In the previous few articles I have covered mostly Depression and touched upon some of the issues that I'm now going to discuss - OCD and Anxiety. I'll try not to cover old ground but there is undoubtedly some overlap between many Mental health conditions and the advice given in the last few blogs on Depression will no doubt be pertinent for these too.
Part of the reason for me writing all of this down is because I have suffered in the past with Anxiety in particular. I know how crippling some mental health conditions can be both mentally and physically. Writing it down and teaching you what to look for, how to recognise it, where to go for help is helping me to overcome my fear/anxiety about getting things wrong. Things don't have to be perfect to be out there on the internet for everyone to see. Chances are, not that many people will see this, and those that do probably won't care (too much) about my grammar, spelling or a "fact" that might be slightly wrong (I do endeavour to check though)
Now I'll get on with it
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder - a condition where the suffer is compelled to perform a particular task either repetitively or overly "well" i.e. cleaning. Sufferers may know that the tasks that they are doing are not necessary but feel that they need to complete them in case something bad were to happen if they don't. Very much like a superstition.
Touch wood, this is not the case for you.
Signs and Symptoms
Perfectionism - when there is a task to do but you aren't happy with it being completed until it is perfect. This may include - listing and ordering, cleaning, counting or rearranging items until they are exactly in the right place. This on its own is not OCD
Ritualisation - to the extreme - we all have routines - wake up, go to bathroom, brush teeth, go to the toilet etc. They make decision making easy....there is no decision. However, if you become obsessed with how many times you brush each tooth and it takes 15 minutes to do that then you may have a problem. If these extreme rituals expand into many facets of your life, many hours of your day could be taken up performing them which then impacts on work, family and social life.
Relief - if there is a sense of relief after performing the ritual then that gives your brain a big shot of "happy". The relief then reinforces the behaviour making you more and more likely to perform that task.
As with Depression, Serotonin is thought to be the main chemical compound that is deficient in people who suffer with OCD. Changes in diet and improvement in gut function can improve levels of Serotonin to "normal" levels.
Other Neurotransmitters and Hormones may also come in to play. Such as Dopamine which would be released on completion of the task and a "job well done", like a little pat on the back. Environmental factors and Traumatic events - an event may have occured in a sufferers past that has led them to believe that by performing a particular task ritually will prevent the same event happening again. Often, that is not the case.
Treatment for OCD
As with many Mental health issues there are a variety of options. Personal Opinion - and I am not a Doctor so please do take medical advice on this - is that we should attempt to avoid medication and exhaust all other options first. Saying that though, medication might be the first option depending on severity and risk to health.
CBT - as I've talked about before - Cognitive Behavioual Therapy is a talking therapy that helps to reframe the triggers of the obsessive behaviour. The practitioner may use exposure therapy to help to reduce the symptoms. This can take time but can have fantastic results. Diet - as I mentioned above, rebalancing our Neurotransmitters can be affected by what we eat. To address serotonin balance we often need to increase our bodys ability to produce it. 90% of Serotonin is produced in the gut. A pro or pre-biotic capsule to improve gut health along with avoiding foods such as brown banana, avocado and fermented foods (high tyrosine foods) can aid this. foods that can assist production here.
Another incredibly common Mental Health problem - it is linked with both OCD and Depression and can play a role in the development of either condition.
It is a vital part of human life, linked with stress. We want some level of Anxiety and Stress. These push us towards and beyond our boundaries.
It is when we feel totally overwhelmed by the distance outside of our boundaries when it becomes a problem. Anxiety can build up to become depression. If you are in an anxious state for long periods of time it can feel like the world is ganging up on you and you can feel very lonely. It can involve work, home life, social life, money etc and it can come and go.
Recognising that stress and anxiety are important for human survival is good because we now know that this is a normal feeling. We should feel stressed if we can't find food (thinking back to caveman times) it is that external pressure to get up, get going and fight for survival is part of the reason the the human race exists. However, in modern times, that can become a bit of a hazard. We don't always have a physical outlet to go out and hunt and gather. We are chained to a desk where lashing out and getting angry or doing 30 burpees would be looked upon as weird. We internalise the fear/hate/worry/anxiety and store it. However, it's then often forgotten about, it is never let out and it builds up over time, it can then be expressed as other symptoms like physical pain, poor sleep, insomnia, depression, OCD When we internalise all of these emotions and do not let them out, it can appear as anxiety. We then avoid the situations that may make us feel like this.
The eternal dread of being summoned to the bosses office, the phone call that you have to make, the journey that you are embarking upon. Chances are that nothing bad will happen, but you don't know that, the fear is in the unknowing of what will happen.
How to tackle anxiety
Know that anxiety is part of what has helped the human species survive. It is NECESSARY for survival. We NEED stress and anxiety.
Know that it is an emotion which you can let go of either physically or through thought.
Know that life is always uncertain, the only way you will know is if you go and find out.
Know that it is important to plan for what could happen but NOT to obsess about it.
Where to get Help
Other psychological help and your GP should be your first port of call - not some guy on the internet. The first step is recognising there is a problem, the second step is asking for help, the third is doing something about it.
Stress and Anxiety are part of life, accept that they exist, they will affect you from time to time and breathe and take one step at a time. OCD is more than just ritual, it is obsessively being compelled to perfom rituals to the point of distraction from other tasks like work, school, study etc.
If you think you have OCD, Anxiety or another Mental Health condition please seek out advice and help from your GP or local mental health services.
Do try: Changing your diet (reduce sugar - including starchy carbohydrates) and build your sleep routine.