Getting to grips with OCD

A new article about OCD popped into my emails this morning and it was so compelling that I felt I had to share it with my readership here.

I willingly admit that OCD has woven in and out of my health journey since I was a very young child experiencing bullying at school and as something that reappeared, to varying extents, during my adulthood at times of particular stress. I have also encountered it in a family member and in the life of a close friend, not to mention comparing notes with other friends and acquaintances over the years (its one of those conversations that can prove strangely ice-breaking  in a way that forms a close bond built on vulnerability and deep-understanding when you identify others who have been through it).

Often it seems to indicate a person who is particularly sensitive or who has survived some  very profound emotional “stuff” (or both). Often very highly intelligent and prone to arranging what they know into categories, I have long noticed how this seems to be a way of keeping their emotions in check. After all, in my own case, diligent pattern forming and shape-sorting are the methods by which I draw the conclusions that feed into my writing and research (so they can be skills that serve me well) yet it can be such a bugbear when the trait extends to personal behaviours and the endless creation of little rituals that become the prison cell of your own existence.

This certainly crosses over with my favourite topic of how the left and right brain hemispheres co-exist and (ideally) agree to collaborate together and what the best relationship between them looks like once they do. When I imagine my own OCD traits, it feels like my left-brain chasing around my right hemisphere with a butterfly net, trying to box up what feels most unruly and out of control; yet a situation where we allow them to work together (some flux, some structure) feels like a place where OCD no longer runs rife. I had also long suspected that it went much deeper than a learned response to emotional trauma; into the very wiring of the brain and possibly some of the chemical influences that we get exposed to. This detailed article goes deeper into the “whys” of OCD than anything I have come across and in a way that makes perfect sense to me; of which this is just a snippet.

To highlight how OCD can begin to emerge in an individual, imagine the example of being bullied in school. The first time you are bullied, electrical charges in a certain part of the emotional area of the brain will heat up. This heat subsides once the bullying episode ceases, although you may suffer from mild post-traumatic stress disorder. A few days later you are bullied once again. Immediately, electrical charges heat up that same area of the brain. Fortunately, this area again cools down once the bullying ceases. Perhaps bullying occurs a third, fourth or fifth time, and the same part of the brain experiences intense heat during each episode. Continuous, intense heat to this area without ample time for the body to heal can lead to calloused brain tissue for adults and children alike. Medical science and medical research have not yet discovered this widespread phenomenon. Have you heard the term hotheaded? Well, it may actually be an accurate description in certain instances. Bullying is not the only situation that creates this intense heat. The physical burnout that occurs can arise from a number of emotionally heavy events and result in a small area of calloused brain tissue.

I’m glad to say there is life beyond OCD and I hardly notice it at all in my behaviour these days to the point I can say that it has pretty-much gone. It remains there fairly unobtrusively as the tendency to over-think or research (without respite) when I am hooked onto a project, checking the house (repeatedly) before I go out and having certain comfort-zones that I stubbornly refuse to step out of (even when I want to outgrow them); though I am getting better at identifying and tackling those when they come up. ocdThis is a long way from the OCD rituals that I used to play-out in my early days, adding to all the complication of an already over-complicated life. I suspect this success story has a lot to do with how far I have opened up my emotion-box, rewired my neurones through new positive behaviours and healed my body through diet and other means; which shows this is entirely possible and can have great results. In fact (I suddenly realise) its absence is one of the reasons I feel I have transformed my life to the degree that I have in spite of some remaining physical symptoms; as though a breath of fresh air was injected into my life once I released these compulsive patterns of behaviour and took back control for myself. This article offers hope to anyone still wrestling with OCD and who is looking for a foothold on how to go about it (the first step of which is understanding why it occurred in the first place).

It’s a complex area and as the article says “there is not just one type of OCD”; it is extremely diverse and can be so subtle that it is not even acknowledged. To read the whole cutting-edge article and access the audio, here is the link to Anthony Williams’ Medical Medium website and the feature on OCD.

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