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I Need Help. (Very Long Post.)

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Hi everyone

I finally decided to sign up to this forum and give it a shot as I've never found forums helpful at all. Perhaps this could be different given that this is specifically an OCD group.

I've been suffering from OCD for more than half my life now. I'm only in my early twenties and yes I've been having it since I was a kid. It started with compulsions like checking my bags, checking lights, faucets, locks, stoves etc. etc. as well as an overwhelming worry of my parents going bankrupt for some reason, so I would be deathly afraid of wasting water and electricity to the point I'd not watch television or use the heater/ air-conditioner because they'd contribute to electricity usage. This quickly progressed to pure obsessions where I'd have thoughts in my head and they'd be stuck in my head for days and days or until I "figured it out".

I only got diagnosed by "something" when I was 16 and self-harming. I thought I'd finally get better from there but I was wrong. To date, I've tried several kinds of medication and several kinds of therapy. Unfortunately, I move around a lot so I'm never in one country long enough to get the same help consistently. I was referred to IAPT two years ago in the UK but nothing came out of that and I'm moving again in a couple of months.

I think, maybe, my OCD has gotten worse since I was younger. I used to date people, and I realised that they were my triggers. I.e. I'd think about their past in vivid detail so I'd HAVE TO imagine them being with their exes, and what they did with them, and "perfect" those details so I can get that perfect imagery in my head and repeat it over and over. I now realise that the only way I can be completely happy in a relationship is for people to lie to me and tell me that they're virgins or something, but I can tell and find out if someone is lying very easily so I never want to get close emotionally to anyone anymore. Which works fine for me except I get attached to people easily..

Now, I don't have triggers. Intrusive thoughts are part and parcel of my life, and they can be about ANYTHING. I once obsessed over the colour black, and since then, have been using it as an example in attempts to tell "normal people" about what my thoughts are about. I say: "Imagine the colour black, but imagine the colour black in detail and to perfection. You ask me what I could possibly mean by 'black in detail' but I can't possibly tell you. I just know that I have to imagine black in detail. You have to understand and answer the colour black, but not understand it in a way where you describe black. You have to know the details and perfect it."

This happens everyday. I can look at a photo of myself on Facebook and obsess over it for days, because I have to "perfect" the image in my head, beginning with tracing contours of the photo to "understanding and perfecting" it. I do it until I am completely exhausted and fall asleep, or fall asleep half-way through only to wake up to that same thought.

Right now, I have exams to study for and spent an entire day since I woke up thinking. I had to ask for extensions for my essays, and took so long on them that I barely have time to study, and still, those thoughts are in my head. At the moment, my trigger is anything to do with money. The mere mention of it sends me into a spiral of thoughts which begun two days ago. I really hate to write out what it is, because I don't want to be reminded of it.. I wouldn't mind talking about it privately. I can't "answer" it. I've spent a day now thinking about it, and usually that is sufficient to at least feel better but it doesn't go away. I tried calling my mother in the middle of my panic attack and she ended up chastising me for "thinking so negatively" and comparing me to my grandmother who "keeps thinking negatively and having this problem too".

I really don't know what to do because I am going to do badly for this exam and that adds me to feeling like a total failure and that I've wasted my parents' money and effort in sending me to university. I don't even know what the point is anymore. I used to be the star student in the schools I attended, and now I feel like I'm seeing it all go to waste. I feel different too. I don't feel like I have the same spark I did even compared to 3 or 2 years ago.

This is a really long post and I now that I'm done writing it, I feel like I've wasted even more time, and I wish I didn't write any of this because I'm paranoid and worry about people knowing too much about me but maybe it'll help. Maybe someone can understand this and tell me that I'm not completely crazy.

Thanks for reading.

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Hello EndThis,

I'm really sorry you're having so much trouble with your OCD at the moment.

You say you've tried therapy and medication before, but it didn't work? Have you completed a course of the right kind of CBT (Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy)? This is pretty much the only type that's currently effective for OCD - hypnotherapy, talking therapy, generalized CBT, mindfulness-based therapy etc are not generally known to work.

Moving house a lot can be stressful, and so can exams - no wonder you're having a flare-up of OCD symptoms right now! Have you considered trying to get some direct OCD support (GP/therapist/support group, self-help books etc) and maybe structuring a break in your studies to work directly on your mental health? A 12-week long course of specialized ERP can get some people's OCD symptoms down by a good 80 or 90%. Heck, even 4 intensive weeks with a good therapist can sometimes do it.

OCD is treatable but when symptoms are bad it can be a serious disability. Under UK law it's supposed to be recognised as such. Let's not downplay this as just a personality quirk or a bad habit (even if your family don't sound like they're being terribly supportive right now...). OCD is very real. If you asked your adviser of studies for a semester off to recover from breaking several limbs, she would help you. This isn't really any different.

There are some slightly contradictory things about your post, like:

Hi everyone

Now, I don't have triggers.


At the moment, my trigger is anything to do with money.

So you might find it helpful to start by laying out which topics are currently scaring you, possibly on paper, and come to a better understanding of how the mechanism of OCD works. Self-help books like David Veale's 'Overcoming OCD' or Jeffrey Schwarz' 'Brain Lock', or also 'Daring to Challenge OCD' (all of these can be grabbed at Waterstones, Ebay or Amazon.com quite cheaply) can be helpful.

Ultimately, you MUST stop doing compulsions.

These are just feeding the cycle of your OCD. Compulsions can feel soothing in the short term, but in the long term they ALWAYS just make it worse. And you list a lot of things in your post that count as compulsions - trying to 'figure out' a thought (ruminating compulsion), obsessively going over irrelevant details of the past (ruminating compulsion), making people lie to you so you don't worry (reassurance compulsion), trying to remember an image perfectly (perfectionism compulsion), avoiding writing or mentioning a topic that scares you (avoidance compulsion).

Every time you give in to the urge to do one of these compulsions, you train your brain in an unhealthy, fearful, over-exaggerated way of thinking (literally. Brain scans have been done of OCD people before and after OCD treatment, and things look TOTALLY different after they've trained themselves in healthy new thought patterns). Everyone on here appreciate how scary it is at first to resist compulsions, but there are structured ways of setting yourself goals to start (that's what Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy is). Remember that your OCD can't actually MAKE you do anything. You always have a choice. If you had Tourette's Syndrome, or ADHD, fine, controlling your physical body would be hard, but OCD can really only shout at you to do compulsions and make you feel anxious if you don't.

Edited by BadgerFox

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Hello, EndThis,

It’s clear from your wording that you are American, and that two of you are sharing the same seat when travelling around the world.

OCD is commonly known as “The Secret Illness”, and you’re a classic example. It appears that you’ve kept your illness a secret from everyone; even your parents. I doubt that you would have posted at all were it not for the comfort of anonymity, and altering this must be the first step towards change. You MUST discuss this with student services, so that your University can consider mitigation – if they don’t know about your problems, they can’t provide you with help.

You appear to be living alone with your illness – just you and the bad guy. The bad guy being Swartzenegger, and you’re Danny DeVito. There is no way that Danny can fight Arnie alone, so you have to make friends with someone like The Hulk; the Hulk being a good therapist. You must, however, start mentally preparing by unburdening yourself of secrecy. Let your parents know the full extent of your illness, and how its effects are making your life an absolute misery. Have a chat with Grandma, to see if there’s anything that she may be concealing with her “negativity.”

You appear to be making a big issue about achieving perfection. I’m in my late seventies, and I can tell you, with some authority, that there is no such thing!!! What do you perceive as perfection? Imagine two trees: one short and twisted in all shapes, and the other tall and straight – which is perfect? They are both perfect. They are living quite happily as nature intended, but we – human beings – try to categorise them. We are the only creature to consider perfection as a possibility, but we’ll never achieve it because it doesn’t exist. The product of continually worrying/striving for something that can’t be reached is anxiety and depression – triggers of OCD. I’ve just realised that I mentioned Arnie, and Danny. They were together in the film called Twins, and one was referred to as perfect, and the other as ****. Which was which – I can’t remember – I must remember which one was perfect, or I’ll go out of my mind. Please help – where are my pills?

You are the only person to have hands on the wheel that’s steering you to your future, so, on route, make sure you re-fuel yourself at the right places.

You have my very best wishes.

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Thank you BadgerFox and Lacko'zeds for the advice and frankie for the support.

Lacko'zeds - I'm actually not American, haha. You are right in saying that I am apprehensive about posting about this online (maybe I should delete this thread?). However, I HAVE been vocal about it to my parents since the OCD started when I was 11. Of course, at that age I had no idea that what was happening to me was abnormal. I have been told that it was just puberty and it was normal - apparently a psychologist told my mother that when she phoned one up back then, as she told me years later. I actually was quite normal and happy (I think?) for the next few years until I was 16, which makes me wonder why it went away then came back.

I also have been vocal about it to my university and been in constant contact with my dean, GP and counsellor about these issues.

I don't however, like talking about this to people, or "friends" because 90% of the time, they say ridiculous things that make me really angry. For example, someone tried to convince me that my OCD wasn't actually OCD and could be because I was "more emotional as a woman", or maybe it was because of the food I was eating.

I've not been treated with CBT unfortunately, which is my frustration. When I was provided a psychiatrist and therapist in a mental health facility years ago, they did not seem to understand what I was going through and just tried to talk me through my "perfectionist tendencies". Mindfulness also does not help. I have also been warded a couple of times. In the UK, I have not received anything from IAPT despite repeated referrals from different routes, so I would have to look for someone who knows what they are doing when I finish my exams and have time to focus on my mental health.

When I said I don't have triggers, I meant my triggers aren't limited to one specific topic. They can be about anything now. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

At the moment, I am trying to just ignore them and focus on studying which I actually enjoy for some reason. I've spent nearly an hour writing and re-writing my response.. Which makes me panicky.. Like I could have finished half a chapter of productive studying in this one hour instead of writing this and it makes me feel like dying.. but here we go.


Edited by EndThis

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Hi there, if you are struggling to access cognitive behavioural therapy then you could try self-help books, both overcoming obsessive compulsive disorder and break free from OCD are highly recommended. You can try to start tackling things yourself until you are more settled and can access therapy then :)

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