question and compliment!

In a nutshell: yes, absolutely!

I am actually enjoying two careers right now: I recruit for a university and write novels. This is such a dream for me because I love-love-love getting to work with high school and college students who are so passionate and in such a wild time of life and transition. And, of course, writing is my calling. I am so grateful to be able to write for a publisher I deeply respect.

In addition:

My friend A is an author and editor.

My friends C and E are therapists.

My friend L is a teacher.

Do we have days where OCD flares up and makes things difficult? Absolutely. But everyone I have mentioned has taken their OCD diagnosis seriously and pursued treatment, which has allowed each of us to continue to thrive in our careers. 

 

Question & Dancer: September 2017

question-and-dancerI’m an artist not an expert, one who is learning to embrace questions more than answers.

These are some questions I got last month. Ask yours here.

Recently I’ve found out a website called This Way Up which offers an online CBT course to help people self-treat OCD. The link is here:
https://thiswayup.org.au/how-we-can-help/courses/obsessive-compulsive-disorder/
Do you think this is helpful? The price is very reasonable, especially for those like me, who live in a developing country that doesn’t have any OCD exert.
Thank you very much!!!Hi friend, hmm … it’s hard to say without being able to access the materials. However, I will say that their description of ERP has a faulty premise. They say, “People with more than one episode of OCD and who are ready to confront their fears very gradually to find out that what they fear does not occur.” That makes it sound like exposure therapy is intended to make you certain, when the reality is that exposure therapy is intended to make you okay with uncertainty. Don’t get me wrong: I know that the first one sounds better, especially to someone with OCD! But certainty (in the way OCD sufferers want it) is not actually possible, and it’s far, far, far better to start moving down the path of accepting that. Ironically, it may actually provide you with more certainty about some things!

That said, I would rather recommend to you the nOCD app, which is FREE and put together by people I trust, people who deeply understand OCD and ERP. Click here for more info.

I wanted to know if hocd can start at 11 years old. Also, can an hocd sufferer fear the social repercussions of coming out. I wanted to know this because I am 13 and I’ve never had a boyfriend and a crush. But I’m not attracted to the same sex either. This causes me great anxiety. Does this sound like hocd or a person in deep denial?

Hi dear, personally, my OCD started when I was about seven years old (and HOCD is one theme of OCD). That said, if you are not feeling attracted to either gender, you might just be too young (it varies SO MUCH from person to person– I have friends who were boy-crazy at age 6 and friends who didn’t care about men until they were in their 20s) or you might just be asexual. Neither of those is wrong, by the way. But if you are suffering from intense anxiety, you should certainly pursue a diagnosis, whether it’s OCD or something like generalized anxiety disorder. Talk to your parents about seeing someone about your anxiety. You don’t even have to tell them what it is about.

I also have another question, what’s the difference between denial, internalized homophobia, and hocd. Its gotten so bad I wonder if its actually hocd.And can hocd cause false attraction and arousal, even though I know I’m not attracted to the same sex. I feel like Iread reassurance so much that I feel like I have everyone else’s symptoms of hocd. It causes intense anxiety. I don’t want to be gay.

I am not an expert on any of these subjects, although of course I know a bit about HOCD simply because I know so much about OCD. What you’re doing– seeking reassurance, checking, etc. to decrease the anxiety– is a textbook description of OCD though. Definitely pursue getting a diagnosis and doing exposure therapy! I know it can be scary (terrifying!!) to talk about this, and for some reason, HOCD feels even more “taboo” to many sufferers than other OCD themes.

Hello, sorry I keep posting, I also wanted to know how do I know I’m not gay. ( I’m a girl.) And do gay people worry about these types of thoughts. I worry so much I get cold sweated, . And when it passes, I feel drained mentally. I fear that at school that I will fall in love with a girl. Which makes me feel frustrated and depressed. My family on both sides have anxiety and ocd. Please answer!

Hello dear, again, what you’re describing sounds a lot like HOCD, but you would need a psychiatrist or psychologist to diagnose you officially. Consider these posts, okay?

HOCD: Letter to Loved Ones
Doing ERP On Your Own
nOCD, an ERP App/Hero

My HOCD left shortly but came back and now I’m scared. My thoughts seem to be so real when I know they’re not. I only want to be with men but I can’t help but look at clues that lead to what if all along I’ve been gay unknowingly. I’m trying to seek help but I’m only 16 and am too scared to ask my parents for help bc they never believe me when I say something’s wrong. 

Hi dear one, firstly, as hard as it is, I recommend not thinking about these things as “leaving” and “coming back.” If you have OCD (which is sounds like you do), it doesn’t come or go– although various obsessions can!– but OCD can be subdued and maintained through something called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy. Please read all three of these posts, which I think will be helpful for someone in your situation:

HOCD: Letter to Loved Ones
Doing ERP On Your Own
nOCD, an ERP App/Hero

Hi Jackie! I’ve been doing self-directed ERP for HOCD and taking an SSRI and i am feeling much better right now. However,  I was wondering if you could give me some insight on using the ‘community standard’ as a therapy tool? I think it could be helpful to me (as you too have pointed out to me in a reply to one of my questions). Some examples of applying it maybe?

Yes! This is a great question. Here is an example from my own life. When I bought my new house, I thought briefly about scraping off the popcorn ceiling in the living room and even tried it on a small spot. When someone mentioned “asbestos,” I started freaking out that with that small spot I’d cleared, I had somehow released all this hazardous material into the air in my home. I was worried that every time a friend came over to my new home, I’d be exposing them to this– and what caused me even MORE fear was thinking that I really wouldn’t KNOW if I was slowly killing my visitors until they actually died. I could tell that this was my OCD, though– taking something tiny and making it into a HUGE DEAL. So– the deal with the “community standard” is to basically ask “Would the majority of people in my community (excluding those with anxiety disorders) agree with me that this was a huge deal?” I suspected the answer was no. The next day, I lined up three of my dear friends, laid out the situation to them, and asked what they suggested I should do. All of them said, “Meh, move on. No big deal.” So, you see, the community standard was that this was not something to worry about … and so I was not permitted to worry either. (This might sound impossible at first, but with practice, it honestly gets easier. Sometimes I literally assemble a “community” and go with the majority– but usually I can tell on my own what the standard would be. If I know that anyone without an anxiety disorder is going to say “Um, that’s weird. Why are you worried about that?” then I already know the community standard.)

Does that make sense?

Jackie, Imma about to die. I started with HOCD, Harm OCD, now its trasgender Stuff, the deal is, i was sexually abused, bullied, so hard that i wanted to be a guy as a young kid cause being a woman was hard, have had attracion for women, it all leads as i am a butch lesbian woman. Where is god?

Oh my dear, dear, dear one! I am so sorry for the pain you’re in. I know that OCD is tormenting, and to deal with that alongside the other trauma you have experienced, … it’s just too much. Are you in therapy, friend? I would make this a priority. If money is tight, look into walk-in therapy clinics in your area. There is a lot to unpack in your life. As to your question of where is God … that is a question I myself asked for years and years and years as I felt so alone and so abandoned. It wasn’t until much later that I felt I could answer that question. For me, God was there all along, sustaining me in my unsustainable years and quietly guiding me toward the freedom I found through exposure therapy and in remembering just how much Jesus suffered and how much he could relate to my agony. That answer might not feel useful to you, and I wouldn’t blame you if that was true. Please don’t give up. In addition, take a look around and try to keep your heart open to people you sense you can trust. God works through people like this too– people who are full of compassion, patience, joy, and wisdom. Keep your eyes wide open, friend.

I am also a Christian struggling with OCD. My OCD takes many forms.  Currently the worst is obsessing over the safety of the entire world. Coughs-what if someone is choking? Small items like change on ground-child could choke? People not driving perfect-could be a accident.  List goes on!  Recently began ERP. Feeling so anxious and sick all the time.  How’d you handle this during treatment? 

Hello! I have a book character who has the same OCD themes– in fact, in one scene, he is systematically chipping away at the ice on the Minneapolis sidewalks, scared someone would slip and fall. In another scene, he is thinking about a guy at a bus stop who was smoking, wishing he had said something about the dangers of smoking, and wondering if there was a way to find that person again. Of course, I think that you and I (even with our OCD!) theoretically realize those are a bit much, yes? And yet, I have been where you are, feeling the weight of the world on my own shoulders. It’s exhausting. You are doing the right thing by pursuing ERP. In ERP, your anxiety will likely flare up and get a bit worse before it improves. But please hang in there. Try for 12 weeks straight and see how you feel. For me, 12 weeks later, I was living an entirely different life.

Hello, I have been diagnosed with HOCD twice. It is causing me so so so much anxiety. I have lost all attraction to men and now worry I was never attracted to men in the first place. I’m now worrying that I’m not coming out because of what my boyfriends friends would think, which I know is a coming out tendency. I’m worried that I’m thinking this as it’s not an hocd tendency. I want my old life bk

It’s not an HOCD tendency? I think just about every person I’ve ever known with HOCD has had those same thoughts actually. Everything that you describe sounds like textbook HOCD … in fact, you’ve been diagnosed with it. Twice. Next step: ERP!

I’m an 18 yr old male suffering from (I’m under the impression that it is) HOCD for a couple of weeks, now. I’ve managed to mostly calm anxiety/panic attacks, but I still get uncomfortable feelings, thoughts, and groinal responses when looking at guys (especially my friends.) I’m scared that this means that I actually am attracted and am just hiding it. Does it? If not, what can I do to stop it? 

Hi friend, the anxiety and panic attached to this makes it far more likely that you’re dealing with HOCD than anything else. The best treatment for HOCD (or any type of OCD) is exposure therapy, which you can do with a therapist OR on your own, with the help of a book, OR by using an app. Check out these links:

HOCD: Letter to Loved Ones
Doing ERP On Your Own
nOCD, an ERP App/Hero

I don’t have access to any OCD therapists so I’m unable to know for sure if I have HOCD or not. Over time I’ve been doing small things to stop my anxiety over gay thoughts (and it seems to be working.) But no matter what they keep interrupting everything I do, and now I’m beginning to worry that my lack of anxiety means I secretly want to be gay. I’m even starting to doubt that I even have HOCD.

“Unable to know for sure” … this is the core of OCD, friend: having intense anxiety over uncertainty. And since OCD is the doubting disease, it might not surprise you that almost everyone who has it has doubted at one point or another if they really did have OCD. 🙂 Have you done your research? Here are a few places to start:

HOCD: Letter to Loved Ones
Doing ERP On Your Own
nOCD, an ERP App/Hero
Interview with a Former HOCD Sufferer
Another Interview with a Former HOCD Sufferer
A Third Interview with a Former HOCD Sufferer
A Fourth Interview with a Former HOCD Sufferer
Q&A with Former HOCD Sufferer
HOCD Story: Meet Mae, Part One
HOCD Story: Meet Mae, Part Two

Thanks for all the questions, folks! If you have questions for me about anything, ask here.

As always, I leave you with these, some of my favorite questions in one of my favorite poems, “Questions about Angels.” Click here to hear Billy Collins himself read it. (P.S. It starts with questions, ends with a dancer.