In episode 88 I interviewed Jon Hershfield. Jon is a pyschotherapist based in Maryland who specialises in the treatment of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. He is the author of three books “The mindfulness workbook for OCD” and “When a family member has OCD”. And the soon to be released “everyday mindfulness for OCD” which he co-wrote with Shala Nicely. This podcast is packed with tips and advice for the family members of those with OCD.
In this episode I chat with Jon about stigma within the family, the importance of remaining a family member, why it’s not your fault, the 4 I’s, reducing compulsions as a family, why it’s ok to help them relax and comfort them but not engage in the content of their obsessions, establishing contracts for when reducing compulsions, mindfulness and coping with frustration within the family. Enjoy!
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I always knew I was different. I was a sensitive child. Some of my first memories consist of coming home from school and thinking about my day and all of the things I had done badly, incorrectly, or the ways in which I had failed to be the daughter my parents would love. As a result, every day without fail I would get a huge knot in my stomach that wouldn’t go away. The only way I figured out to make it stop was to accost my father as he came in the door from work and to blurt out to him all the things I had done during the day that were wrong, and then to ask for his forgiveness. I was 5. The pattern lasted for years.
I remember being a pre-teen. My mind was full of thoughts, most of which I was sure would damn me to hell. I prayed. I repeated my prayer each night, in the same order, the same number of times. My prayer saved me. My prayer protected my family from imminent harm.
My mother got sick. She went to the hospital and I was a mess. All I could think of was to write down all the things that happened each day and to recite them back to my mother when I was allowed to talk to her in the evenings. I remember with clarity writing “my brother threw a dirty sock at me.” I knew my lists were trivial and that my mother didn’t know what to do with my confessions but the pattern continued.
I didn’t like my parents. My father was a strict disciplinarian. Each second of my life was controlled. I was a puppet in my parent’s puppet show. I longed for control and eventually found it by cutting. By my teen years the battle in my head was raging on. I could not voice the things in my head for fear of rejection or condemnation, so to make my mental pain subside I would find razor blades or anything sharp and would cut to make the pain physical. Physical pain was much more feasible to me.
With this fallback prevention my OCD is still at a livable level
I have OCD and I check everything 4 to 16 times.
I could no longer work and reported in sick, had suicidal thoughts and led a completely isolated life by my OCD. I checked everything 2, 4 or 16 times. If someone or something disturbed me, then I had to do it again.
During an obsession I get anxious, tension in my muscles and I perspire a lot. Sometimes I start to cry and shake. I know it’s hard for others to empathize, but it felt sometimes as if the world was ending. Then I had to check everything and ask others to confirm if things are correct several times. In the past this checking and asking for confirmation was going on all day long.
I am now 50 years old, I’ve had OCD since I was 18. I started checking and asking others to confirm, after I had recovered from Anorexia.
This was the breakthrough moment. For the first time I felt at ease, a man walking out of prison, wondering what was next.
I spent years suffering in silence. How could something so big be so easy to hide? Was it the guilt, the shame or merely not knowing the true extent of what was going on? Was it the fear of being labeled, or was it thinking that this was a natural part of “growing up”? What ever it was, obsessive-compulsive disorder has had a profound impact on my life, muffling my school grades, discontinuing my social life and even forcing me to drop out of university.
One of the ways in which my OCD manifests itself is through the fear of being contaminated by germs, where actions such as touching an item belonging to someone else, would lead to obsessive thoughts of myself coming to harm.
Don’t worry about being different or what people think. Embrace it and you will find you have more good days than bad.
I’m Steph, 27. I never really knew or understood OCD. I admit I was ignorant like many others to it, and saw it only for people needing to order things and be tidy. This however is NOT the case.
I have never officially been diagnosed with OCD although a therapist I was referred to for anxiety issues told me it “sure does sound like it”.
My OCD symptoms?… well they vary really. From needing to check at least 3 times that I have locked windows, doors or my car. I even get a family member or friend to check also ( this is good for when I later start worrying about it again). I wouldn’t say I’m massively hyped on cleaning but I do need to keep my hands clean and again wash them at least 3 times every time. A newer addition to me is when I get nervous or anxious I use a finger to write on my thumb the letters of the alphabet. Always in capitals I might add. If for some reason I forget where I am up to or don’t like the way the letter came out (you can’t see what I write,my finger contains no ink) I rub it clean and start again and I cannot carry on until I get to ‘Z’. I love having things is order too I cannot lie. DVDs, CDs, books have to be alphabetical order. I work in a pre school and this is particularly challenging.