My name is David Alberto González. I am a psychologist from Bogotá-Colombia, 22 years old. As soon as I noticed your page on Twitter I felt the impulse to write this right away. Why? Because besides the fact that I’m a psychologist, I have also been a patient, a psychology patient, for a couple -just a couple haha- of DSM labels-fit tags. One of them, which I do want to write about, is OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder). I want to state that I’m doing this with absolutely freedom and just because I want to share my story.
Well, let’s start with this. Most of the times you read or hear the word OCD, the first that you imagine is cleanliness or some guy trying to get something clean, but the reality is that obsessions can center around a variety of topics. In my case it was related to religion. Just take into account:
1. I come from a very catholic family where is very unusual to see somebody that doesn´t go to church every Sunday, pray the Rosary or gives you some Bible advice when they think you are doing wrong.
2. My MMPI (Minnesota Multifasic Personality Inventory) and SCL-90-R (Symptom Checklist-90-Revised) profiles are not very encouraging -applied both 3 years ago.
Okay, so I was at college. During the very first baby-steps years of my career, maybe 4 years ago, and I started to go to church with more enthusiasm and motivation than ever before. Bit by bit I started to notice some thoughts in my head… they were very annoying and disturbing; they all were related to the death of someone I love or my soul going to hell and they were absolutely pointless and ridiculous. To give you an example, if I was going to throw a piece of paper on the trash bin, suddenly the thought appeared: “if you do not shoot it correctly and the paper falls down outside the bin, you are going to hell.” It just popped up in my mind, which put a lot of pressure on me to make that shot.
And that happened with a wide-range of varied situations. For example here are some other things that create anxiety within me: if I forget to call someone, if I do not have the exact hour on my wrist watch, or other events that I can’t control, such as if the weather is nice, or if the person walking in front of me turns right of left.
Every single one of these obsessions motivates a sort of compulsion like praying a Rosary, mentioning Mary’s name in a loud voice, or saying: “Jesus you are my only Lord”.
Although I do not feel plenty comfortable appealing to a diagnostic model, I do want to contrast this situation with the diagnostic criteria for OCD on the DSM-V version. The obsessions are defined as “recurrent and persistent thoughts, urges or images that are experienced… as intrusive and unwanted… [which] the individual attempts to ignore or suppress… or neutralize them with some other thought or action.” Compulsions are defined as “repetitive behaviors… or mental acts (e.g. praying, counting, repeating words silently) that the individual feels driven to perform in response to an obsession or according to rules that must be applied rigidly… [and are] aimed at preventing or reducing anxiety or distress or preventing some dreaded event” (American Psychiatric Association, 2013, p. 237). So, the obsessions were all the intrusive, came of nowhere thoughts that I had, and the compulsions were the statements like “Jesus you are my Lord” or praying the Rosary.
Everything on psychopathology grows over time. This situation started as a simple random thought which was reinforced by my avoidance, until it became a disturbing problem happening 15 or 18 times per day, all days. Fortunately, it only lasted around 3-4 months. Studying psychology was a very protecting factor for me. I learned how to expose myself to the irrational thoughts and after just a couple of essays I overcame them. I cannot say it was completely gone until I learned the defusion technique from the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT); which I highly recommend and it basically consists of noticing your thoughts as a part of your present moment, but not becoming the entire reality of them. Take your thoughts as separate from you. Let yourself feel them apart from you; or like the author of the therapy actually states: the cognitive defusion “attempts to change the way one interacts with or relates to thoughts by creating context in which their unhelpful functions are diminished”(Hayes, Luoma, Bond, Masuda and Lillis, 2006, p. 8).
Now that I write all of this and I look at the past, I thank some people that made me deal with this stuff and now -just now- I’m capable of perceiving the irrationality of the thoughts that I previously experienced. Nowadays, when I have an intrusive thought -because they are not going to be completely gone never since they are random- I just separate myself from it and I let it go like a fallen leaf of a tree.
Maybe only a person who has experienced what it feels to have OCD can understand what I’m saying. Nevertheless, having this endured this, I’m proud to say: I’M A OCD SURVIVOR.
Thank you so much for reading and do not forget to tweet me @DavPsico
American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders. Fifth edition. Washington: The American Psychiatric Association
Hayes, S., Levin, M., Plumb-Vilardaga, J., Villate, J. and Pistorello, J. (2013). Acceptance and commitment therapy and contextual behavioral science: examinig the progress of a distinctive model of behavioral and cognitive therapy, Behavior Therapy, 44, 180 – 198
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David can be found on Twitter
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