Mental Health Awareness Month: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

There is more to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) than just being a neat freak or watching your hands at times.

OCD can be a chronic or long-lasting disorder that can have a person enduring fearful thoughts that can lead them to do certain behaviors in their daily life.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, OCD can also be known as a presence of obsessions, compulsions, or both.

Having the obsessions or compulsions become a time-consuming daily issue, and the symptoms are not being caused by the physiological effects of a substance or anything medical related.

When it comes to looking out for signs and symptoms, they tend to pry into various aspects of a person’s life such as relationships and school.

Obsessions are the uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts and urges or can mental images that cause anxiety.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, some indicators can be fear of germs or contamination, unwanted thoughts that involve sex, religion or harm.

Other signs are having aggressive thoughts towards oneself or others.

Having things symmetrical or in perfect order can be another symptom.

When it comes to OCD, thoughts become an urge to have specific things in order. Photo By Jennifer Kavert

Compulsion is the response to an obsessive thought and is the act of performing a behavior over and over.

A few symptoms are excessive cleaning, arranging things in a particular, precise way and repeatedly checking on things.

Some examples can be constantly checking to see if the door is locked, refusing to step on cracks while walking on the sidewalk or making sure that the oven is off.

College student, Mia Perez, shared her insight into what it’s like having to cope with OCD.

Certain compulsions, like double checking, can be a normal thing people do sometimes.

OCD comes to play when a person can’t take control of their thoughts or behaviors.

“A few thoughts that I’ve had can be like ‘thinking about the way I blink will make me blink weirdly forever and I will go crazy,’” Perez said. “There are so many I’ve thought of and can go really deep such as me not taking a certain step on the stairs can lead to a series of events that will end with the death of an innocent person.”

When a person is performing the repeated behavior doesn’t feel any delight from it but causes a brief relief of the anxiety from the thoughts, this can also be a sign.

One way that people can relieve themselves from OCD is by using the concept of mindfulness.

According to The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD, mindfulness is the state of acknowledging and accepting what is happening at the present moment just the way it is.

Thoughts are just thoughts and do not define who an individual is.

Look at the thoughts in the same way of looking at words.

They are just empty vessels that are granted power from the mind after considering them.

These intrusive and overwhelming thoughts are based on fear, not on evidence.

Meditation can help ease the stress over compulsions and the obsessions.

Therapy can also help a person cope with their situation.

CSUSB offers on-campus therapy at the Counseling Psychological Services.

Bloomfield Hills teen’s anxiety intervention turns into YouTube documentary

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Chloe Kiriluk of Bloomfield Hilks knows the signs all too well — anger, negative thoughts.

The relentless effects of anxiety were so overwhelming that it left the 17-year-old questioning herself until she decided to get help.

That intervention made such an impact that she ended up making a documentary about it: “The Epidemic of Teen Anxiety.” The film is available on YouTube.

“I wanted to start a conversation that it is OK to talk about mental health,” she said.

According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, anxiety can interfere with work, school and relationships. It varies by type — panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, specific phobia, social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and separation anxiety disorder.

About 70% of teens between the ages of 13 and 17 said anxiety and depression are a major problem among their peers, followed by bullying and drug addiction, according to a February 2019 survey from Pew Research Center. Only 4% did not see anxiety and depression as a problem.

“What we have today is a greater degree of visibility,” Sonia Livingstone, a social psychologist at the London School of Economics and Political Science, told USA Today. “It very easily looks like an epidemic in mental health problems, but 10, 15 years ago, these were shameful things that nobody mentioned.”

More: Pew survey: Teens say depression is greater problem than bullying, drugs or drinking

As a teen, Chloe said it can be difficult to talk about mental health issues with parents. But she encourages people to talk to an adult, including a therapist.

Birmingham clinical social worker and therapist Michelle Belke, who works with teens diagnosed with anxiety, said self-care is the most important thing when it comes to treatment. Talking to a friend can also be beneficial.

“You have to be careful where the friend is pulled into the role of the therapist,” Belke said. “But friends can be a good distraction.

Belke said she would walk with a patient outside during a therapy session and ask about well-being, such as if they are eating and socializing.

Chloe’s advice to other teens: “Just because you may have a disorder, it does not mean you are broken or damaged.

“It’s totally normal and it’s fine. It may mean you should seek someone.”

Chloe said she plans on producing an extension to the documentary this summer that addresses how children can help themselves deal with anxiety.

She hopes the film is an “eye-opener.”

“This is an issue that can happen to anybody,” she said.

More: Tiny Michigan town copes with third teen suicide in 8 months

Feeling anxious or stressed? Here are coping strategies, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America:

  • Take a time-out. Practice yoga, listen to music, meditate, get a massage, or learn relaxation techniques. Stepping back from the problem helps clear your head.
  • Eat well-balanced meals. Do not skip any meals. Do keep healthful, energy-boosting snacks on hand.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine, which can aggravate anxiety and trigger panic attacks.
  • Get enough sleep. When stressed, your body needs additional sleep and rest.
  • Exercise daily to help you feel good and maintain your health. Check out the fitness tips below.
  • Take deep breaths. Inhale and exhale slowly.
  • Count to 10 slowly. Repeat, and count to 20 if necessary.
  • Do your best. Instead of aiming for perfection, which isn’t possible, be proud of however close you get.
  • Accept that you cannot control everything. Put your stress in perspective: Is it really as bad as you think?
  • Welcome humor. A good laugh goes a long way.
  • Maintain a positive attitude. Make an effort to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
  • Get involved. Volunteer or find another way to be active in your community, which creates a support network and gives you a break from everyday stress.
  • Learn what triggers your anxiety. Is it work, family, school, or something else you can identify? Write in a journal when you’re feeling stressed or anxious, and look for a pattern.
  • Talk to someone. Tell friends and family you’re feeling overwhelmed, and let them know how they can help you. Talk to a physician or therapist for professional help.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A Mental Health Issue – E

The issue of mental health as it relates to our well-being and through every facet of our lives cannot be over-emphasized. That is why we cannot talk about mental health issues without placing a level of severity on Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

OCD is an anxiety disorder in which over-time people have recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas or sensations (obsessions) that make them feel driven to do something repetitively (compulsions). Compulsive, repetitive behaviors like washing once hands, using the toilet, can significantly interfere with a person’s daily activities and social interactions.

This issue can just be put as a situation whereby an individual performs a task repeatedly as a result of the urge to do so or due to persistent thoughts and not doing them causes great distress to this individual suffering from OCD. Most persons suffering from this disorder knows that these obsessions are not real but can do little or nothing to stop the circle; they have a hard time trying to get their mind off this obsessions.

To diagnose OCD in a patient, then it requires the presence of an obsession and compulsions that are time-consuming (more than one hour a day), causes extreme distress, and impair work, social or other important function. Based on proven facts about 1.2 percent of Americans have OCD, and among adults, slightly more women than man are affected. OCD is prevalent in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood; the average age symptoms appear in 19 years old. People suffering from OCD understand that their thoughts do not correspond with reality; however, there is always the feeling of acting as though their notions are right. OCD accounts for between 0.1% and 4.60% of psychiatrically disturbed individuals.

During a particular research conducted by J Turk, I M Marks and J Horder, a case study was examined, it focused on a woman who was having issues with anxiety as a result of her making a comment about a child’s present to one of her colleagues during the children’s church service, she narrated “The first attack occurred during a children’s’ church service. I joked to Joe about one of the children present. It was not nasty, but it started to play on my mind. The thought of the child’s parent hearing what I said and misinterpreting it made me anxious. My thoughts rapidly expanded; the parents would be annoyed and report me. I will be reprimanded and dismissed from the school, and the story would be in national newspapers. I might be sent to prison. Joe tried to reassure me, but I could not believe him. I felt wicked. I deserved to be punished. From then on I monitored my speech carefully, being unable to converse unless I was at home with the windows shut. My problems started with panic leading to avoidance, checking and rituals, to stop the situation recurring”. Anxiety grew into an obsession with dirt and cleanliness, and she said” I washed my hands 100 times a day as indicated by my bleeding knuckles. I removed 40 tea towels at a time, I thought lice were living on my body, and itching reinforced my fear. The research showed that her disorder stemmed from her anxiety and started developing into more severe obsessions.

Based on the research, treatment packages are arranged for patients suffering from OCD, this included;

Exposure: The patient confronts the anxiety-provoking situation and faces it head-on.

Response prevention: The patient is to refrain from undertaking his/her anxiety compelled rituals.

Modeling: The therapist taking care of the patient models a pattern of behaviors and responses that he/she should follow.

William Kellogg is a veteran writer who’s covered the subject of the intersection of technology, health and mental wellness for nearly two decades.

Being too hard on yourself can lead to OCD and anxiety

PhotoSuffering with any kind of anxiety disorder can be extremely difficult, and many consumers often struggle with where these thoughts and feelings stem from.

Now, researchers have discovered a common personality trait that could be the driving force behind obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) — being too hard on yourself.

“People with OCD [are] tortured by repeatedly occurring negative thinking and they take some strategy to prevent it,” said researcher Yoshinori Sugiura. “…GAD is a very pervasive type of anxiety. [Patients] worry about everything.”

A possible cause

The researchers were interested in seeing if they could determine a cause to these two common anxiety disorders, so they began by sending out a questionnaire to college students.

Prior to the study, the researchers hypothesized that feeling an overwhelming sense of responsibility could be the driving force behind OCD or GAD, and so they targeted their questions towards three important aspects of personal responsibility:

  • Responsibility to think about a problem after it’s passed

  • Responsibility to prioritize safety/prevent danger

  • Sense of blame or personal responsibility for poor outcomes

In addition to questions about personal responsibility, participants were asked to report on their behaviors that could be linked to anxiety. In analyzing the survey responses, the researchers determined that feelings of responsibility were closely linked with behaviors known to be related to OCD or GAD.

Participants who reported feeling an overwhelming amount of personal responsibility were not only more likely to place blame on themselves and persistently think about issues, but they also had behaviors that were consistent with OCD and GAD.

The researchers hope that those struggling with anxiety or obsessive thoughts can work to place less blame on themselves and work to lift the burden of responsibility.

“[A] very quick or easy way is to realize that responsibility is working behind your worry,” he said. “I ask [patients], ‘why are you worried so much?’ so they will answer ‘I can’t help but worry,” but they will not spontaneously think ‘because I felt responsibility…’ just realizing it will make some space between responsibility thinking and your behavior.”

Obsessive-compulsive disorder research needs more focus on patients, new study asserts

Cognitive science has been instrumental in furthering our understanding of mental health problems. The interdisciplinary study of the mind and its processes embraces elements of psychology, philosophy, artificial intelligence, neuroscience and others topics. The field is rife with areas of exploration for researchers, and it has contributed enormously to the study of serious problems like OCD.

But Adam Radomsky, a professor in the department of psychology and the Concordia University Research Chair in Anxiety and Related Disorders, worries that for all its fascinating studies, cognitive science is becoming further and further removed from the people those studies are supposed to help: OCD patients and the therapists who treat them.

Radomsky and two of his former PhD students, Allison Ouimet and Andrea Ashbaugh, both now associate professors at the University of Ottawa, published a new paper in the journal Clinical Psychology Review. In it they reviewed recent OCD research and found that, as interesting as it was, it did not necessarily translate into real benefits for treatment.

Start with memories

As Radomsky explains it, there are two hallmark symptoms of OCD.

“Obsessions are horrible intrusive thoughts people have over and over in their minds,” he explains. “Compulsions are things people do over and over again, like checking you’ve completed a task, or washing and cleaning.”

A commonly held belief among researchers posited that memory had something to do with OCD behaviour.

“People are not sure if something is safe or clean or locked,” he says. An old theory was that the problem may have been cognitive in nature, or perhaps neurological.

Over the years, researchers have conducted countless tests on people living with the disorder. However, after reviewing the literature, he says the overall results are equivocal.

“Research into memory, neurobiological and attention deficits probably have not helped therapists or clinicians and probably have not improved therapy,” he says.

The research did prove fruitful in another area though, that of the individual’s beliefs in their own cognitive functioning.

“It’s not that people with OCD have a memory deficit. It’s that they believe they have a memory deficit. It is not their ability to pay attention that is the problem; it is that they do not believe they can focus,” he says. “In the clinic, we can work with what people believe.”

From clinic to lab

As both an academic researcher and practicing psychologist, Radomsky says he hopes his review will be of help to colleagues inside and outside the lab.

“We think the review will help therapists focus on areas that will be of use, and hopefully help cognitive scientists look at domains that could be useful to clinicians,” he says.

Radomsky would like to see cognitive scientists and practitioners working closer together with the goal of providing better treatment for people living with OCD.

“We learn a lot from the science that researchers are doing, but we also learn a lot from clients and patients,” he says. “In fact, in some ways, patients are the better instructors because they are living with these problems. I suspect we are going to increasingly follow their lead, because when they voice a particular concern or doubt in themselves, those are often the best ideas to take into the lab.”

OCD has ‘bullied her brain’ since she was 3. Now she’s using cycling to raise awareness.

Functional MRIs have shown that people with the disorder have greater activity in the orbitofrontal cortex, cingulate cortex, and caudate nucleus, along with other structures that affect how the brain learns, makes decisions, and processes emotion. These areas don’t respond to serotonin — a chemical that affects mood and helps different brain parts communicate — in the same way a brain without OCD does, researchers say. The structures also become less active after patients undergo therapy.

How To Know When It’s Time To Take Medication For Anxiety

Or perhaps you experience more physical symptoms, like an upset stomach, digestive issues, sweaty palms, a constant uneasiness, heart palpitations or bouncing legs. Depending on the type of disorder, you could also experience specific fears, avoidance of social situations, shaking, dizziness, fear of losing control, a sense of unreality ― the list goes on.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder Symptoms

Generalized Anxiety Disorder Symptoms

Generalized Anxiety Disorder SymptomsGeneralized anxiety disorder (GAD) is more than the normal anxiety people experience day to day. It’s chronic and exaggerated worry and tension, even though nothing seems to provoke it. Having this disorder means always anticipating disaster, often worrying excessively about health, money, family, or work. Sometimes, though, the source of the worry is hard to pinpoint.

Simply the thought of getting through the day provokes anxiety.

People with GAD can’t seem to shake their concerns, even though they usually realize that their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants — that it’s irrational. People with GAD also seem unable to relax. They often have trouble falling or staying asleep. Their worries are accompanied by physical symptoms, especially trembling, twitching, muscle tension, headaches, irritability, sweating, or hot flashes. They may feel lightheaded or out of breath. They may feel nauseated or have to go to the bathroom frequently. Or they might feel as though they have a lump in the throat.

Many individuals with GAD startle more easily than other people. They tend to feel tired, have trouble concentrating, and sometimes suffer depression, too.

Usually the impairment associated with GAD is mild and people with the disorder don’t feel too restricted in social settings or on the job. Unlike many other anxiety disorders, people with GAD don’t characteristically avoid certain situations as a result of their disorder. However, if severe, GAD can be very debilitating, making it difficult to carry out even the most ordinary daily activities.

GAD comes on gradually and most often hits people in childhood or adolescence, but can begin in adulthood, too. It’s more common in women than in men and often occurs in relatives of affected persons. It’s diagnosed when someone spends at least 6 months worried excessively about a number of everyday problems.

Specific Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Excessive anxiety and worry (apprehensive expectation), occurring more days than not for at least 6 months, about a number of events or activities (such as work or school performance).

The person finds it difficult to control the worry.

The anxiety and worry are associated with three (or more) of the following six symptoms (with at least some symptoms present for more days than not for the past 6 months; children do not need to meet as many criteria–only 1 is needed).

  • Restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge
  • Being easily fatigued
  • Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless unsatisfying sleep)

Additionally, the anxiety or worry is not specifically about having a panic attack (though panic attacks can occur within a person with GAD), being embarrassed in public (as in social phobia), being contaminated (as in obsessive-compulsive disorder), being away from home or close relatives (as in separation anxiety disorder), gaining weight (as in anorexia nervosa), having multiple physical complaints (as in somatization disorder), or having a serious illness (as in hypochondriasis), and the anxiety and worry do not occur exclusively during posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The anxiety, worry, or physical symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

The disturbance is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., hyperthyroidism) and does not occur exclusively during a mood disorder, a psychotic disorder, or a pervasive developmental disorder.

  • General Treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

 

This criteria has been updated for the current DSM-5 (2013); diagnostic code 300.02.

References

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

National Institute of Mental Health. (2019). Anxiety. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/anxiety/index.shtml on March 1, 2019.

Combined CBT, SSRI Treatment May Be More Effective for OCD

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) combined with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) treatment may alleviate clinical symptoms associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and do so more effectively than medication alone, according to results from a multicenter randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

The study included 167 patients (aged 16-65 years) with OCD, recruited from outpatient clinics at 3 tertiary psychiatric hospitals and 1 general hospital in China from April 2010 to August 2013. Investigators compared 2 groups of patients: those receiving CBT combined with medication (n=92) and those receiving medication alone (n=75). Patients in the medication group received sertraline (100-200 mg/day), fluvoxamine (150-300 mg/day), or paroxetine (40-60 mg/day). Investigators assessed patients’ symptoms and social functioning at baseline and at 4, 8, 12, and 24 weeks.

After 24 weeks, more patients receiving combined therapy (82.6%) achieved response than those receiving medication only (52.0%). Response was defined as a decrease in symptom severity of at least 35%, based on a patient’s total score on the Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale. In both groups, Clinical Global Impression Scale for Severity and Global Assessment of Functioning scores decreased. However, there were no significant differences in total reduction of symptoms, as measured by the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale.

The study was limited by the lack of consideration of medication types and dosages and the absence of a CBT-only group. In addition, the study integrated Chinese culture into the practice of CBT, which might have affected outcomes.

“CBT combined with medication may be effective in alleviating symptoms and social functioning impairment associated with OCD, and is more effective than medication alone in China, particularly for the treatment of compulsive behaviours,” researchers concluded.

Reference

Meng FQ, Han HY, Luo J, et al. Efficacy of cognitive behavioural therapy with medication for patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder: a multicentre randomised controlled trial in China [published online April 22, 2019]. J Affect Disord. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2019.04.090

How to treat OCD, as well as symptoms and causes


What happens at a mental health support group
Therapy can help (Picture: Dave Anderson for Metro.co.uk)

One of the most common and enduring misconceptions about OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) is that it’s simply about cleaning or counting.

In reality, the condition affects people in myriad ways – although it can include those things – to the point it may take many people a long time to be officially diagnosed.

It can also be a mental illness with people find shameful, leading them to hold off on seeking help, or not disclose the extent of their problems when they.

This then can lead to isolation, but it’s vital that if you think you have OCD that you get the necessary treatment. Here’s a rundown of signs you might have it, as well as how to treat it.

OCD symptoms

OCD is characterised by obsessions and compulsions, but these manifest in different ways.

Obsessions typically come in the form of urges or thoughts that make you feel anxious or cause you discomfort, while compulsions can include (but are not limited to) the following):

  • Checking (for example, making sure over and over that taps or switches are off at night)
  • Cleaning
  • Washing the body
  • Repetitive acts (such as tapping a certain point a number of times)
  • Repetitive sayings (saying or thinking the same word over and over)
  • Ordering items in the home or at work
  • Hoarding
  • Collecting items
  • Counting items

Mental health illustration
You’re not alone (Picture: Ella Byworth/ Metro.co.uk)

Sometimes compulsions are observable to others, and sometimes they remain under the surface. In most cases, though they exist as a way for the person to feel some sort of relief from their obsessions, with their mind telling them that the compulsion will ‘make things better’ if they perform it in the right way.

A small number of people also find that they experience something called Pure O, which is the obsessions without the outward compulsions (although the specifics of this are debated). Others experience things such as false memories, too.

OCD causes

There is no known cause for OCD, although it’s thought that it’s a combination of genetics, chemicals in the brain, and whether someone has had any traumatic events.

Those who are already anxious – as well as those with neat and methodical personalities – are also more likely to develop OCD.

OCD treatment

According to Shane FitzGerald, of the London OCD Clinic, the best treatment for OCD is a combination of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and medication.

He told Metro.co.uk: ‘Although people with mild to moderate OCD can often get great results with CBT alone, people with very severe OCD might struggle to get the maximum benefits without also utilising medication.

‘It is also important to note that not all therapies are equal in treating OCD, with CBT being seen as the gold standard psychological therapy for this complex problem. Research shows that.other forms of therapy are unlikely to be of significant benefit’.

Essentially, your treatment will be determined by your health professionals (and will be worked out for you based on your specific symptoms) but it will more often than not have a two-pronged approach.

For many, the hardest part of receiving treatment is seeing it, with Shane saying, ‘Quite often clients admit to having never told anyone else the real details of their OCD, making it a particularly lonely and isolating condition’.

Going to an experienced therapist (starting with your GP if you need guidance or a diagnosis) will help you reduce this feeling of loneliness and manage your symptoms.


Support for mental health illustration
Reaching out can help (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

OCD techniques to use at home

Although Shane recommends seeking professional help first and foremost, he does assert that there are a few things you can do at home to help OCD.

Challenge avoidance

Although Shane states that this might be particularly difficult without an expert, he says you can make a start by doing this: ‘Make a list of activities that you might find challenging. Give these activities a mark out of 10 for difficulty, and then move up through the list trying to gently push yourself as much as you can…

‘With intrusive thought OCD the tasks might involve listening to certain challenging messages on a loop tape or writing down certain things that make us feel uncomfortable. This process is called Exposure and Response Prevention, the most important treatment comment for any type of OCD’.

Practice mindfulness

Meditation at a similar time each day can be a good thing to do to help, but it’s important not to use this as an avoidance tactic.

Be careful with substances

Shane says, ‘Recreational drugs and binge drinking are usually a bad combination with OCD or any anxiety disorder as the hangovers will usually provide a significant spike in symptoms for a couple of days. Drinking excessive amount of caffeine such as multiple coffees can also exaggerate symptoms in some people’.

Exercise

As with many mental health problems, taking regular exercise can alleviate symptoms.

MORE: Single people believe mental health issues ‘makes it harder to find a relationship’

MORE: Long-term illness and mental health problems are intertwined – why are they treated separately?

SDH Promotes Maternal Mental Health and Awareness of Maternal Mood Disorders

In recognition of Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) has produced the first video in a series, which shines a light on resilient women in Oklahoma who have experienced a diagnosis of postpartum depression and/or postpartum anxiety. The series presents their stories of courage and strength, and how they navigated what can be a difficult struggle to overcome. 

Maternal mood disorders is the umbrella term for mood and anxiety disorders, which occur during pregnancy or up to one year after a mother gives birth. The stigma around mental health also surrounds maternal mental health and has resulted in fewer discussions around diagnoses such as postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder, and postpartum psychosis. 

Postpartum depression is the number one complication in pregnancy throughout the United States.  In Oklahoma, 15 percent of new mothers in Oklahoma report symptoms such as irritability, insomnia, change in appetite, sadness, mood swings, less energy, increased crying, or persistent anger.

Many of these symptoms are mirrored in the “baby blues,” however, baby blues differs in severity and onset.  Baby blues should not last longer than two to three weeks after delivery; and will impact many more mothers. Postpartum depression will be more intense, and most importantly will result in significantly impaired functioning with symptoms such as crying more often or crying all day for multiple days, and unwanted thoughts of harming oneself or the baby.

The OSDH urges all pregnant mothers and fathers to talk with their doctor about screening for risk of postpartum depression and anxiety. Creating a postpartum plan with scheduled calls and visits from the mother’s support system, regular walks outside for increasing vitamin D and lowering stress levels, hydration, scheduled rest when possible and adequate nutrition sets the new mom up for success. 

The first video of the series highlights Dyanna Hicks, a former police officer who is currently a nursing student and mother.

James Craig, OSDH public health social work coordinator, said Hicks’ story illustrates that as a mother, former police officer, and future nurse she is an example of how this is an issue impacting our sisters, best friends, mothers, and fathers in Oklahoma. 

“I wanted to participate in the project because after having been through one of the hardest moments in my life, I will do anything in the world to make sure another woman never has to feel the way I did,” said Hicks. “Speaking out about this is not easy, but I wanted to share my own story in hopes it will inspire others to reach out, get help and not feel so alone.” 

Hicks tells the story of her journey shortly after birth, realizing that the emerging symptoms she felt were distancing her further from feeling like herself, and feeling increasingly intense anxiety and depressive symptoms. She discusses the harmful thoughts she began to find entering her mind, losing more and more sleep to her anxiety over her daughter’s sleep safety, to finding herself wondering if her daughter would be better off without her as a mother. Her story continues with finding help with a support group of other women who express similar symptoms, a supportive and caring husband who was there beside her at every turn, and a therapist who has been appropriately trained in working with women with this struggle who worked alongside her to give her tools to combat these symptoms. 

For help and support call the Postpartum Support International (PSI) Helpline at 1-800-944-4773. For more local information, please visit www.health.ok.gov using the keyword “mood” or email jamescc@health.ok.gov.  

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: This Is What It’s Like to Be Obsessed With Perfection

Eighteen months ago I was in the throes of some of the darkest moments of my life—but on paper it didn’t look like that. I had just finished a national tour for my first book, The Crowdsourceress, and positive coverage had started rolling in. My company, which launched crowd-funding campaigns for stellar creators worldwide, had raised a combined $20 million to help bring their creative projects to life. Journalists were calling me a wunderkind and a guru; my name was even added to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list. By the looks of things, I was killing it.

But alone one day soon after the tour ended, I couldn’t leave my bed. Sobbing on the phone to my mother like a terrified child, I was deep in a spiral of repetitive, fearful thoughts. My skin was crawling with anxiety.

This wasn’t my first total meltdown. I had suffered from these obsessive thoughts of uncertainty for almost two decades of my life.

I grew up a happy kid—spunky, opinionated, and incredibly curious. But something happened in my preadolescent years: I became painfully afraid of bad things happening to me. From what I remember, it started when I was around 10. After watching a nineties horror film, I became wildly obsessed with the idea of being abducted by aliens. I would lie in bed every night, imagining all the ways I could be abducted, and then rush into my parents room, begging to sleep near them for protection.

Young woman and her daughter at class party.

The author, pictured here as a kid with her mom, has always been spunky and curious.

Courtesy of Meg Daly

I didn’t have these terrorizing thoughts just at night though. On some idle weekends I would find myself pacing back and forth indoors, thinking about the various ways I could be tortured by the aliens that would eventually abduct me. I remember so clearly one Saturday morning my dad pointing to a painting and saying, “This painting exists. Aliens don’t. You have a higher probability of being abducted by this painting!” I laughed, relieved, but still uncertain.

When I eventually let go of my alien obsession, I moved on to another fixation: perfection.

I was finishing fifth grade and applying to a prestigious middle school. I told myself that I had to get in—in my mind, if I failed, it would irreparably derail my entire life. Fixated, I would complete all my homework, organize it neatly in my sparkly folders, and get into bed early. But I couldn’t go to sleep: Instead I would pray relentlessly, pleading for straight A’s. Fearful that my homework could suddenly disappear into thin air while I slept, I’d anxiously jump out of bed to check that it was still there. I would do this about 20 times a night.

By the time I turned 12, my obsessions shifted again, this time to a subject on many a preteen mind: sex. But I wasn’t fantasizing about a new crush or exploring pleasure as my body went through puberty. Rather, I was terrified of anything related to sex—it got to a point that I didn’t want to be touched, fearing any unpredictable sensation in my body. My obsession became so paralyzing that I would retrace the most innocent of past interactions, analyzing them for the slightest improprieties and confessing whenever I felt something could have been perceived as wrong. Whenever I did have a sexual thought—all of which felt weird and deviant—I would fixate for hours on end about what it meant about my identity as a person, rocking back and forth into what seemed like a hole of darkness.

At first, as with my other moments of catastrophic crises, I implored my parents for reassurance, describing my graphic fears in detail. But I realized that this new obsession felt different—it was too taboo. I stopped sharing and began internalizing my rituals, while another obsessive idea set in: I really believed that if my parents knew my thoughts, even though they had been my biggest supporters so far, they would disown me forever.

When I started high school, I became really good at hiding my internal battles—so began my years of trying to cope on my own. I would power through episodes of distress by throwing myself into piles of work as a necessary distraction, or avoid situations that triggered the anxiety. The intense dedication to my work helped me excel, but it masked the obsessive thoughts playing on loop in my mind. In college I had two majors, a minor, and an honors thesis, but I remember thinking I could have—should have—done so much more.