Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: 10 Myths about OCD

OCD, like ADD, ADHD, ODD, etc is another commonly used acronym that doctors use as diagnoses of teens and adults.  I am not making light of it, however I believe parents need a better understanding of it.  Today guest Blogger, Jenny Stowe from Masters In Healthcare, asked me to share this post.  I find it very interesting and I hope my readers do too.  The more we know, the better we can understand Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

Despite being one of the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders and present in as many as one in 50 U.S. adults, obsessive-compulsive disorder tends to occupy a gray area in the public consciousness that’s marked more by myth than truth. Chalk it up to stereotypes or characters like Jack Nicholson’s in As Good as It Gets, but many people hold to a system of misconceptions about OCD that simply aren’t true. Those with the disease or who have a loved one with it know the truth, but for everyone else, here are the myths people believe and the truth behind them.

  1. Any neat freak has OCD: OCD is a mental disorder. Period. It’s an anxiety disorder that leads those who have it to perform highly specific rituals as calming methods to fight they crushing anxiety. Being neat and orderly, even to the point of rigidity, doesn’t mean someone has OCD; it just means they like things clean. Someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder who keeps their house spotless isn’t doing it to look nice, but because they’re overwhelmed by anxiety when something is amiss. It’s a big difference, and one that’s often misunderstood.
  2. OCD is just about cleaning: This one comes on the heels of the previous one, as many people assume that those with OCD are devoted to cleaning house. Yet that’s just one symptom, and far from the only way the disease manifests itself. Per the DSM-IV, compulsions can be a variey of things that the person in question does to reduce stress or prevent “some dreaded situation or event,” and these can include everything from praying to counting silently to repeating words. Yes, cleaning things can be one of these compulsions, but it’s not the only one.
  3. People with OCD don’t have any willpower: This is a prevalent but insidious myth that paints people with obsessive-compulsive disorder as merely suffering from some kind of emotional weakness, as if their obsessions are something they could silence permanently if they’d only focus hard enough. As much as even people with OCD might wish this to be true, it isn’t. The disease is a mental one, and though many researchers are still targeting the specific cause, studies have shown that people with OCD have different patterns of brain activity than those without it.
  4. People with OCD focus on one person or idea: People with OCD aren’t limited to the thoughts that can consume them, and in many cases these aren’t about a specific person or place. Rather, these intrusive and unwanted thoughts are often about horrible, unreal situations defined by violence or irrationality, such as the thought of injuring their child. People with PCD recognize the irrationality of these thoughts, but that doesn’t make them less real, or painful, or hard to talk about even with professionals. Obsessions can be incredibly varied.
  5. OCD can be cured, and easily: There is no cure for obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, it is possible for many patients with OCD to gain control of the disease and enjoy a stellar prognosis. This requires, as you might expect, a ton of work. People with OCD typically need a combination of medicine and behavioral therapy in order to begin the process of modulating their thoughts to the point where they can successfully label and control them.
  6. OCD affects more women than men: Some have observed that more women than men tend to suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder, but those observations are anecdotal. In reality, the disease affects men and women in almost equal measure. Why the discrepancy between myth and truth? Because men typically have a harder time expressing deeper emotions than women do, and that reluctance is multiplied when some were asked to discuss the intrusive and often very dark thoughts that defined their obsessions.
  7. OCD comes from stress: Again, if only wishing made it so, then people struggling with OCD could just take a few days off work and get back to “normal.” But that just isn’t the case. If you take away nothing else, remember than obsessive-compulsive disorder is a mental one, not something brought on by a few hectic weeks at the office. It is true that major stressors can trigger symptoms, especially in traumatic situations like the death of a loved one. But the existence of stress can only ever exaggerate the OCD, not create it.
  8. People with OCD were raised poorly: Parenting has nothing to do with contracting obsessive-compulsive disorder. Raising a child to follow certain rules does not cause the disorder. However, as with the myth about stress, the truth is complex. Parenting styles don’t cause OCD, but they can exacerbate it when parents go too far in accomodating OCD behaviors in a well-meaning but fruitless attempt to manage the child’s stress level. This can lead to a strengthening of symptoms and behaviors and make the disease that much harder to treat. Yet criticism and hostility can also have negative consequences. The best result is to work with medical professionals to begin treating and structuring the child’s life.
  9. OCD is unchanging: This is an easy mistake to make: the public depictions of OCD are of people ritualistically cleaning dishes with no hope of an end in sight. Yet this is a total myth. As with many disorders, the earlier OCD is diagnosed, the better the person will be able to respond to treatment. Even if it’s not caught until late adolescence or adulthood, treatment and medication can do wonders to help people with OCD reduce the frequency and pwoer of the intrusive thoughts that are robbing them of mental freedom. With the right care, people with OCD can make speedy, giant strides toward a better life.
  10. Any desire to collect or organize can be linked to OCD: This myth gets spread by people who confuse the mental disorder of OCD with the far more common trait of orderliness or passion for collecting. For instance, a child might become heavily involved in collecting baseball cards or memorizing player statistics; this isn’t OCD, just the manifestation of a burgeoning interest. OCD doesn’t encompass behavior built around collecting or memorization, so don’t let these normal (if devoted) traits lead you to an inaccurate diagnosis. As with all else, proceed with an open mind.

Gay Parents and Teenagers

Recently I spoke with a mother that is struggling with her daughter that is openly gay.  This daughter is in her 20′s and the parents are still having difficulties accepting this.  Looking for blame, searching for reasons and most of all, hoping “this will pass”.  I will not pass judgment on any parent or anyone, I am a firm believer until you walk in my shoes, you truly don’t know how you would feel.  I would like to believe I would be accepting of homosexuality in my kids, and I believe I would be, as I am very open and Liberal minded, but again, I have never been faced with it.  Yes, I have relatives that are openly gay, and I am more than fine with it.   I have many friends that are gay, and actually they are the most generous and wonderful, caring people.  I don’t want to talk about them like they are a species, they aren’t.  They are just like you and me, and every other human.  They have feelings, they have emotions and they have their beliefs.  We all have ideas of what makes us as an individual happy, but it is not what makes others happy.  Diversity and  tolerance makes the world go round.

Connect with Kids recently published an article on teen kids with gay parents.  Is it a struggling? If so, for who?  The kids, the parents or society?

Source: Connect with Kids

Teen Children of Gay Parents

“A lot of teenagers will use (the word) ‘gay’ to mean ‘stupid’ or ‘dumb’… which is not true.”

– Jordan, 14, whose mother is a lesbian

Yes, the kids are alright. New research on the behavior of children of gay parents, published in the journal Family Process, reveals that the kids are not only psychologically healthy, but often appear to exhibit a lower incidence of social problems than their peers. What — and when – gay parents tell children can make a difference on how those kids handle their non-traditional family situation.

When Jordan was nine, his mom broke the news.

“Up to that point, I had not expressed to him that I was a lesbian,” says Lisa, his mom.

Jordan says initially he didn’t think much of it, but now that he’s older…

“I’m afraid a lot of people are going to be looking at my mom and others and thinking that ‘they’re not right,’ and that’s not true,” says Jordan.

Experts say adolescence for a child of a gay parent can be especially tough.

“You have a dual adjustment situation where a child is struggling to adjust to their own sexuality and to come to more adult terms about their parents sexuality, and on top of that, they’re trying to adjust to their peer group,” says Dr. Cathy Blusiewicz, an adolescent psychologist.

And what peers think and say can mean everything to a teenager.

“One difficulty of adolescence is that real desire to fit in and to be like everybody else,” says Dr. Blusiewicz.

Experts say support groups for children of gay parents can help your child meet other kids in the same situation.

“It’s comforting not to feel like you’re the only one,” says Dr. Blusiewicz.

And by talking openly about sexuality early on, at age-appropriate levels, experts say both straight and gay parents can help their child grow up to be more accepting adolescents.

“From a very young age, I have raised him to be open to difference,” says Mrs. Prince, “to stand up for who he is on any level, whether it’s about his family, or any other issue that he feels strongly about.

Jordan’s friends know his mom is a lesbian and think it’s no big deal. But to those who do, he says…

“I’m not really concerned about that. I don’t have to take the insults in. I don’t have to take weird looks and stuff like that.”

What We Need To Know

Teaching a child the dangers of harassment and/or bullying behavior based upon sexual preference can be a very difficult process for some parents. As with other discussions, there are a number of things that parents can do to make the discussion a little easier and more effective.

  • Parents need to inform themselves before they talk with their kids. Parents need to get the facts about homosexuality and need to be prepared to share the facts their kids in an age-appropriate manner.
  • Parents need to come to grips with their own feelings regarding gays, lesbians and bisexuals, and to share those values with their children in the context of the discussion. For many parents, this is the most difficult aspect of the conversation, and there are no easy answers to the problem.
  • Parents need to maintain a calm and non-critical atmosphere for the discussion. Try to use words that are comfortable and familiar when talking to kids about important topics. Parents should also try to encourage the child to talk and ask questions. They need to know that they can talk about things with the parents freely and without fear of consequence.
  • It is important for parents to search for a support group of other parents who share their same concerns and are facing the same issues. If one is not available in your area, organize one. The sharing of ideas and fears can help alleviate anxiety and give parents ideas and thoughts they may not have realized otherwise.


Cutting: Self-Harm, Self-Injury – now Self-Embedding, Teens in Crisis

Self-injury with teenagers has been a constant and growing concern for parents and professionals.  Objects such as metal (paper clips), crayons, and plastics are some of the examples of what teens are inserting into their skin after cutting themselves.

According to CNN Health, self-embedding is a less common form of self-injury than cutting, said Joseph Garbely, chief medical officer at Friends Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Teens who engage in self-mutilating behaviors tend to have low self esteem and problems dealing with their feelings, he said. Some come from abusive households. Others are doing it to rebel, or to imitate peers, or to regulate difficult emotions.

Generally, the purpose of self-embedding and other forms of self injury is to take away unpleasant feelings, he said. When engaging in this behavior, the body releases chemicals called endorphins that, at least temporarily, regulate painful emotions.

According to experts, one of the most common reasons teens self injure is because the injury is in some way a “release” from emotional anxiety. The pain of the injury provides a distraction from the emotional pain the teen is feeling, and acts almost as a drug to them. It can also help the injured feel ‘human’ again, by putting them in touch with a common human experience: pain.

Self-embedding is generally not a suicidal act, but a person can develop skin infections or worse: Bone infections or deep muscle infections.

Dr. William Shiels, who conducted a study about this this subject, said objects may also travel inside the body and get near vital organs. Getting these objects removed early is important. The study revealed that 11 patients aged 14 to 18 engaged in this behavior out of 600 patients who had received treatment for removing foreign objects embedded in soft tissue.

If you discover that your teen is cutting, there are several important keys to remember. First and foremost, approach your teen with a level head. Address your teen calmly and supportively. Do not react angrily or upset your teen in any way. Experts warn that overreacting or reacting loudly or angrily can often push your teen further away and increase the cutting or self injuring behaviors. Your teen needs to know you are open to hearing what she has to say and getting her the help she needs. You should also tell your teen that you are not upset with her, love her, and know she is in a lot of pain.

Counseling for a teen that cuts is crucial. It can often take many years of therapy before your teen is willing or able to uncover the reasons she cuts herself. Schools, pediatricians and emergency rooms can be extremely helpful at providing resources for teens that cut. Often there are local support groups for parents who feel guilty or unsure of how to deal with a teen that cuts.

A great resource in Broward County is OPP (Office of Prevention Programs for Self-Injury) specifically for self injurers and their families, an organization dedicated treating victims of self abuse.

Sources: CNN Health, Teen Self Injury, S.A.F.E.

Be an educated parent, you have safer and healthier teens!

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Back to School: Homework Stress – Homework Frustration

It is official, school is open in Broward, Dade and Palm Beach Counties.  Summer is over, sleeping in time is gone as school begins and your homework assignments roll in.

With more teenagers feeling the stress, some parents are concerned about their teens wanting to drop out of school and get a GED.  Years ago getting a GED was related to having legal issues or possibly you are physically not able to attend school.  However today, GED’s are becoming more prevalent.

Although GED‘s can be frowned upon today, many are left with no other choice.  Most parents want their teenager to graduate with a High School Diploma.

Before your teen gets stressed out or frustrated with their homework and research projects, let’s offer them some tips to help them have a productive and successful school year – in school.

8 Ways Parents Can Help With Homework:

1. Offer encouragement.
Give your child praise for efforts and for completing assignments.

2. Be available.
Encourage your child to do the work independently, but be available for assistance.

3. Maintain a schedule. Establish a set time to do homework each day. You may want to use a calendar to keep track of assignments and due dates.

4. Designate space. Provide a space for homework, stocked with necessary supplies, such as pencils, pens, paper, dictionaries, a computer, and other reference materials.

5. Provide discipline
. Help your child focus on homework by removing distractions, such as television, radio, telephone, and interruptions from siblings and friends.

6. Be a role model. Consider doing some of your work, such as paying bills or writing letters, during your child’s homework time.

7. Be supportive. Talk to your child about difficulties with homework. Be willing to talk to your child’s teacher to resolve problems in a positive manner.

8. Involvement.
Familiarize yourself with the teacher’s homework policy. Make sure that you and your child understand the teacher’s expectations. At the beginning of the year, you may want to ask your child’s teacher these questions: What kinds of assignments will you give? How often do you give homework? How much time are the students expected to spend on them? What type of involvement do you expect from parents?

Sources: Chicago Public Schools, Connect with Kids, The Apple

Be an educated parent; your teens will have a better school year!

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