Late 20s, At the End of My Rope - My OCD Community

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Late 20s, At the End of My Rope

OldiesFan profile image
62 Replies

Hi everyone. My therapist suggested I check out online forums for OCD, so here I am. I'd like to share a bit of my story in the hopes that others can relate. I'm so exhausted at this point.

I've had OCD, at least in this form, for 9 years, although it wasn't ever diagnosed until earlier this year. I'm in my late 20s now. I've always been an anxious person, and had more physical signs as a child (headaches, stomachaches, etc.). (I’ve talked with several people about possibly being autistic, but that’s on the back burner right now because the OCD is so bad.)

I displayed some OCD behaviors when I was younger (had to write my numbers perfectly for a time when I was 9, anorexic behavior when I was 15-17). And as soon as I began to let go of the weight issue, this handwashing/cleanliness issue came up. It stems, at least partly, from a phobia of vomiting, but has slowly grown beyond handwashing. It got somewhat worse during COVID, but after the death of my dad this past December, it has gotten extraordinarily worse, very quickly, to the point where I'm exhausted mentally and having a really hard time functioning day to day. Every single task seems to involve handwashing and planning, and I don't want to do anything anymore. I have had situational depressive episodes before, but this comes from the mental exhaustion. (I'm also an author, and I don't want to write anymore, which is terrifying, as that has always been my passion.)

I was in therapy from 2016-2019, ostensibly for this, but it became more about my struggles with relationships and loneliness. So the handwashing was never really addressed. I also took Paxil during that time, which I think helped with my general anxiety, but stopped because I thought I didn't need it anymore. I recently (April of this year) started therapy again, focusing on the OCD, and have done a lot of CBT, which doesn't seem to be working (although maybe I'm not trying hard enough? I still doubt). I just got a prescription for Zoloft from my doctor, but I'm afraid to take it. I'm afraid I haven't tried the CBT long enough, or worked hard enough. But I'm so exhausted, and even when I use CBT techniques, the fear seems more logical. My therapist thinks medication will make CBT more effective, which I agree with, but I just feel like I haven’t worked hard enough. But I don’t know what else to do.

At this point I feel quite paranoid, honestly. What happens is this: I’ll be washing my hands, and I’ll think I feel or see a drop of water splash up from the sink onto my hand (or arm, or face). The bottom of the sink is disgustingly germy, so I need to wash my hand (or arm, or face) again. And sometimes that happens over and over, with the result that it takes me minutes to wash my hands (and often my arms, up past my elbows depending on where I think the water has hit). (TMI, but this also happens when I’m using the bathroom—if I think I feel something hit my arm [even if it's logically not likely], I’ll have to avoid touching it to anything, and wash it.)

I feel like I’m on high alert every time I use the bathroom or wash my hands—like hypervigilance—and it’s absolutely awful. I was certainly hypervigilant as a child, from the dysfunctional environment, but this hypervigilance didn’t start until earlier this year. I do wonder if the death of my dad had something to do with it. It’s like my brain just decides to plant random thoughts in my head—“Hey, what about this, you’ve never thought about this before,” and I think, “Good point,” and start obsessing over that—water drops on my arms, my lips, my face; keeping certain surfaces clean (or cleaner than others). It’s gotten to the point where I wash my arms almost every time I wash my hands, and I wash my lips several times a day.

I currently work very part-time, from home, and I'm also starting my freelance editing business (currently have 1 client). I've wondered if having a job away from home would be helpful, as when I'm away from home I'm generally resigned to being "dirty," but still, when I get home I have to go through thorough cleaning (usually just of my body, sometimes surfaces too). I recently went on vacation and thought my OCD would subside a bit, as it typically does on vacation, but this time it didn’t. It was awful.

I don't want to do anything anymore. I also, honestly, have had a very hard time adjusting to adult life. I was a great student and worked very hard in school (and liked it), and I was very excited to make my mark on the world as a writer, but when I finished my masters program, I felt so exhausted. And I feel like I've never fully recovered. Maybe I'm just lazy, but I'm not sure. I'm just so damn tired.

I've never held a full-time job (part-time was overwhelming enough), and I still live with my mom, who I'm very close to, but she has become increasingly distressed by my handwashing, which I hate. The shame I feel around her is so strong.

Also, a tiny part of me is afraid of getting better and feeling all the external pressures of the world to “be like everyone else”: “Now you’re healed, now you have to get a 40-hour-a-week job and be independent like everyone else.” I’ve never felt like I fit in this (Western) world, and don’t want a 40-hour-a-week job (hence why I’m trying to get started freelancing), but I doubt my motivations all the time. What if I’m just a lazy, spoiled, selfish millennial? It’s not that I don’t want to work—when I had energy, I took my writing very seriously, but writing fiction doesn’t pay (very well), so it’s hard for even me to view it as a legitimate occupation. I don’t want to spend all of my life working in a job I don’t enjoy. Is that selfish? Maybe. My faith is very important to me, but it increases my doubt here, as I have a very hard time trusting God. I’m always afraid He’s going to punish me. I’m trying to work on that, but with the OCD, again, I’m just so exhausted.

The only thing I’ve been able to focus on recently (besides what little work I have, although my focus is shaky sometimes there), is historical female couples—Boston marriages, romantic friendships, etc. I find this topic very interesting and I’ll read over the same lists, research these pairs, for hours. Maybe it’s my way of escape, but it’s also the relationship I really desire in my own life. (I am also touch starved, which doesn’t help with all of this, and I have attachment issues, which I’ve worked on a bit with another therapist.)

Again, sorry for the length. I just need to share this with people who might understand. I don’t have any questions, but I’m very glad this forum is here.

62 Replies
MothFir profile image
MothFir

First, my condolences on the loss of your dad. I lost my mom in my late 20s, and my dad this past January (I'm late 40s now). Big life events can obviously exacerbate general anxiety and make one depressed and/or overly philosophical about everyday life choices.

I don't think you asked for advice, but as someone who has had OCD since childhood and has only gotten serious about managing it in the last few years, I'll offer a few thoughts anyway:

1) Do not become discouraged. Of course you can't help feeling discouraged now because you are at a low point, but know that this is not a permanent state. The OCD community is full of people who hit low and seemingly hopeless points before they recovered and now live mostly normal and fulfilling lives.

2) Don't think that all CBT therapy is the same. ERP therapy is a type of CBT therapy that a good practitioner can tailor to your situation to break the OCD cycle. Many people go through a few therapists before they find one truly able to help them with ERP techniques.

3) Don't be afraid of medication. Many people seem reluctant to try meds but struggle with therapy and suffer daily from OCD unnecessarily. SSRI medications like Zoloft can make a world of difference. You may have to try more than one and experiment to find a dose that helps without causing side effects. This can be a long process because the meds take weeks to work. And it's always possible that in the end you may find that meds don't help or the side effects are too much. But please at least try! I take a moderate dose of Prozac every day -- it doesn't change my personality, it doesn't give me side effects, and it's not addictive. It does take enough of the edge off that I can practice the ERP techniques that give me freedom from OCD. (A few months ago I reduced my dose because I thought therapy had helped enough that I didn't need the meds as much. I noticed an uptick in my general anxiety and inability to resist compulsions. I increased the dose again and feel much better. I'm happy to take a couple of capsules every day to stay out of the OCD loop.)

4) The actual obsessions and compulsions you describe (washing again after splashbacks from the sink, etc) make perfect sense to me -- I have had lots of obsessions over the years but contamination has been the big one that caused me to finally seek help. Meds and good therapy can get you to a point that you are able to wash normally again without feeling hypervigilant about every possible contaminant. (Before reading your post I took some filthy cash from a coworker, put it in my dirty wallet, and then ate a doughnut without washing my hands first or even thinking too much about it.) In the beginning it will be challenging and you will have to do some things that make you feel uncomfortable, but the end goal is to get you able to behave normally and feel comfortable doing it.

5) Being a fiction writer is a perfectly legitimate profession, but admittedly hard to make a living at. However you shouldn't have to take a job you hate as an alternative. (FWIW, I applaud the younger generations' desire for meaning in their work, instead of just working constantly to make money to buy junk with.) You can find something you enjoy that allows you time to write as well. And maybe you can actually make a living writing what you love. But concentrate on getting the OCD under control before trying to figure out the whole life plan🙂 -- it's easier that way.

6) Back to "don't be discouraged." OCD is exhausting and depressing -- you're always scared of the next trigger, it takes 20 minutes to do something most people do in 20 seconds, and you can't think clearly or enjoy everyday moments because your brain is fixated on the current obsession. Don't worry too much about getting rid of that exhaustion and depression at first. Focus on the moment-to-moment ERP work of resisting compulsions, retraining your thought patterns, and doing the things your ERP therapist directs. That's your job right now. If you do it consistently (not perfectly, or all at once, but steadily and with resolve), you will find your enjoyment and enthusiasm for life and your writing starting to return. As the clamp of OCD loosens, you will again feel a sense of optimism and opportunity about the possibilities of life.

Good luck and don't lose hope. I'm sorry we all have to go through OCD, but it is possible to get better and live a fulfilling life.

OldiesFan profile image
OldiesFan in reply to MothFir

Thank you so much for your encouraging words, even advice (no, I didn't ask for it, but I appreciate it from someone who can relate to what I'm going through!). I really appreciate it. I like my current therapist a lot, and she's given me a ton of retraining help, which I can see potentially working, if I can somehow just believe it/let the fear go a little bit. I win a few (maybe 5-6?) "battles" each week right now (although this is very difficult and exhausting), despite losing the "war" overall, so maybe the meds will help in this case?. But she's admitted she doesn't know what else to do for me. I hate to switch therapists, but I appreciate the reminder that sometimes that might need to happen.

Thank you for the reassurances about medication too! Paxil didn't have too many side effects for me, but I did feel numb in a way I didn't prefer, so I might give the Zoloft a shot. Even though I'm quite nervous about side effects.

I've read that OCD often never entirely goes away. Is this accurate?

Thank you again for your words.

MothFir profile image
MothFir in reply to OldiesFan

There are some people who say they are no longer affected by OCD, so it is possible. I don't know if I will ever get to that point, but I am okay with that. I can live with doing a compulsion from time to time as long as I have the insight to recognize that I'm doing it and the tools to stop myself and move on.

OldiesFan profile image
OldiesFan in reply to MothFir

I meant to say--I have thought about ERP therapy, though it terrifies me. I've done a tiny bit of work myself (exposing myself, etc.), and I can see it being helpful, but I'm not sure I'd ever want to get to a point where I have to do the act (i.e. vomit) or something. 😄

MothFir profile image
MothFir in reply to OldiesFan

I think ERP should be very personalized. Only you can decide what "recovery" looks like, and you should be able to decide how fast you want to get there. A good therapist should be able to respect that while gently pushing you beyond your comfort zones.

My therapist often suggested I try things I wasn't sure I could do, and it turned out I could do them after all. She helped me consistently make progress.

Also realize that there are different ways of approaching ERP. I recommend reading books and blogs and listening to podcasts from lots of different therapists because you may get useful tips from all of them. You can put together a system that works for you.

OldiesFan profile image
OldiesFan in reply to MothFir

Good idea. Thank you!

I wanted to ask, too, if you can relate to having extreme anger/frustration. When I started therapy for the first time in 2016, I realized I had lots of pent-up anger--previously I was a person who almost never got angry, but I realized I had a lot of it inside me (probably largely from childhood). But it definitely has worsened along with my OCD, and it scares me, because it's explosive and I make others uncomfortable, and also treat my dog not very nice sometimes when he's frustrating me or I'm just overwhelmed by time pressures or my handwashing. It's like his eyes are another voice in my head, you know? Too much to handle. But then, releasing the anger feels so good. I've been trying to work on expressing it in a healthy way, but it tends to be so negative (mostly negative self-talk, yelling at myself).

Aroha123 profile image
Aroha123 in reply to OldiesFan

I think this is common personally. I have felt incredibly angry and irritable with OCD and that is not who I am. But the anxiety is so awful it pushes people to another place and especially when one is trying to control things to decrease anxiety. I found that when things were bad the anxiety was awful, then my emotions were so fragile and I was just really irritable. And then I felt even worse about myself for being irritable - I must be a horrible person, blah blah in my head. It's overload I think. Once the anxiety went I found this went too.

OldiesFan profile image
OldiesFan in reply to Aroha123

Yes, I heap shame on top of the anger, too. Thank you for sharing. I'm glad it went away for you.

MothFir profile image
MothFir in reply to OldiesFan

When my OCD has been really bad I do experience anger and frustration. I try not to take it out on other people, but if I'm terrified and desperately trying to get reassurance by ruminating, and someone obliviously interrupts me with a cheerful conversation-starter, I can be pretty terse on the outside and seething on the inside. I also get frustrated when people don't understand that I'm upset about something, or when they can't follow my OCD-logic to see why I feel something is a threat.

Obviously these are things to work on, but when they are caused by OCD it again goes back to ERP and getting the OCD under control first. Without irrational fears to obsess about, I'm usually patient and easygoing. In fact I think I handle difficult situations better than a lot of non-OCD people because I am used to the stress! If the car won't start or a load of laundry gets ruined, it seems like nothing compared to the existential threats that OCD tortures us with.

OldiesFan profile image
OldiesFan in reply to MothFir

Would you say ERP is the best form of CBT for OCD? I'm curious, as my therapist and I have been doing a TON of reframing, but no ERP.

MothFir profile image
MothFir in reply to OldiesFan

Everybody says ERP is the "gold standard" for OCD in that it is evidence-based and has a high success rate when done properly (which may vary somewhat from person to person).

As I understand it, the part of the brain that causes us to become obsessed and anxious about something is very primitive and does not respond to reasoning. That's why thinking about the illogic of your OCD or talking to a therapist about your experiences is not enough (though they might be important steps in the process). The part of the brain that is sending you false alarms only understands actions.

So at some point in the process of therapy, you have to repeatedly show that part of your brain that its fears are unwarranted. When you feel an urge to wash when no reasonable person would wash, you can't just say to yourself "I don't need to wash" and expect to feel okay about it. The primitive brain will still send out urges to wash. You have to experience the urge and then not wash, and do that repeatedly and consistently. Then your primitive brain will finally get the message that washing is not necessary and it will stop making you feel like you have to.

OldiesFan profile image
OldiesFan in reply to MothFir

I see. Thanks. Does ERP basically help with taking those actions, then? I'm wondering why I couldn't just do that myself--actually not washing is what I've been trying to do for months! With very little success, because of the fear. How does ERP help?

MothFir profile image
MothFir in reply to OldiesFan

ERP is really the process of taking the actions; i.e., using a sink (exposure) but not washing compulsively (response prevention).

The trick is finding a system that enables you to do it consistently. You can definitely attempt it on your own, but an OCD/ERP therapist may help you be more successful because they are a neutral party who understands not only the roadblocks that OCD will present but also what normal handwashing looks like. They will help you plan a gradual approach to your goal that helps you make real progress without overwhelming you. Steady, consistent ERP will help you get and stay better. If you give in and do compulsions much of the time, you are doing exposure, but not response prevention, and you won't see improvement. (That is a lesson I've had to learn many times whenever compulsions creep back in. You can expect setbacks, but a therapist will help you with those too.)

My therapist describes the process as creating "safety memories." As I understand it, these will be your brain's catalog of all the times you will have resisted compulsions without ill effects, and they are the opposite of the "fear memories" you have now -- all the times you've given in to compulsions to reduce anxiety. Currently you approach a sink and your brain draws on "fear memories" to make you feel like you'd better do compulsions or else face awful consequences. As you do consistent ERP, your brain will start to draw on the "safety memories" that tell it the compulsions are not necessary to stay safe. Your anxiety will go down because your OCD brain no longer equates "compulsion-less" handwashing with danger. But you have to start making more "safety memories" than "fear memories" to make progress.

To do effective ERP you don't need to immediately eliminate all compulsions if that creates too much anxiety. You can start by consistently taking a little more "risk" when you wash -- maybe turn the faucet off with the back of your hand instead of your elbow, or just rinse again if you sense a splashback from the sink instead of repeating the whole washing process with soap. There are all sorts of creative ways to challenge your OCD with gradual ERP. An ERP therapist would likely provide the easiest, most efficient help, but ERP books, blogs, or apps can all help you do it on your own. You need to find a balance between creating enough anxiety to challenge your OCD but not so much that you can't do the response prevention. Also the medication can make ERP much more doable.

OldiesFan profile image
OldiesFan in reply to MothFir

Thank you! That is very helpful. I'm definitely going to talk to my therapist about this. Finding the balance has been tricky for me. As I said, I've won tiny battles here and there, but overall I'm losing the war, and often when I try to create those "safe" memories, my anxiety goes sky-high and I nearly panic.

OldiesFan profile image
OldiesFan in reply to MothFir

Also, thank you for the condolences. 🙂

OldiesFan profile image
OldiesFan in reply to MothFir

Last reply, I promise: in the past I've felt actively suicidal once, and several times passively suicidal, likely from anxiety (not wanting to kill myself but not wanting to be alive), and now, I really just wish I could go to, say, a sanitarium like in the 1800s, and check out of life for a few months or years. Does that make sense? I'd love to float, be half-conscious or even unconscious for a few days. That's why I love sleeping, because it's a relief and escape from the real, stressful world. It's made me understand why people take pills or alcohol to numb themselves. I have no intention of doing that, but I would so love to just zone out for a long, long time.

MothFir profile image
MothFir in reply to OldiesFan

I understand those feelings, though I have never been suicidal. OCD grinds us down. Try to make recovery your top priority and I believe you will begin to experience less depression, ennui, anger, etc. And obviously if you find yourself considering self-harm again please get help immediately!

Also don't worry about replying a lot - that's what the forum is for.

OldiesFan profile image
OldiesFan in reply to MothFir

Thank you so much for your encouragement! I really appreciate it. I've felt so incredibly exhausted lately that I feel bad for not working as much/hard as other people. Is this part of recovery, or just me being lazy? It's hard for me to determine.

MothFir profile image
MothFir in reply to OldiesFan

I wouldn't compare yourself to other people. To recover, you need to watch your own progress and make sure you are steadily doing the therapeutic work as best you can. I have heard of some people who dive right in and do things that cause them the highest anxiety to get better as fast as possible, and others who take an incremental approach. Again, you set the goals.

Aroha123 profile image
Aroha123

I am so sorry to hear about your dad. My mum died when I was 27 and my OCD just went so far out of control after that I honestly felt I was going so crazy I was never going to come back from it. I had contamination stuff (I was pregnant too so it was so so bad). Everything was contaminated pretty much. Food was huge and I threw out so much food, couldn't eat a heap of stuff and washed my hands so much they were raw, cracked and bleeding. It hurt just to move my fingers because the skin on the top of my hands was so so sore.

Medication was a life line for me. I was really reluctant to take it. But truly it saved me. It helped me to challenge the thoughts - I don't think I could have done it without medication. Then eventually I came off medication and things were so much better. OCD for me pops it's head up whenever life gets stressful. I have had three major OCD flare ups now, but each time I have a little more knowledge and experience in beating it and the time frames are shorter and I can catch it quicker.

Edited to add - at the moment since Covid and a few other stressful events I am back on fluoxetine - I'm ok with that. I use it when things are bad - it's amazing how it quiets everything in my head.

Don't give up, there is hope and treatment can be so effective. It just takes time. I am so sorry to hear it's tough for you right now.

Claire

OldiesFan profile image
OldiesFan in reply to Aroha123

Thank you! I can relate to having cracked and bleeding hands--they aren't that bad anymore (now that I've moved on to also washing my arms and face), but they were really awful for several years. It was so painful and embarrassing. I'm so glad you're doing better, and medication helped you! That's nice to know.

And thank you for the condolences. I was there when he passed, which was strangely beautiful and horrific at the same time, and it all happened very quickly and unexpectedly. I think it's affected me even more than I'm aware of.

Aroha123 profile image
Aroha123 in reply to OldiesFan

Yes, I think it is pretty significant being with a parent when they die - with or without OCD. My mum was 58 when she died (we were soo soo close) and it was unexpected. My OCD is centred around losing people I love etc, so it really kicked the OCD off in a massive way. At first I was so angry at the world - why did other people still have their mum but I had lost mine? Now - I am so thankful I had my mum for as long as I did.

OldiesFan profile image
OldiesFan in reply to Aroha123

I'm sorry to hear about your mom. It makes sense that that would have kicked your OCD into overdrive. Losing a parent is awful.

aparente001 profile image
aparente001

Thanks for sharing that thoughtful, interesting post.

You can read online about side effect profiles of different SSRIs. My son had trouble with side effects from Paxil. Zoloft was recommended instead, as having a low side effect profile in general, and it was helpful for him.

Here is what I observed about ERP for my son: first, you list the triggers; then you pick the easiest thing on the list. For my son, his first exercise was: stand and look at a dandelion flower and resist the urge to pick it and flick it away. Over more than a year, he progressed. Each exercise took about 10 days to get to where it didn't "itch" any more. Then a few days of rest and then on to the next item on the list. His therapist explained that the body reacts strongly for a while, but it can't maintain the state of arousal all day long. For some people, it takes a few hours to get to that point, but for my son, it took ten to twenty minutes. He started his ERP therapy at age 11. It took a couple years to work up to his most impairing item: his specific phobia. When he was ready to work on that (fear of spiders), I prepared a notebook with images of spiders, ranked according to how yucky they looked. The distance from the image was also a factor. It takes real patience to do ERP but it can really pay off.

I hope it's reassuring for you to learn that the exercises progress in a very gradual, step by step way.

I was my son's homework coach for the exercises. I was a reassuring presence for him during the exposures, and I would ask him at intervals what his "itch" number was, and I'd write it down. When it leveled off around 1, after several responses at that level, then he knew he was done. The urge to flick the flower away, or to run away from the ant hill, or whatever, was almost completely gone by that point and he was done for the day.

If your current therapist, whom you have good rapport with, is not trained in doing ERP, they can get training from the IOCDF, and ongoing mentoring after the initial training.

There are many authors who don't strike it rich, but they find their work rewarding. There are people whose family circumstances free them from a 40-hour a week job, and they find their rewards from other activities, such as caring for family member(s), volunteering, being creative, etc. Have you noticed that nowadays people are not locked into gender role expectations any more? Perhaps you can generalize from that, to accept the idea that each person can come up with their own life plan. And it is very, very true that OCD is exhausting, so I hope you'll postpone character judgments about yourself for now.

Sometimes it is possible to find a way to cope, temporarily, until you have made more progress with therapy. Example 1: I asked my son's teachers not to expose him to his specific phobia for a few years. Example 2: when my son freaked out because someone had thrown out his used bandaid from his night stand, I explained to everyone that for the time being, don't throw anything out -- not even the toe lint he had parked on his dresser. Example 3: for people who feel an urge to pull hair out, it can be helpful to spray the hair with water periodically, since when it's wet the individual hairs are difficult to separate and pull.

Now here's an idea -- just brainstorming here -- to maybe help you cope with your concern about a splash back from the sink: how about if you clean your hands (and your arms, if you wish) with the no-rinse body wash from CVS? You'll find it in the adult diaper aisle. You could squirt the foam on a folded tissue, and gently rub it on your skin. It's very gentle. I wouldn't use the alcohol wipes multiple times per day, because rubbing alcohol is pretty harsh on the skin.

Perhaps it would be interesting for you to hear that I read about an interesting experiment. Students took samples from different places in a McDonalds. Turned out the toilet water (post flush) was the sample with the least germs of all. Consistently. It didn't matter which McDonalds they tested. Funny!

If you want to try a self-exposure while you're figuring out who to work with for ERP, perhaps you could set yourself a goal of completing a certain set of activities before washing again. (I made that up -- I don't know if that would be helpful or not.)

I hope you can give your mother some articles about OCD to read. This might help her understand and support you. I like the articles by Fred Penzel very much. wsps.info/articles-by-frede...

What my son and I found helpful was distraction. When he was stuck on something, and I felt so harangued and pestered that I couldn't think straight, if I was able to distract him for a moment, sometimes that got the record needle unstuck, so to speak. Something interesting, something amusing, something sensory. Arguing or trying to reassure were the worst things I could do.

Regards.

OldiesFan profile image
OldiesFan in reply to aparente001

Wow, thank you so much for your thoughtful response. I really appreciate all the tips. I don't think my therapist is certified in ERP, but I might inquire about it. It is helpful to know it's slow, and at your own pace. Still, just the thought of having to be consistent is such a weight on my mind. But it's a good idea.

Good tip about the no-rinse wash! I do use alcoholic wipes A LOT, and I try not to but sometimes I just get tired of using soap. I'll have to consider that.

Distraction helps me too, definitely. But in the moment it's a bit harder. And I always feel like distraction is just putting a band-aid on the problem...but I can see it getting the "needle unstuck."

Really appreciate your advice!

OldiesFan profile image
OldiesFan in reply to aparente001

I didn't know Zoloft has generally fewer side effects. Interesting. I'm quite scared to try it, but I think I'm going to tonight. Nausea is what I fear the most. We'll see what happens. (Using a pill cutter will be interesting too!)

aparente001 profile image
aparente001 in reply to OldiesFan

We make med changes on the weekend too.

I think the main reason to ramp up slowly is that too quick an increase can affect sleep amount and quality. At least that's been our observation and my doctor said it's not just us.

And I guess with any SSRI one should report to the doctor if there's an increase in suicidal ideation.

My son experienced a lot of nausea when he was younger, partly because of glucose metabolism problems (insulin resistance) and partly because of anxiety (but not from Zoloft). He had a good school nurse at one point who would cool him off with a bit of ice water and a fan. After about 15 minutes he felt better and was able to go back to class.

I like the liquid, unscented Aveeno quasi-soap for the shower. I have very sensitive skin. The house brand of the same thing is good too. The eczema version is especially good but it's more expensive.

Our favorite lotion is Gold Bond unscented. (I'm allergic to perfume.) One can squeeze it out of the tube, so that hopefully you won't have germ concerns.

About half a year ago I started taking Zoloft again, due to some physical health problems that I found discouraging and a bit scary. The way I knew it was helping was that I started singing around the house again, and I managed to make my partner laugh with little observations.

I hope it works out for you.

OldiesFan profile image
OldiesFan in reply to aparente001

Thanks! I'm glad your son is doing better. If I may ask, with the no-rinse soap--how does that work? From what I know about soap/cleaning, it's all about friction, and rinsing the soap (germs) off. So how does the no-rinse soap get rid of germs? Maybe I'll have to do some reading...

aparente001 profile image
aparente001 in reply to OldiesFan

To be honest, I have no idea. But someone in my family used it regularly to resolve a low-grade vaginal odor problem, by using it in that area after every visit to the bathroom, so I think it does something good. Ingredients: Water, Propylene Glycol, Fragrance, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Glycerin, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Benzalkonium Chloride, Sodium Citrate, Disodium EDTA, Methylparaben, Tocopheryl Acetate, FD&C Blue 1. Link: cvs.com/shop/cvs-health-foa...

I'll note that the way I understand it is that the body is able to build up resistance to a large number of microbes through natural exposure. I am not an expert in this area. I don't have a washing thing but I have a couple other problems so I can well imagine that the cleaning thing can be a very strong pull.

OldiesFan profile image
OldiesFan in reply to aparente001

Thank you! I'll look into it.

Sissi4 profile image
Sissi4

Wow, sounds like you have been through a lot.

I found Zoloft to work really nicely. That with CBT effective. Allow yourself to grieve your father as I find that more loss can make it seem like youre living in a box. I find that walking and working out helps a lot. Also, here is a website from a PH.D nutritionist specializing in mental health/addiction. Nutrition is a HUGE piece of how we feel.

Sissi4 profile image
Sissi4 in reply to Sissi4

I forgot to give you the name of the website. It is Radiant Recovery and is owned by Kathleen DesMaisons, Ph.D.

OldiesFan profile image
OldiesFan in reply to Sissi4

Thank you! I'll have to check that site out.

I'm curious about Zoloft...as usual I'm quite scared about the side effects, but I think I'm going to try it tonight.

Loosescrew profile image
Loosescrew

Hello, I totally can relate. Medications do not work for OCD at least that is my experience. I will give you a link to this Ted talk that I found to be helpful for me, I hope it will be for you as well. youtu.be/AZZIxyY23IA.

OldiesFan profile image
OldiesFan in reply to Loosescrew

Thanks! I have heard that medication doesn't work directly for OCD, and perhaps I would be fine with just doing exposure therapy, but I do think that lowering my anxiety generally would help me institute CBT techniques. Thoughts?

Phoenyx profile image
Phoenyx

Hi there. I feel like I'm seeing fear of medications among people in this forum a lot and I personally cannot explain to myself why. I am definitely pro- medications because if it wasn't for my psychiatrist and her precise choice of medication for me, I don't know how I would be alive after all these years. I followed my mom's advice twice to discontinue my meds which led to a disaster (of course). I'm not trying to convince you of anything (although it might sound this way). I just know how debilitating OCD can be and I am ready to do ANYTHING to make it (almost) disappear. You owe it to yourself to try and make your life livable. OCD makes us doubt ourselves, our thought, our beliefs, and fear so many things. My advice is simply to find a good specialist in this field and trust him/her with whatever they guide you. My doctor has never been wrong so far. Antidepressants work slowly, so by month 3, you should start to feel much better and continue to improve. If you don't- it's the wrong med. Think like that- you cannot get worse, only better from now on :)

Also, I always recommend a book in almost every post of mine. It really helped me a lot. "overcoming unwanted intrusive thoughts" by Sally M Winston. It's worth the read

OldiesFan profile image
OldiesFan in reply to Phoenyx

Thanks so much! I'm certainly not anti-medication, but I don't want to take it it's not needed. Of course I can't know for sure whether there's a biological component to my anxiety/OCD, but I wish I could. Still, I'm trying the Zoloft.

That being said, I have heard the view (including from the above poster) that medication does not work for OCD directly. What do you think about this?

Thank you for the book recommendation. I'll have to look it up. I really appreciate your encouragement and kind words.

Phoenyx profile image
Phoenyx in reply to OldiesFan

Medications work magic for me. I'm on Escitalopram for many years now. When an OCD episode strikes and I'm off the meds I stop eating, drinking, sleeping. All I have in my mind is a specific intrusive thought that makes me feel like a monster. My body and brain totally shut down. The intrusive thoughts don't disappear completely with the meds, I still have them here and there, however they are not as intense as when I'm off the meds and it's easier for me to work on them.

OldiesFan profile image
OldiesFan in reply to Phoenyx

Wow, that sounds awful. I'm so glad medication works for you. (See, I immediately think, "I don't struggle anywhere near that much, I bet I don't need meds!") 🙄😄

mind-full profile image
mind-full

Hi OldiesFan! I just wanted to share my own experience with aggressive moods and suicidal thoughts. I've been struggling with OCD for four long years, but before January, I had absolutely no knowledge or understanding of this evidently common disorder. The first helpful resource I ever found was a definition for thought-action fusion. It explains much of the mental exhaustion and self loathing that is a consistent part of my daily life.

"Thought-action fusion is a belief that thinking about an action is equivalent to actually performing that action."

Consider what you've already told us. While washing your hands, you only have to think that a drop of water has splashed up from the disgustingly germy sink and onto your body. This is then interpreted as a need to wash repeatedly until the thought eventually passes.

I spend a lot of time at the kitchen sink, washing my hands. Immediately in front of me is a large window sill with a stained wood finish, below that is wallpaper peeling slightly from age, and to either side of my peripheral are cupboards. They feature a flaking coat of varnish, more wood stain, and oiled door hinges just damp enough to hold airborne dust and debris. Sometimes, my hand comes close to touching the wall or window sill. So I have to wash. Sometimes, it's just my eyesight crossing the dusty hinges or crusty varnish. So I have to wash. What is really happening? I'm thinking about an action (touching dirty surfaces) and I'm assuming that I've touched dirty surfaces, when in fact, I have not. This false belief consumes hours of the day, and leaves my body (skin, wrists, fingers, etc.) sore.

I also see thought-action fusion exaggerating my mood. For example: when your dog is uncooperative, or you're just overwhelmed by time pressures, you're more likely to have angry thoughts. This is like that drop of water you think splashed from the sink, but really didn't. You might imagine yelling at your dog, or even kicking him. If you believe "thinking is doing," this is going to cause you a great deal of distress. It's not uncommon to seek reassurance (ask others if they've seen you hit your dog or raise your voice), and confess to being "not very nice" on occasion. Be sure to channel your frustration in healthy ways, and never confuse a thought for an action. Thinking of filth doesn't mean you're filthy, and feeling angry doesn't necessarily mean you're expressing anger.

Being hypervigilant (on high alert) is exhausting. Mental fatigue becomes a huge weight on your back, and any little frustration can be the one straw to break it.

I'm glad MothFir has shared a thread of replies with you. I enjoy reading his insights and learning about him as a member here. Eating doughnuts should never be a challenge (unless you've eaten too many), and neither should the endless other aspects of everyday life that OCD effects. My own contamination theme isn't germ or illness, but instead, harsh chemicals and natural purity. Coated surfaces (paint, varnish, or stain) and product labels (adhesive glue) make food preparation very troublesome. I also suffer from harm type OCD, which leaves me feeling like I don't want to do anything. Driving my car, walking my dog, or visiting my friends have become causes of significant fear and anxiety. Life appears normal to the outside world - I drive, I walk, and I visit - but inside is a heavy burden I carry. It's no wonder we're tired, tense, and (at times): explosive.

As MothFir explained, only you can decide what "recovery" looks like. Try watching your mom wash her hands, and aspire her freedom to do so rationally - not obsessively. Germy sinks won't harm you, but hypervigilance (negative thinking) certainly will.

Take your life back one exposure at a time. Use self-compassion to see this hardship ahead of you, and self-confidence to overcome it. Be honest. Talk about your experience, warn others when you become frustrated, and admit when these things become too much to control. Too much to carry.

Lastly, thank you for telling your story. I related as someone in my late 20s, at the end of a very similar rope. Welcome to the forum.

OldiesFan profile image
OldiesFan in reply to mind-full

Thank you so, so much, mind-full, for your thoughtful and very kind welcome and reply. I cherish your words. The thought-action fusion idea is very interesting, and very relatable. I almost smiled when I read about your hand getting close to a surface, because I do that too--I'll think to myself, "Did I touch that? I don't think I did, but I got close to it--did I touch it?" And because I'm not sure, I'll wash again.

I do try to watch my mom when she washes her hands, but to me it makes no sense the way most people (including her) wash--why are you touching the handle to turn the faucet off?? Then drying? How are your hands clean after that? I feel like I need to read more about germs, but I don't really want to, and I do tend to be obsessive with collecting knowledge, too.

That's the hardest thing for me, is looking at others, being reassured because they're not all getting sick, but also wondering, "How are we all not dead yet?" and also, "How the heck did I do this before (without getting sick)?" Basically it comes down to self-doubt. I've always doubted myself, but it seems to have gotten worse (not surprisingly) in the last few years, including with the OCD. I doubt a lot, especially re: germs/touching, and get very stressed if I can't get reassurance from others.

Thank you for sharing your obsessions. All that fear, from driving and walking and other things, must be so heavy. I hope it improves for you.

Would you have any tips for expressing frustration/anger in a safe way? I don't want to traumatize my dog, or my mom, or punch a wall. Unfortunately punching a pillow doesn't always feel very satisfying. Screaming is (when I'm alone), but I'm not sure I want to go around screaming all the time. 😆

Thank you again for the warm welcome. I feel so understood here. It's wonderful.

mind-full profile image
mind-full in reply to OldiesFan

I saw your post the day it was written, and felt really drawn to its title. The more I read, well, the more similarities I found. If you succeed in locating an 1800's style sanitarium, let me know. My bags are already packed.

Do I have any tips for expressing frustration/anger in a safe way?

That's an interesting question. I applaud you for wanting to express your anger - as opposed to suppressing it. Scream therapy has always appealed to me, but admittedly, I'm a hard shell to crack. I also know what the urge to punch a wall feels like, though I've never taken the opportunity. I remember being at work (once) and wanting to smash my plastic hardhat against a concrete wall. Life was so complicated, and the urge was so simple. So attractive.

My only tip is to be honest and considerate of those around you. For me, time pressures are the most common source of anger and frustration. I've learned to inform the room that an explosion is imminent, and evacuation is recommended. "Hey everybody! I'm frustrated right now, and things are going to get ugly."

Also, be kind to your dog. He is and always will be: a dog. He doesn't know how much you paid for those expensive shoes in his mouth or understand how late you are for that thing you're rushing to get ready for. You're angry at the situation, not him. Remember that. You'll know you expressed your anger in a safe way when you don't have to apologize for it. When there's no guilt.

"How are we all not dead yet?"

The body is a strong and resilient machine. A few germs and a little paint aren't going to stop it. I know this, but I seem to forget every time I reach for a bottle of soap. "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

I almost fell over (laughing) when I read your careful observation of other people cleaning their hands. Why are they touching the handle? Haha! I often tell my mom: "Oh, how I envy you." I used to wash like that - without the obsession or anxiety - and I miss it. Perhaps someday again.

Recently, roles were reversed. My mom was watching me. Embarrassed, I told her I had to lather, scrub, rinse, and repeat three times (after touching a can of soup). She challenged me to lather, scrub, and rinse once - without repeating. So I did. Whether she realized it or not, that was extremely helpful. In an older post, I suggest that OCD behaviours are comparable to arrogance. I see now that I was wrong. Arrogance wouldn't have accepted my mom's challenge, nor would it have succeeded. Instead, hypervigilance is a synonym for doubt and fear. "We suffer more often in imagination than in reality."

I appreciate the time and attention you've given to thank everyone. I especially admire the charm. Your story will have many chapters, and in those: many victories.

I look forward to reading about them. Cheers!

OldiesFan profile image
OldiesFan in reply to mind-full

Thank you so much. I really appreciate your openness. If I do find a sanitarium, I will let you know! I have found some fancy resort-type places that seem similar (maybe they're our modern-day versions, kind of), but they're rather glamorous, not to mention expensive.

I need to remember that I am angry at the situation, not my dog. It's just that his eyes on me, sometimes, feel like so much pressure. (He's very needy.) But not feeling guilt is a huge, lovely goal. Time pressures are really stressful for me, too. I guess I'm embarrassed to tell people I'm angry--especially if they're likely to not understand why. But you give really good tips.

I can see how OCD would look like arrogance, but I think you're more right in your second comparison with doubt for sure. I've always doubted a lot; now it's just very specific and very loud.

mind-full profile image
mind-full in reply to OldiesFan

"To me it makes no sense the way most people wash."

Observations like this could look arrogant, but the truth is, those of us struggling with OCD are unable to make sense of our own methods (hypervigilance). Nothing seems right. The simplest way I like to think of OCD is by defining "disorder", which itself can be reduced to one word: uncertainty. Whether I'm driving my car, washing my hands, or walking my dog, I'm often unable to calculate the acceptable risks associated with those activities. I'm confused, doubtful, and afraid. Everything I do feels wrong. Catastrophic.

"Meaningful risks are the only ones we can respond to and have any quality of life."

MothFir is exactly on point. The risk of touching a faucet after washing your hands is acceptably low - the problem is that your OCD makes it feel much riskier than it is. It's important not to fall into this trap of negative thinking where the faucet has germs, germs cause illness, and illnesses kill people. Instead, practice positive thinking. The faucet provides water, the water allows you to clean, and when washed you can return to whatever it was you were doing before. I can't count the number of times people (friends/family) have waited for me to lather, scrub, rinse, and repeat. Not to mention the hours of my life wasted. It's a sticky trap, but with enough rationale and willpower, I believe we can pull ourselves free.

"Do you want to respond to obsessions in a “normal “ way, but have no idea what that would look like?"

This question was asked in a recent post titled: What do normal people do? Personally, I want to respond to obsessions in a "rational" way. I know very well what normal looks like, and I envy some of the more creative examples. Just last week, my brother ate wings while working under the hood of his car. This "looks" perfectly normal to me, but it will never seem rational. It's important to find your own balance. Set goals that make ERP challenging, but not intolerable. I may never eat wings under the hood of my brother's car, but perhaps someday a quick lather and rinse will suffice.

"She thinks I should go through eye movement and desensitization."

I think EMDR is a wonderful idea. Anything (safe) that challenges a past trauma or present "thinking trap" is worth a try. It's amazing the relationship that exists between thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. Carefully identify when your thoughts are negative, and consciously correct them. Plan each day by imagining best-case scenarios (as opposed to worst-case). Think "I can" (rather than "I can't"). Compliment yourself in the mirror. Keep a gratitude journal. Although small, these are all steps in the right direction.

OldiesFan profile image
OldiesFan in reply to mind-full

Thank you so much, mind-full. You have great ideas. Positive thinking re: germs is very, very hard for me. I'm not even sure how to start! Because I'm always thinking, "What if?" or "Just in case..." But those little "wins" every so often are encouraging, and I do enjoy complimenting myself on them.

It's frustrating--I go into a situation thinking, "I'm going to wash and move on," and I'm so excited, and then--something happens and I get panicky and the re-washing ensues. And I get mad, because I was doing so good!

Funny, my mom told me to look in the mirror and tell myself "It will get better." 😀 Thanks for that.

mind-full profile image
mind-full in reply to OldiesFan

"It's frustrating: I go into a situation thinking I'll wash and move on, but then something happens."

This conversation (thread) has really helped me overcome that mysterious "something" that usually gets in the way of progress. I've had more "wins" in the last two days than the past two years.

1. Go in with a plan. For example, wash once (hands only) and move on.

2. Follow the plan. Remind yourself (during the anxiety and panic) that washing once will feel wrong, but the plan itself (your recovery) is right.

3. What would Mom do (WWMD)? When I doubt myself, and consider washing a second time, I ask what someone else in my situation would do. Like Mom, or one of my closest friends.

4. Don't ass-u-me the worst. It makes an ass out of you and me. The threat of germs and the efficiency of soap is only an estimate of your imagination. You may have convinced yourself that germs are deadly and soap works best the third time. You could just as easily tell yourself that germs are an acceptable risk and a warm water rinse is as effective as soap.

These are just some of the steps helping me get ahead of OCD. Thanks again for starting this conversation, and to members like MothFir who share their success.

I hope you can take these steps forward with me. It feels wrong, but challenging OCD is the right thing to do. It's your life to take back.

You deserve this.

MothFir profile image
MothFir in reply to OldiesFan

Here's how I try to view the whole "How are we not all dead/sick yet?" aspect. If you take the OCD's point of view when you think about something like handwashing and touching the faucet, you will always find it difficult to resist compulsions. There is always a way that something could be contaminated, and no way to be 100% sure it's not.

So instead of taking the OCD's hypervigilant point of view and putting every action under a microscope, think only of the broader view: Your mom touches the faucet after washing and she doesn't get sick. Is it riskier than not touching the faucet? Yes, but it still doesn't rise to the level of a meaningful risk, and meaningful risks are the only ones we can respond to and have any quality of life. Eating solid food is riskier than drinking nothing but smoothies (you might choke), traveling anywhere is riskier than staying in bed (you might crash, wreck, or fall), and living in a building with electricity is riskier than having no electricity (you might get electrocuted someday). But you probably do most of those things without worrying about it because you know the risk is acceptably low, even if it's not zero. The risk of touching a faucet after washing your hands is also acceptably low -- the problem is that your OCD makes it feel much riskier than it is. But feelings aren't reality.

(I probably don't have to mention that some public faucets might seem so risky that even a non-OCD person would turn them off with their elbows, but I'm assuming you're talking about one at home or in a place that is reasonably clean.)

One example: I had a problem with handling food after touching doorknobs at home. I'd wash every time I touched one, until I realized that nobody else in my family was doing it, and they weren't getting sick. Besides, my main fear was me making them sick, so what sense did it make for me to wash when they weren't even bothering to? I gradually committed to not washing after touching doorknobs. It felt "wrong" at first to handle food with such "dirty" hands, but now it doesn't bother me much at all. That's essentially ERP, and you can apply it to every area that is giving you trouble (like touching faucets).

OldiesFan profile image
OldiesFan in reply to MothFir

That makes a lot of sense. Thanks. I have a HUGE problem with public faucets now. I hate even touching them with my elbow (because then I have to remember to wash my elbow when I get home, and I'll have to wash the shirt, and I have to remember not to touch my elbow with my hand).

I think I've been trying to institute ERP things (I didn't even realize!) for several months--trying not to wash when it seems logical not to, trying to ignore it, etc. (also trying to incentivize myself with rewards), and it's done very little good. But again, my therapist doesn't specialize in ERP I don't think. But I have been trying so hard to resist the urges, and I get so incredibly anxious. The other day I thought I had touched something, and I so didn't want to wash my hands again, and I got excited that maybe I would win this battle, and tried to distract myself, but I ended up crying and panicky and I washed my hands. And then, unfortunately, I felt so much better (of course).

That said, I have had a very few tiny successes (winning a few battles in the war). They're just so tiny in the scheme of things.

I don't want to rely on the Zoloft too much, but I really hope it kicks in and works. Or maybe I just need more willpower/something to overcome the fear? 🙄😄

MothFir profile image
MothFir in reply to OldiesFan

You said, "Or maybe I just need more willpower/something to overcome the fear?"

In my opinion, a plan for handling the fear is essential to doing ERP effectively. There are different ways of approaching the fear and you have to find one that works for you. Reading different therapists and listening to other OCD sufferers' stories can help you get ideas.

Personally, I seem to do best when I use one of my more rational moments to establish what "normal" behavior is. This might involve doing research, talking to an expert, or observing "normal" people. Of course I have to be careful not to make this into a compulsion. I just need to know how non-OCD people perform an activity responsibly (keeping risks low without trying to satisfy OCD's impossible demand for zero risk). Then I have to focus on doing the activity like a "normal" person would, even when OCD appears with its scary threats. I know I can't try to figure out normal behavior when I am triggered because I will always give in and do compulsions once OCD has warped my reasoning.

In your case, you might decide that non-OCD people do not rewash every time they sense they've gotten splashback from the sink. Maybe you then decide that you will only quickly rinse again the next time you get splashed, instead of rewashing with soap. You need to decide this before you start the process and then commit to it. When you wash and get triggered, and you feel like you need to rewash all over again, you need to stick to your plan, knowing that you are following the course of action you chose when you were rational. It will feel wrong during the trigger, but that is because you have OCD. Treat the anxious discomfort the same way you would treat a headache or a sore muscle -- it is painful but you can disregard it in order to do what you need to do. It has nothing to do with actual contamination, because in your rational moment you've already decided that non-OCD people would not consider it contamination.

Finally, a critical component (for me) is to refrain from ruminating on an exposure. If you resist the urge to wash again, but then spend the next five hours looping through the experience in your mind, trying to determine if you are contaminated or not, or what may happen if you are, you are just substituting the compulsion of ruminating for the compulsion of washing.

OldiesFan profile image
OldiesFan in reply to MothFir

Going through with not doing the compulsion is the super hard thing. I did this just the other day: I thought, "I'm just going to wash like a normal person/normally, and be done." Then I thought water splashed on my hands. And I tried to ignore it. I got so scared. Because in some way to me, it is rational: "What if I get sick, and it's from that drop of water? How do I know? I don't know." (Of course others don't seem to, but what if this is the one time?") Does that make sense? I guess that's the doubt.

So I'm always thinking, "Just in case. Just in case."

Ha, I washed the other day exactly because I was ruminating on having not washed, standing there panicking thinking, "What if I need to? What if I get sick?"

MothFir profile image
MothFir in reply to OldiesFan

The "what-ifs" and "just in cases" are what get you. Taken to the extreme, every precaution can seem rational -- again, why risk eating solid food when you could choke on it? Why travel anywhere when you could be hurt or killed at some point in the journey? Why take a chance using electricity when it could electrocute you, start a fire, or give you cancer? Those are all possibilities, but they're below most people's threshold of "things I need to worry about."

In the end, of course, it's up to you. Like my therapist told me, no one is going to arrest you for doing compulsions. But if your current approach to germs has you "at the end of your rope" and "exhausted," there is a way out. 🙂

One more thing that has helped me when I get stuck on a "what if" scenario: I tell myself, "Well, [the feared thing] might happen, but it won't be because of this." In your case, there are probably other things you do that could make you sick that your OCD hasn't latched on to. Food you eat could be spoiled, there could be germs in the air, a spoon that you think is clean might not be. So if you "take a chance" and resist rewashing after getting splashed from the sink, and then you get sick, will you really know it's because of the sink? Or are there other possibilities that are a lot more likely? Probably you would never really know why you got sick. If you told a doctor, "You know, I sometimes got a drop of rinse water splashed back from the sink and I didn't rewash thoroughly afterwards," would they really say, "Oh yeah, I bet that was it!"

OldiesFan profile image
OldiesFan in reply to MothFir

Ha, that's a good point. I don't think the doctor would say that. :) This whole issue has actually expanded to surfaces and other objects--clothes, spoons, as well as food safety/expiration dates, etc. I'm very aware of those things. In fact I've started washing more clothes and silverware lately because I'm afraid they've touched something...

Anyway. I hope I don't sound like I'm pushing back against you; I just want to share where I'm coming from. I do want out! I've had a few tiny victories here and there the past week.

MothFir profile image
MothFir in reply to OldiesFan

I totally understand. My OCD always comes up with new and creative ways to make the same old threats, and it's easy to fall for it. Expecting that and resisting compulsions as much as you can will help over time. Good luck!

mind-full profile image
mind-full in reply to MothFir

"In the end, of course, it's up to you. No one is going to arrest you for doing compulsions. But if your current approach to germs has you "at the end of your rope" and "exhausted," there is a way out."

Well said, MothFir. It nicely summarizes everything. Remember there are only 24 hours in a day. How we choose to use that time is up to us.

While exposing myself to fears, repeating "this is going to feel wrong" has been helping in a big way. In the end, I know recovery is the right thing to do. I step through my anxiety, and into a small victory.

Don't let germs stand in the way of progress, OldiesFan. In your vigilance to prevent sickness, you grow more negligent of mental health. You get exhausted.

Do what's right by doing what feels wrong. Challenge your negative (worst-case) thinking.

I know: easier said.

OldiesFan profile image
OldiesFan in reply to MothFir

I wanted to ask you (or everyone on this thread): I was talking to a friend who also struggles with mental health issues, and telling her about the incident that made me end up being so afraid of vomiting (when I was 9; I might have gotten food poisoning). She thinks I should go through eye movement and desensitization for that traumatic memory. Apparently it's really helped her. I do think I should deal with that memory at some point--whether it will help with the phobia/OCD, I'm not sure--but I wonder if you know anything about that treatment or what you think about it.

MothFir profile image
MothFir in reply to OldiesFan

I have heard of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) but haven't tried it myself. I vaguely remember that someone in my local support group said she tried it (after a therapist recommended it) and she found it more helpful than she expected. She was doing it in addition to regular ERP and SSRI medication for OCD.

OldiesFan profile image
OldiesFan in reply to MothFir

Interesting. I might look into it. Thanks.

Hello,

I too suffer from extreme contamination and health related OCD. Similar with the hand washing, etc.

Right now I’m in an IOP ERP program, and it’s still too early to tell if it’s working or not. You should look into it. Medication can too, but it’s a lot of trial and error.

I don’t believe OCD is curable. I believe it can be controlled and actually go into a type of remission. I was free of it for a few years until about a year and a half ago. I think a combination of the constant in your face Covid stuff and a TBI, my OCD returned with a vengeance.

Also, condolences on the passing of your father. I too lost my dad.

OldiesFan profile image
OldiesFan in reply to

Thanks for sharing! I hope the ERP works for you. Could you keep us posted?

Yes, meds are a lot of trial and error. At this point I'm willing to try them, though. I've actually pondered asking my doctor for benzos, or something that will work on anxiety right away, but I'm not sure I want to go down that route...although it sounds very tempting, and I have more and more moments where I'm literally paralyzed with fear and exhaustion. Living life is a huge struggle.

Adele62 profile image
Adele62

I am so sorry to hear about your suffering. My OCD started at age 7, after witnessing the death of my grandfather and two traumatic hospitalizations for medical issues. I became a nurse and dealt with severe anxiety and intrusive thoughts my entire life. My family of origin was very dysfunctional so everything you are experiencing is understandable. My suggestion: try the meds and give them a fair chance. They work. If Zoloft is not effective there are other options. I take meds and have tried everything else with little result. A would also recommend reading The Body Keeps the Score to see how trauma may have contributed to this for you. One psychiatrist I have read believes OCD is the sign of an unprocessed hidden emotion. Stress definitely makes it worse as does anger. Take care.

OldiesFan profile image
OldiesFan in reply to Adele62

Thank you! I've never heard of that book; I'll have to look it up.

My family was dysfunctional, and somewhat abusive, so I definitely struggle with trusting and have always been quite anxious in general. I don't doubt that OCD is a way for us to try to regain control we didn't feel we had a kids. At least, that's how I've experienced it, in part.

Hi, I'm new here. Mid-20s. I've been in therapy for just about 2 months and on zoloft for about 5 months. My therapist also suggested finding an online support group even though I wasn't sure about it at first. I doubt the medication and I doubt the CBT but it usually takes my therapist or someone else to point out how much I have accomplished. One thing that I have noticed is that during CBT we delve into past experiences more than I expect. It's difficult because I want to focus on the OCD I have been newly diagnosed with. It's frustrating but it eventually does get back into the OCD. Somehow and sometimes vaguely. This might not be exactly the same as what you are going through, but I felt some relation. So for that I thank you for sharing. I'd be happy to talk with you anytime, as someone to listen and to share experiences with if that is ever helpful. Knowing others can relate to me makes me feel less crazy or alone.

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