I find when I tell people I have OCD I get the following responses:
1. EVERYONE has that.
2. I have that too.
3. No, you don't.
When I tell people I have GAD (General Anxiety Disorder) I get the following responses:
1. Get over it.
2. You're not anxious and scared; you're just lazy.
3. Everyone is scared of something
I don't tell people I have PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder). If I did, I suspect there would be a lot of comments along the lines of:
No, you don't you're just using that as an excuse for your mood swings.
As I have mentioned before, I get Depression sometimes. It's not feeling sad and calling it Depression. It's actual Depression. This goes back to that one comment "Everyone has that". Yes, a lot of people have each of these four things. But not everyone. For those of us that actually have these disorders, it's offensive when someone who clearly doesn't have that disorder either says they do or that you don't. Actual Psychologists and Psychiatrists don't say these things. Actual Psychologists and Psychiatrists say:
1. We'll work together to make it easier to manage.
2. Do you have a strong support system?
3. How does it effect your life?
With OCD most people think two things:
1. If you like things really clean, you must have OCD
2. OCD is turning the lights off and on 50 times before entering and leaving a room
The second one is closer to reality but the actions involved vary for everyone with the actual problem. In my case, there are a lot of things that have to be a certain way or it gets me too frazzled to do a lot of things the right way. Routine keeps me sane. I can't function properly if the routine is thrown off too much. These compulsions are too important to my life. My biggest obsessions include: Gardening, Season Themes, Month Themes, Decorations, Zach, and Cooking. If a decoration is even an inch out of place, I literally can't think of anything else until it's been moved back to a nice and neat pattern. I physically shake until it's fixed. That is OCD.
What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?Everyone double checks things sometimes. For example, you might double check to make sure the stove or iron is turned off before leaving the house. But people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) feel the need to check things repeatedly, or have certain thoughts or perform routines and rituals over and over. The thoughts and rituals associated with OCD cause distress and get in the way of daily life.
The frequent upsetting thoughts are called obsessions. To try to control them, a person will feel an overwhelming urge to repeat certain rituals or behaviors called compulsions. People with OCD can't control these obsessions and compulsions. Most of the time, the rituals end up controlling them.
For example, if people are obsessed with germs or dirt, they may develop a compulsion to wash their hands over and over again. If they develop an obsession with intruders, they may lock and relock their doors many times before going to bed. Being afraid of social embarrassment may prompt people with OCD to comb their hair compulsively in front of a mirror-sometimes they get “caught” in the mirror and can’t move away from it. Performing such rituals is not pleasurable. At best, it produces temporary relief from the anxiety created by obsessive thoughts.
Other common rituals are a need to repeatedly check things, touch things (especially in a particular sequence), or count things. Some common obsessions include having frequent thoughts of violence and harming loved ones, persistently thinking about performing sexual acts the person dislikes, or having thoughts that are prohibited by religious beliefs. People with OCD may also be preoccupied with order and symmetry, have difficulty throwing things out (so they accumulate), or hoard unneeded items.
Healthy people also have rituals, such as checking to see if the stove is off several times before leaving the house. The difference is that people with OCD perform their rituals even though doing so interferes with daily life and they find the repetition distressing. Although most adults with OCD recognize that what they are doing is senseless, some adults and most children may not realize that their behavior is out of the ordinary.
Signs & Symptoms
People with OCD generally:
- Have repeated thoughts or images about many different things, such as fear of germs, dirt, or intruders; acts of violence; hurting loved ones; sexual acts; conflicts with religious beliefs; or being overly tidy
- Do the same rituals over and over such as washing hands, locking and unlocking doors, counting, keeping unneeded items, or repeating the same steps again and again
- Can't control the unwanted thoughts and behaviors
- Don't get pleasure when performing the behaviors or rituals, but get brief relief from the anxiety the thoughts cause. Actually, for most of my obsessions I DO get pleasure when performing them or thinking about my obsessions. But that's because of what my obsessions are mostly about. The obsessions that are about violence I file under "GAD"
- Spend at least 1 hour a day on the thoughts and rituals, which cause distress and get in the way of daily life.
As for my GAD, I'm not just scared of one or two things. I'm scared of many things. It becomes severe enough to be General Anxiety Disorder if you have a lot of fears and they interfere with your life. My biggest fear is a fear of heights. I can't get to most second floors. It prevents me from doing a lot of things. At one point, during my first episode of Depression, I couldn't even leave the house because of my fear of dogs.
I have a lot of fears. I worked on that fear of heights for 21 years. Zach was born on the 3rd floor. But I had limitations there too. Like I couldn't have the bed by the window and the windows always had to be closed. The hospital was very accommodating with that. After Zach was born, I told my fantastic Psychologist that I give up on that one. I'm mostly not scared of dogs anymore but at a certain point some fears are not going away.
I wake up every night at least twice. My mind never shuts off. There are times I have panic attacks even if I'm not doing anything. I mean that literally. Once, I took a walk and then laid down. I didn't encounter anything unusual or scary on the walk. Yet a panic attack hit.
What Is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
“I always thought I was just a worrier. I’d feel keyed up and unable to relax. At times it would come and go, and at times it would be constant. It could go on for days. I’d worry about what I was going to fix for a dinner party, or what would be a great present for somebody. I just couldn’t let something go.”
“I’d have terrible sleeping problems. There were times I’d wake up wired in the middle of the night. I had trouble concentrating, even reading the newspaper or a novel. Sometimes I’d feel a little lightheaded. My heart would race or pound. And that would make me worry more. I was always imagining things were worse than they really were. When I got a stomachache, I’d think it was an ulcer.”
“I was worried all the time about everything. It didn't matter that there were no signs of problems, I just got upset. I was having trouble falling asleep at night, and I couldn't keep my mind focused at work. I felt angry at my family all the time.”
All of us worry about things like health, money, or family problems. But people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) are extremely worried about these and many other things, even when there is little or no reason to worry about them. They are very anxious about just getting through the day. They think things will always go badly. At times, worrying keeps people with GAD from doing everyday tasks.
Signs & SymptomsPeople with GAD can’t seem to get rid of their concerns, even though they usually realize that their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants. They can’t relax, startle easily, and have difficulty concentrating. Often they have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Physical symptoms that often accompany the anxiety include fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, muscle aches, difficulty swallowing, trembling, twitching, irritability, sweating, nausea, lightheadedness, having to go to the bathroom frequently, feeling out of breath, and hot flashes.
GAD develops slowly. It often starts during the teen years or young adulthood. Symptoms may get better or worse at different times, and often are worse during times of stress.
When their anxiety level is mild, people with GAD can function socially and hold down a job. Although they don’t avoid certain situations as a result of their disorder, people with GAD can have difficulty carrying out the simplest daily activities if their anxiety is severe.
And there it is "people with GAD can have difficulty carrying out the simplest daily activities if their anxiety is severe." People don't believe me when I say I am a Stay At Home Mom to control my anxiety. Because it's not visible, they think I'm just too lazy to work. But it's very real that this anxiety is severe. I am home for a medical reason. Keeping stress low means I can function properly. THAT'S why I'm a SAHM. I'm tired of telling people I am home to control my anxiety and having them ask when I will be going back to work. I won't be. I have a lot of reasons why I won't be. But the biggest reason why I won't be is because of my health. They need to start listening to me and taking me seriously. Because this is very real. I know the people who actually love me based on how they act about my being a SAHM to manage my anxiety. Fears and worries need to be taken more seriously. It makes things worse for the person with it when it's not.
There's PMS and then there's PMDD. How do you know which one you have? Take this quiz:
I got 99 out of 100. But my PMDD was diagnosed by my OBGYN and Psychologist.
It's basically ultra PMS. I suspect it's like menopause for most women in severity. Oddly, my mood swings mostly calmed down when I was pregnant. Usually, it gets worse during pregnancy. Josh knows that I mean what I am saying just not as strongly as I am saying it. It's easier to manage on a regular month but when I have an unusual week it's very severe.
PMS refers to a wide range of physical or emotional symptoms that typically occur about 5-11 days before a woman starts her monthly menstrual cycle. The symptoms usually stop when, or shortly after, her period begins.
The symptoms of PMDD are similar to those of PMS. However, they are generally more severe and debilitating and include a least one mood-related symptom. Symptoms occur during the week just before menstrual bleeding and usually improve within a few days after the period starts.
Five or more of the following symptoms must be present to diagnose PMDD, including one mood-related symptom:
- No interest in daily activities and relationships
- Fatigue or low energy
- Feeling of sadness or hopelessness, possible suicidal thoughts
- Feelings of tension or anxiety
- Feeling out of control
- Food cravings or binge eating
- Mood swings with periods of crying
- Panic attacks
- Irritability or anger that affects other people
- Physical symptoms, such as bloating, breast tenderness, headaches, and joint or muscle pain
- Problems sleeping
- Trouble concentrating
These are all related to hormonal imbalances. Basically, my mental hormones aren't balanced and that means a lot of things. I'm not a danger to myself or others. Most people with one of these four things have at least one more.
I have had severe enough problems when life seemed too difficult to manage. My Mom had considered taking me for emergency care but never has. But my parents and Josh do provide the support I need.
I had a rough week last week and couldn't handle the stress. With Friday's breakdown, that meant my parents took Zach overnight even though I never asked for help. I heavily expressed my gratitude for that. That's the support I really needed. Josh was able to take care of me and help me through my rough patch. I'm still recovering, but because I had the right support, I am recovering quickly from the worst of it.
But it will always be there. It's just a matter of severity level at any given time. My parents and Josh don't say those things I listed in the beginning. They talk like the Psychologists. They understand what I am experiencing and love me enough to help me where I need it. It's rare that I need that kind of care. Most of the time, I can manage my needs on my own. But there are times when I need help. That's true for anyone with these disorders.