5 Things Never to Say to Someone with Pure O/Intrusive Thoughts

Posted in Uncategorized on September 18, 2014 by chrissiehodges

Let’s face it, all forms of OCD are tough to deal with for the sufferer. There is no one form that is worse or easier than the other. An OCD specialist that I work as a coach for here in Denver always says, ‘be careful what you wish for’ whenever I comment how much easier it would be to have any other obsessions than my own! The type of OCD that I have has some pretty specific triggers that are not necessarily shared amongst all forms of OCD. This can be tough on the individual who suffers, as well as the people around them in their support system. We are all sensitive to people’s words and comments when it comes to our illness no matter what form it takes, but here are a few triggering statements that you should always avoid when you are talking to someone with Pure O/Intrusive thoughts.

1. I don’t see you doing compulsions…you must not have OCD as bad as other people I have seen who have it.

This one is tough to take when you have ‘Pure O/Intrusive Thoughts’. First of all, it probably took us a long time to figure out that we even had OCD because we did not have outward compulsions that would help us identify that we have OCD. We just got these weird and horrible thoughts that we believed for so long were a reflection of our own character. Our rituals took place in our mind, and most of these rituals do not even feel compulsive. Next up, trying to communicate our disorder to others. People do not understand OCD in general and usually identify it with hand washing or checking doorknobs. Our explanation can be terrifying because we have to divulge some huge secret of a horrible obsession that has ruled our life for so many years. Our ultimate fear is that the person we are telling it to will not believe we have OCD and they will think that the obsession is real. (which I will elaborate on later in this blog). We feel the need to have to go into drastic detail about our mental compulsions in order to stave off the idea that people may not believe we fit the OCD profile because of our lack of outward compulsions. Mental rituals are absolutely exhausting. People who have Pure O/Intrusive thoughts have usually mastered the ability to ruminate and perform mental rituals for more than 12 hours per day while maintaining a life that looks just fine to the outside world. We do whatever we can to not allow our rituals and obsessions to be viewed by anyone around us. When we are told that we must not have OCD that bad because we don’t perform outward compulsions, it makes us feel like everything we have done to hide the shame and guilt of our obsessions from the world was actually a bad thing. It also makes us feel that maybe our disorder is not that debilitating and perhaps we do NOT have it that bad. We don’t have xrays, surgeries, or physical treatments to prove how bad we have suffered. It is scary to try to explain a disorder to someone that brings so much shame and guilt only to feel as if it is being minimalized in return.

Keep in mind that every person’s battle with OCD is different. OCD takes on many different forms in regards to obsessions and compulsions, but the commonality amongst all sufferers is the shame, guilt, and embarrassment. When talking to someone with ‘Pure O’, try to do your best not to exacerbate those negative emotions.
2. ‘Pure O’ doesn’t exist!

Believe it or not, I have had several people say this very thing to me. The reason why someone would insinuate that ‘Pure O’ is not a form of OCD is because there is a large gap in communication on what to call this type of OCD between clinicians and the Pure O community. Clinicians and professionals do not like the term ‘Pure O’ because it implies that this form is purely of obsessions and not compulsions. As stated above about our mental rituals, this is just clearly not the case. The obsessions and compulsions are strictly carried out in the mind by ruminating and/or rituals that can be hidden from others with repetitive thoughts. OCD is comprised of obsessions + compulsions, so it seems that if someone only has obsessions that they would technically not have OCD. I understand their point in not wanting this type of OCD to be called ‘Pure O’. The discrepancy lies in that most individuals find out about this type of OCD through websites and articles that originally referred to this type of OCD as ‘Pure O’. We are so relieved to find out that we have an actual diagnosis and that we are not just insane, that we immediately identify and label ourselves as ‘Pure O’s’. Whether or not the name is accurate, it doesn’t matter to us. Our community of OCDer’s know exactly what it means to have ‘Pure O’ and we feel connected to others that understand that title.
Other than the flaw in the name, the reason why the statement that ‘pure O doesn’t exist’ can be damaging is because of a secondary fear that we don’t really have OCD and we are just mutants. It is inevitable that when I am confronted with an OCD relapse or episode, I will ruminate for a time that perhaps I don’t have OCD and these horrible thoughts are in fact real. Mostly, I will go into some cycle where I worry that I’m ‘lying’ and ‘faking’ the disorder only to hide the fact that I’m capable of conjuring up such disgusting thoughts. This is completely normal for individuals with Pure O, however at the time, it feels very real and scary. So, anytime anyone questions the validity of ‘Pure O’ or says that they have heard that type of OCD doesn’t exist, it can send me into a tailspin of guilt and doubt that someone along the line has lied to me and made up some disorder to cover the fact that I am a horrible person. Now, this may seem dramatic…but trust me, I am not the only one that responds this way.

Please make sure you never question whether or not ‘Pure O’ is real. You don’t have to agree about whether the name makes sense, just please try to never insinuate that that type of OCD does not exist.

3. ‘Do you really believe that you are <insert Pure O obsession>?’

For the love of everything that is holy, please do not ever ever ever ask someone with ‘Pure O/Intrusive Thoughts’ whether or not they believe they are what they worry about or are capable of the act they are worried about! I would have to say out of everything that you could say to someone, this would be the most likely to send someone straight into relapse. A ‘Pure O/Intrusive Thought’ obsession has nothing to do with the individuals’ character. There is no truth whatsoever to what the person obsesses about for months and sometimes years at a time. ‘Pure O’ OCD floats around from topic to topic that may make someone’s life hell and then hooks onto something that causes the individual to question everything about who they are morally and ethically. In my lifespan of having ‘Pure O’, I have worried that I was gay, a violent murderer, a rapist, a molester, a road rage-aholic, racist, sexist, an animal abuser, wanted to partake in incest, a Satan worshiper, wanted to partake in beastiality, a cannibal, worried that I have AIDS, worried that I wanted AIDS to spread it to others, and many more things that have nothing to do with my actual wants and desires. I have gotten to the point now in my journey with ‘Pure O’ that I can see the thoughts pop into my head, but I can recognize them as OCD and not react with anxiety and worry that they are real. This has taken years of practice. Sometimes I will get hooked into a cycle, but not as often anymore. The thoughts are heinous. They surprise me that I could be such a disgusting person to think such things, and that is what the Pure O wants me to feel. I have to remember that having OCD is an illness and it has NOTHING to do with who I am as an individual. Chrissie does not want or desire those things, but Chrissie’s OCD wants her to believe that she does.

I have had several occasions where I will tell someone about a specific obsession and they will look at me questioningly and ask…’well, do you think you are gay?’ or ‘do you feel like you want to hurt people?’ Of course, the rational side of Chrissie thinks, ‘well no…duh!!’

But the ‘Pure O’ side of Chrissie is saying this:

Oh my god why are they questioning me, did they not just hear that I have a disorder, do they not believe that I have a disorder, do they really think that I am like that, do I need to explain further, no if I explain further they will think I’m trying to cover something up, do I need to direct them to a website that will prove that the type of OCD that I have is really for real and it isn’t just something that I want, are they looking at me funny, oh god they are not going to talk to me anymore because they think I am a raging and violent girl stuck in the closet and they are going to be my next victim, I’m trying to act calm but I don’t think they fully understand how this has nothing to do with me, but didn’t they hear my explanation of OCD or do they not remember what I said, maybe I should explain it again, but then they may think I am using it as an excuse…..OH MY GOD, AM I USING IT AS AN EXCUSE MAYBE I DON’T REALLY HAVE OCD AND THE DOCTORS JUST LIED TO ME TO GIVE ME SOME SORT OF FALSE SENSE OF HOPE OR TO COVER UP THAT I AM A RIDICULOUS AND HORRIBLE PERSON THAT JUST CANNOT ADMIT THE TRUTH ABOUT WHO SHE IS!!!!!

….okay, so I think you get the point.

Please don’t question people about the validity of their obsession. If they tell you what it is that they are obsessing about, they are trusting you much more than you could ever imagine. Believe me, we all wish we could hand-pick our obsessions in order to make ourselves feel better about having them, but OCD does not work that way.

4. I saw this 20/20/Dateline/Dr.Phil episode and those people with OCD seem REALLY sick…you seem pretty normal, maybe you just don’t have it as bad as other people.

This is one of my favorites. I would like to share my disdain about 20/20 and any other show like it. These shows are the best at showing the extremes of anything and everything to invoke fear and misinformation into their viewers. I have seen plenty of shows about OCD in that format and can barely sit through them. They probably shot hundreds of hours of footage and then decided to play the few clips where the individual looks completely insane and cannot function. Sure, it is good to see that side of OCD, but that side is rarely shown by an individual to the public. In fact, OCD is such a silent disorder because we are so ashamed and embarrassed about our symptoms that we do whatever we can to cover them up. Yes, panic attacks are ugly and we do not ever want anyone to witness us when we have one. But, that is a perfect scene to blast all over the television to show you how severe OCD can be. You watch these scenes and think, ‘wow, those people cannot function at all in real life!!’ This is simply not true. Most of my panic attacks and anxious moments have occurred behind closed doors. This is how I know most of my fellow OCDer’s to act when they are experiencing heightened symptoms as well. Out of view of the public. These shows are sensationalized and do not necessarily portray what life really looks like for someone with OCD, especially for individuals with ‘Pure O’.

Why is it any different for ‘Pure O’ sufferers? Most of our obsessions are gruesome and horrible. We cannot believe that we are capable of producing such horrendous thoughts. A common compensation is that we build our lives up on the outside as flawless and perfect as possible. I was so mortified by the idea that I could not control my thoughts when I was a teenager that I did everything I could to portray the life of a successful and driven young lady. I figured as long as I could cover up that I was a horrible person and keep those thoughts to myself, I could at least try to buy some time before suicide would become my only option. And yes, I knew at a very young age that if I ever had to confront and admit my thoughts to anyone, my only alternative would be to kill myself and not think twice. Individuals with ‘Pure O’ are so tortured about who they think they are according to their OCD, that they will do anything and everything to the outside world to convince others that they are the opposite. It isn’t as if we are putting up some fake front, either. I like to describe it as becoming larger than our personality in order to compensate. The individuals I meet with ‘Pure O’ are usually intelligent, driven, successful, funny, personable, popular, and down-to-earth. These traits are part of who they are, but can also be exacerbated to make up for the doubt, guilt, and anguish about what is going on inside of their head.

When anyone mentions to me that they saw some Dr. Phil episode about OCD, I usually stop them before they can talk further. If you meet someone who is diagnosed with OCD, chances are they have suffered more than many individuals will in their entire lifetime. Even though you may never see their scars and wounds, their battle with OCD deserves much respect and honor. These sensationalized shows do not even scratch the surface of what majority of people who have OCD’s lives are like.

5. Well, if you know that you aren’t or you won’t <insert Pure O obsession>, then just stop worrying about it!
Gee, is THAT ALL? Why didn’t I think of that!

I know people just like to offer obvious advice, but when was the last time you were upset about something and someone told you to just ‘get over it’ or ‘stop worrying about it’?  I bet that made you feel annoyed, right? Now imagine that you have had the same irrational, ridiculous obsession stuck in your mind for 3 years and someone says, ‘why can’t you just stop worrying about it if you know it’s not true!?’. This makes me have violent, intrusive thoughts toward that person that are unrelated to OCD. Just kidding, I am not violent (I’m reassuring myself now.) When you tell us to ‘just not worry about it’, it makes us feel like every person in the world has this capability to stop worrying at the drop of a hat and we are just weak and stupid and cannot get a grip. It actually perpetuates the cycle by encouraging thoughts such as, ‘well, why can’t I stop worrying that I had sexual thoughts about a religious figure?? Since I just cannot stop worrying easily, does that prove that I could turn into a pedophile one day? If I didn’t want to scream those racist and derogatory comments to my coworkers during the meeting today, then why can I not stop worrying that I did?’.

I look at this statement as the equivalent to someone going to a paraplegic and saying, ‘oh, it’s just your legs that don’t work, just get up and walk! It’s mind over matter!!’. That seems ridiculous, right? Well, this is what it feels like when I am told to stop worrying about something that is not under my control. We cannot just stop the cycle without applying therapeutic tools and/or medication. You cannot outthink and outsmart OCD while giving into the obsession. I can tell my sister all day long that I am worried that I wanted to run over kids in my car earlier and I know it isn’t really me, it is my OCD—however, that doesn’t make the thought and the worry stop. The more I try to convince myself that it was OCD and not the fact that I am a violent driver that likes to maim people with my vehicle, the stronger the thought gets. WELL, YOU WOULDN’T STILL BE THINKING IT AND WORRYING ABOUT IT IF YOU REALLY DIDN’T WANT TO, RIGHT? MAYBE YOU SHOULD GET IN YOUR CAR NOW AND DRIVE THROUGH THE PARK AND SEE IF YOU REALLY DID FEEL THOSE URGES OR IF YOU MADE IT UP?! MAYBE YOU REALLY DIDN’T WANT TO AND YOU JUST THOUGHT YOU DID? Thus, the argument continues.

The therapy designed to relieve and treat OCD is the exact opposite of ‘just don’t worry about it!’. It is called Exposure Response Prevention (ERP). This therapy teaches you to invite the worry and learn how to sit with the anxiety that the worry causes without reacting. If you do not react to your own brain as it is running wild with the horrific thoughts and are able to tolerate the crippling anxiety, it will begin to lessen the effect the obsessions have on you later. Each time you invite and allow the thoughts to provoke the anxiety and are able to sit in it without reacting, the effect it has on you will get lesser and lesser over time. It is a very difficult and painful therapy. Individuals with ‘Pure O’ are confronting fears that they have been ashamed of and afraid of for years. They have spent and designed their entire life around avoiding these fears. Even the idea of trying to face them can cause debilitating anxiety. However, the therapy is extremely effective and can teach sufferers to manage and live normal lives if they are willing to take the risk.

If someone trusts you enough to disclose their OCD obsessions, instead of offering them solutions, ask them what you can do and say that will help them to get control of their OCD. Now, there is a fine line between helping someone with OCD and furthering their disorder by giving them too much reassurance, but that is a topic for another blog! For now, remember never to use the 5 phrases I have listed above to someone who is battling or may be struggling with OCD.

Each one of us will struggle with something that causes us strife at some point in our life, and I believe that the more knowledge we can have to help each other, the better equipped we will all be to become better friends and supporters. I hope that this blog helps you to feel better equipped to talk with individuals who have OCD.

Please feel free to share other things that people say to you about OCD that you wish they wouldn’t in the comments below!

Thank you for taking the time to read!

Mental Health Advocate/Public Speaker/The Stigma of Mental Illness Radio/Mental Health Peer Consulting/CBT and ERP Coach: Effective OCD Treatment

Hate the Disorder, not Yourself

Posted in Uncategorized on August 20, 2014 by chrissiehodges

One of the hardest things to do when living with OCD is to separate yourself from your symptoms. The complexity of OCD symptoms is that they are entrenched in our everyday thought patterns and behaviors, so they seem like they are part of who we are. But they are not, and it is an important distinction to understand when moving toward recovery.

I live with Pure O/Intrusive thoughts. The thoughts that I have are heinous. I hate the thoughts. They are perverted, blasphemous, violent, and disgusting. Sometimes I will have a thought and I will visualize it and then I will feel my body have a visceral reaction in disgust. My snap OCD reaction is, ‘well, if you weren’t such a horrible person, you wouldn’t have these thoughts’, followed by a zing of anxiety. WHOA, NOW! I see what is going on here…this is an OCD thought. But, sometimes if I am tired or distracted, I may second guess….Or IS IT an OCD thought or do I really feel that way? GAH! Stop it! As a almost 30 year veteran with my OCD, it is still amazing to me that it can make me do a double take.

The way that I view the thoughts now and my body reacts to them (which can be equally as unpleasant as the thoughts) is that they are all symptoms. It is hard to think of anything and everything related to OCD as just a ‘symptom’ because it all feels so real. That is how OCD cleverly designs it. It is not called the ‘doubting disease’ for nothing! OCD not only makes you doubt reality, but it makes you doubt yourself. This is a key component that is not always addressed and talked openly about enough. I have had someone describe it best as ‘being OCD about my OCD’. My OCD makes me question my character and my integrity as a human. Well truly now, what sort of person WOULD think these thoughts and have a reaction to them and not be a bad person? The answer to that is: Someone who has Pure O/Intrusive thoughts with violent, sexual, and blasphemous obsessions, that is who.

Oftentimes we forget that just because we have OCD, does not mean we are OCD. When someone has cancer, they may go through chemotherapy. There are symptoms to the treatment of chemotherapy that are universally known and quite horrible. (especially for someone like me with a throw up obsession). When a person is experiencing these symptoms, they are not worrying that they are sick and tired because they are a horrible person. When they are experiencing symptoms as a result of cancer and chemo, they don’t feel guilty and shame about having cancer. They accept the symptoms as side effects of a disease and the treatment.

Because the symptoms of our OCD are so closely tied to our psychological state of mind, we have a tendency to believe it is a reflection of who we are innately. The ‘well if it isn’t true, then why would I worry about it’ state of mind is exactly where OCD wants to keep us. When we are OCD about our OCD, we stay pigeonholed in a state of mind that holds us back from living in full acceptance and recovery. We have to keep the mindset to hate the disorder and not ourselves. WHO WE ARE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH OUR SYMPTOMS OF OCD.

I deal with the intrusive thoughts almost every day. I like to look at them like clouds floating through my mind. Some are big clouds that block the sunshine and make me doubt for a minute, some are dark and scary thunderstorms that may keep me trapped for a few hours, and others just pass by and I can get a chuckle out of what an imagination my OCD has to try to tempt me. I understand the difference between my real thoughts and my OCD thoughts because it is like clockwork how my OCD works. My body has the same reaction, my mind has the same reaction, my racing and ruminating thoughts surrounding the obsessive thought are always the same. I have learned to recognize that all of those are ‘symptoms’ of a disorder. Once you pinpoint the ‘symptoms’, you are able to separate yourself from them.

OCD does not want you to succeed. OCD does not want to you live happily without it having control over you. It will manipulate every situation to get you caught back in the obsessive and compulsive cycle. But, you are smarter than OCD. You know that who you are as a person has nothing to do with the symptoms of your OCD.






Thank you for taking the time to read,

Chrissie Hodges

Mental Health Advocate/Public Speaker; ‘The Stigma of Mental Illness Radio; CBT/ERP Coach/Mental Health Peer Consulting

Mental Illness is the new NORMAL!

Posted in Uncategorized on August 8, 2014 by chrissiehodges

I had no idea that I was not the only one until one of my clients in my Mental Health coaching practice told me their experience about dating with a mental illness.

‘Well, no one ‘normal’ is ever going to want me, so I guess I just have to take what I can get’. And then the conversation continued on about how there have been certain patterns of behavior developed in order to try to maintain some sense of control and dignity in romantic relationships where we know we are doomed from the start because of our ‘mental illness baggage’.

I sat there feeling my heart breaking for that sentiment, but I also sat there in awe that someone just actually voiced what I have felt almost my life when it comes to dating and relationships.

And it felt good to not feel alone.

I consult and coach individuals who are dealing with the aftermath of a diagnosis and treatment for mental illness. This is often a stage that is overlooked and not prepared for but is crucial when moving toward recovery. It is during this time that ‘stigma’ can be the most rampant and dangerous. The personal stigma we feel when it comes to having a mental illness can wreak havoc on our emotions, our relationships, and our self esteem. And we can go to extremes and not even know it when we are battling stigma. We can stay comfortable in anger or sadness, we can sabotage relationships or cling to relationships, and we can put ourselves in a position to be prone to relapse because of it. And, romantic relationships have a tendency to suffer the brunt of the force when we are saturated in stigma.

I have been thinking about the sentiment this week of ‘no one normal is going to want me’, and have been reflecting on my own romantic relationships. I see this way of thinking intertwined into almost all of my relationships, not because my partners weren’t ‘normal’, but my behavior with them was skewed and not always representing who I want to be as an individual as a result of how poorly I thought of myself…or how terrified I was of losing them as a result of the stigma I felt from my mental illness.

I don’t want to give the impression that dating is easy for anyone—personally, I hate it! I’d rather be single than to be in a relationship that is unhealthy. I have many friends who are single and date often and I don’t think it is any easier for them than for someone who has a diagnosed and treated mental illness. The problem is, we have that added fear of always being inferior in the relationship because of what we are bringing to the table…..which we perceive as ‘bringing crazy to the table’.

As a woman, the last thing I want to be labeled as is a ‘crazy girl’ or a ‘psycho’—it is the worst rational fear for me to think that I could be that girl. That would mean I had no control over my actions and could not recognize the repercussions of my actions. To me…that is the real definition of the ‘crazy girlfriend’. But does everyone really know that? How do you really break the ice about your mental illness on a romantic date? Do you do it quickly?—-maybe if I say it really fast, he won’t understand the magnitude of the statement and then I can ask for him to pass the bread. Maybe if I preface it with a bunch of psychological explanation, he will understand before I drop the OCD bomb? Or, maybe I just don’t tell and hope that I can keep it a secret until he falls in love with me and nothing–even mental illness–will make him want to drop me like a bad habit?

There doesn’t seem to be an easy answer and never really has been. In my younger years, I turned to manipulation and control tactics which are horrible ways of coping and obviously reasons why those relationships did not work out. But, those were times when I was saturated in stigma and I was terrified that I did not deserve to be loved because of my illness. Many people stay in abusive relationships because they don’t believe they deserve anything better because of their illness. Some people sabotage relationships and never allow anyone to get close to them because they are afraid they do not deserve something good because of their illness. It is scary how easy it is to fall into this trap because of the stigma we stay saturated in.

As a 37 year old single woman who lives in recovery with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, there is one thing that I know for sure after being in many relationships—some for the right reasons and many for the wrong reasons: At least I own being the ‘crazy girlfriend’. I don’t mean the one that cannot control emotions or being oblivious to other people’s reactions….I mean the girl who has no issue standing tall and proud of the individual she is WITH her mental illness. What I have learned in my 29 years of living with a mental illness is that there really is no ‘normal’ for anyone. ‘Normal’ is some ridiculous median that we base each of our lives off of that does not exist—and therefore we will always fall short if we continue to believe that ‘normal’ is realistic.

Every single person brings their own individual challenges to a relationship—if it is a healthy relationship, you work with each other and through the tough times without controlling or judging or sabotaging. I believe this state of companionship is ideal and difficult for any person regardless of whether mental illness is involved.

The only thing that I know for a fact is that for ME normal means who I am with a mental illness and managing it successfully—so I guess that means that moving forward in relationships—Mental Illness IS the new normal for my companion.


What Voice does your OCD have?

Posted in Uncategorized on August 1, 2014 by chrissiehodges

As an Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) coach, I have found it fascinating how much I relive my experience of going through treatment with my OCD while helping individuals work through the different stages of learning and healing from theirs.

There is an interesting component that comes with learning what OCD is and what OCD isn’t that I couldn’t put my finger on when I was in the midst of treatment and even in the aftermath of trying to navigate ‘normal’ life afterward with OCD. But recently, I was able to conceptualize it and give it an identity.

The OCD Voice.

I’m not implying that there is a specific voice in my head that speaks when OCD is talking—however, when I think of my OCD, I believe that it sounds a lot like what Satan would sound like!! What I am trying to convey is that instead of using our sense of ‘hearing’ to recognize OCD, we have to use our sense of feeling and response to recognize it.

Here is a good way to understand it. I have a  close friend that I typically call when I am in crisis, need rational advice from, or need to just feel comforted by his unconditional love and acceptance. Even just the sound of his voice can set my entire body at ease. For instance, I may have had a very stressfull day/situation happen and I need to talk things through to feel better or to make a plan on how to remedy a situation. Well, when I connect with this friend, it is not the advice or conversation that helps me to calm down, but just the sound of his voice that lets me know that I am going to be okay. Do you have any friends or family members like this? If you have a go-to person that just makes you feel better in their presence or in conversation, then you know what I mean.

Then there are many other people in my life that evoke other emotions when I hear from them or talk to them. Each person that we know on a regular basis has a specific effect on how we act or react to them. Some people you just know when you talk to them, you are going to be laughing and cheerful the entire time. Some people you know that you will be a helper for them and YOU are their ‘go-to’ person for comfort. And, some people you absolutely know that everytime you hear from them or see them, you get a visceral reaction of dislike for them. This is just the nature of human encounter, but as we encounter these individuals over and over, we began to recognize our reaction and react accordingly. We make time and effort for those we like and are helping, and we avoid or can feel combative with those that we do not like. This is an easy thing to see and rationalize when the situation is right in front of us. Our reactions are a reflection of our level of comfortability and happiness and we act accordingly.

So, why is it so hard to apply this to our OCD voice?

When I hear what my best friend has to say no matter if it is agreeable or something I disagree with, I know that it is coming from a place of love and compassion, so my reaction never wavers and I continue the relationship because it makes me happy. Almost all of my other acquaintances/relationships are the same as well…I give a specific amount of energy to them based on how I feel when I hear their voice. We predict the future on past actions so it is rare that I am wrong about my reactions and feelings in long term relationships.

So, what about the OCD voice?

My OCD voice always begins the same way and I always have the same reaction to it. It always begins with ‘What if’ or some variation of that question, and my immediate reaction is ALWAYS an isolated moment of panic. The kind of panic where the world stops for a second and my eyeballs bulge wide and still. But for some reason, in all of the years I have known OCD (which would be around 29 right about now), if I am not vigilant, I choose to ignore the voice recognition of who I know is calling me. The reason why is because I cannot put the physical recognition to the voice and so it pulls me into the cycle of ‘maybe I am making all of this up’. This is another one of OCD’s tricks of the trade. The voice is never disguised. The voice is never different. The voice never evokes a DIFFERENT reaction. But, we always seem to doubt that the voice may not be OCD. And the reason is because we cannot SEE it.

As a sufferer of OCD and an ERP coach, I advise individuals in their journey to recovery and living successfully with OCD to learn the OCD voice through all of the senses other than with vision. OCD always hooks us because it KNOWS that we understand the irrationality of it’s claims, so as rational people we can only be hooked if we cannot see it. Therefore so many of our other senses are triggered and put under scrutiny to test our ability to recognize and fight back.

What can we do?

Learn how to recognize your OCD Voice. How do you feel when you hear it? How does your body react? What sort of questions do you start to ask yourself? What rituals are you drawn to immediately to remedy the voice? Are you uncomfortable when you are responding to the voice? Are you experiencing anxiety? What is the degree of urgency in answering the voice?

All of these questions are pertinent. But, what also is pertinent is to be able to identify the other voices that you respond to. I have anxiety when I think about getting my taxes done…but is that the same anxiety I have when the OCD voice is telling me that I want to hurt someone? No. Tax anxiety does not bring my character into question. It does not make me question everything about my belief systems or whether or not I am a bad person the way that the OCD voice does.

After so many years living in recovery with OCD, I realize that my gauge is set for recognizing my OCD voice. I know that there are voices that I hear from people like my best friend and things that happen in my life such as normal stressors that make me respond very differently than the OCD voice. Once I learned to recognize the OCD voice and the reactions of almost all of my senses to it’s call, that was when I was able to control how much power it’s voice had over my ability to control it and my rate of relapse.

Thank you for taking the time to read.

Chrissie Hodges

Public Speaker/Mental Health Advocate; ‘The Stigma of Mental Illness’ Radio; CBT/ERP Coach; Mental Health Peer Consulting; ocd.chrissie@gmail.com

The First Thought is the Weakest

Posted in Uncategorized on July 24, 2014 by chrissiehodges

I was browsing facebook today and as usual, all I was seeing were pictures of how great everyone’s lives seem, inspirational quotes, and rants against the government, and then I came across one specific quote that made me stop my down cursor.

It was something reposted via reposted via reposted from some site I had never heard of, but the quote read something along the lines of ‘Negative thoughts can be easily defeated by recognizing when they first pop into your mind…the first thoughts are always the weakest.’ I wanted to like it for what it was originally intending—to combat negative thoughts—but for those of us who suffer with OCD, we understand the ‘bad thoughts’ as something entirely different than the average individual and their daily struggle to ‘be more positive’.

I thought about the depth of that comment as it relates to spikes and trigger’s associated with my form of OCD. Matty Myles, the OCD Specialist that I work as an ERP coach for always talks about OCD as being a ‘bully’. The bully taunts you all day long and as long as you are aware that you are being hit with irrational and ridiculous taunts, it is easy to not get hooked. Unfortunately, OCD is so intelligently warped (which I like to attibute to how intelligent I am, since it IS my brain!!) that its taunts get dirtier and nastier until you are appalled by your own twisted thoughts and the initial taunt (which is usually in the form of a ‘what if’ question) finally stops you dead in your tracks.

What if the vision of me putting on the gas at a slowed intersection REALLY means that I want to hurt all of those pedestrians and the stopped cars?

OF COURSE the answer is NO, but all of a sudden I can feel a tingling sensation in my lower leg and into my foot…does that mean I could accidently lose control of one of my limbs?

Oops…I think I may have just gotten hooked into the cycle!

WHY is it that I was able to laugh at and stave off the thoughts of worrying that I wanted to scream out obscenities in the coffee meeting I had with a colleague earlier—some of the foulest names and slurs I could think of—but all of a sudden NOW I cannot let go of this worry that I take pleasure in wanting to slaugter innocent bystanders???

Because I gave it a second thought.

I get bombarded with thoughts every single day that can potentially get hooked. Usually they are violent or sexual or both. I don’t bother to worry WHY I have these thoughts…I already know the answer to that. I HAVE OCD! What I do bother to do is to recognize that they are meant to trigger me. They are the bully in my mind waiting silently and patiently all day, everyday looking for the moment when I am tired…when I am stressed…when I am vulnerable…to pounce on me and continue the dance that makes him rejoice. So, I take very seriously the one-up I have on the bully. I already know they are going to happen and I usually KNOW they are going to happen at inopportune times. I know walking into an important meeting that I am going to have thoughts about screaming out obscenities, interrupting people with rambling thoughts unrelated to the topic, or sexually grabbing someone beside me. I wait for them to happen and the bully sulks and pouts when I giggle as they come through my mind at their absurdity and at my ability to control them.

Lee Baer who wrote ‘The Imp of the Mind’ gave a talk at the International OCD Foundation Annual Conference in LA last weekend and I was lucky enough to attend. He said in his talk that the more times that we perform compulsions…the more times that we go back to ‘make sure’ or ‘prove or disprove’ something, the less sure we will be….the weaker we become in the face of that fear. In logical world, this does NOT make sense….but our minds exist in OCD world. The faster we can recognize that our type of ‘logic’ is driven by a bully in our mind when it comes to irrational thinking, the faster we will be able to recognize when the bully is tempting us and never give it’s taunts a second glance.

The difference between individuals who have OCD and individuals who just have quirky obsessions or habits is that people with OCD RECOGNIZE that their obsessions are irrational and they do NOT take pleasure in the ritualistic behavior that accompanies the obsession.

We have OCD. There is no cure for OCD. But what we do have is therapy that works (ERP), medications that aid in our depression and anxiety, and we have the ability to educate ourselves. Never forget that the bully will taunt you all day and everyday until he gets you to give his fears a second glance. The first question—the first doubt is the weakest—once you give in, the power starts to slip out of your hand and the fear becomes stronger with each compulsion.

Learn the voice of the bully. Learn the reaction you have to the bully. Learn the absurdities of the taunts. Learn the irrationality of the thoughts. And learn how to NEVER give them a second thought.

Thank you for taking the time to read and good luck in your fight against OCD

Chrissie Hodges

Mental Health Advocate/Public Speaker, CBT/ERP Coach, Radio Host ‘The Stigma of Mental Illness’ Radio, Mental Health Peer Consulting, OCD: Outreach Community in Denver

The Pure O’s Secondary Shame

Posted in Uncategorized on July 10, 2014 by chrissiehodges

When I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I was shocked, relieved, and pissed off all at once.

Shocked because I could not believe that I had a diagnosable and treatable disorder.

Relieved because it explained what I had been suffering with for years and confirmed that I was actually not the ‘evil’ person that I believed could think such horrible thoughts.

Pissed off because what the hell did I do to deserve this and how am I suppose to go back out into the world and act normal now that I know?

Those seemed like rational reactions at the time and for many years to come they seemed pretty justifiable. However, nothing prepared me for the double dose of shame and embarrassment that I have experienced through the years as a result of having Pure O/Intrusive thoughts.

The shame of the obsessive thoughts has always been there even before the diagnosis. When you have Pure O, you usually feel like ANY other obsession would be better than the one that you actually have. Mainly, because you subconciously believe that the obsession is a reflection of you, your character, and that there could perhaps be some potential truth behind it. If there wasn’t some sort of truth, then why would I worry about it? Annnnnd, that’s where the cycle can start all over again.

I’m going to put it to you plain—doing my best not to be reassuring if that’s what you are looking for:

Pure O obsessions have NOTHING to do with who you are as an individual. If you could control it, it wouldn’t have become an obsession in the first place. It isn’t some deep, dark, unexplained secret you have always had that finally manifested in the form of anxiety…it is the thought that got stuck among the many MANY weird and random thoughts that every single person on the planet experiences.

So, you believe me…but you still feel shame, right?

Of course you do! If you didn’t feel something, it wouldn’t be an OCD obsession. This is the vicious and debilitating cycle. Don’t I wish I could just have an irrational fear of spiders sometimes—at least my CHARACTER wouldn’t be called into question!
Here’s one for you—-if you DIDN’T feel shame, embarrassment, or guilt (etc) surrounding your Pure O intrusive thought, then chances are it would NOT be OCD related and would have virtually no anxiety about thinking it. So, in a twisted way–the feelings you hate to have are the same feelings that can alert us that we are, in fact experiencing OCD.

But, then there is the secondary shame. In my career and advocacy, I am very open about my obsessions. It took many years to be able to say them out loud without crying or waiting for some horrendous reaction from the listener afterward (which NEVER happened). But, one of the things that I have noticed since then is that while I do not have shame anymore about having OCD and the suicide attempt and living with a mental illness, I have started to feel the need to apologize to others and explain in detail why I have the obsession so they won’t have an opportunity to doubt that I have OCD and/or think that I am just ‘lying to myself’.

Once I noticed I was doing this—and doing this often—I realized I needed to figure out where this need was coming from. I quickly discovered it was the secondary shame of trying to predict and control what others will think of me and my OCD. I am STILL trying to get others approval and acceptance before I drop the bomb on them about my disorder–I am just doing it sans tears now.

I needed to figure this out because what happens is that this is the OCD Demon’s manipulative way of throwing me back into the cycle of the dreaded ‘What if’s.

What if people don’t believe I have OCD and they just think I am perverted or confused or a bad person?
What if they walk away from me and laugh at how screwed up I am?
What if I lose my credibility as a speaker/radio host because people don’t understand OCD and think I am just lying?

Sound familiar?

So, what can we do about this?
Well, I hate to say this because it is OCD individual nightmare to accept this…but we have to give up the control. ERP teaches us to take the risk and live with the uncertainty with ourselves. This is what we have to do when we encounter the shame associated with our Pure O thoughts.
Maybe others will think I want to be a murderer…
Maybe others will think I may turn into a pedophile…
Maybe others will think I’m secretly in the closet…
Maybe others will think I want to commit incest….
Maybe others will think that I like beastiality…
Maybe others will think that I worship Satan…

What if people think these things about us if and when they find out what our obsessions are? Then they do and there is not much you can do about it. There is no point in ruminating over whether or not you can be convincing enough to reassure someone else! We have enough on our plate trying to manage our own thoughts…let’s not waste any time trying to manage what other people may think about them!

Treat this secondary shame the same way you deal with the shame associated with your own obsessions as a result of Pure O. I have to take the risk that others may judge me and even reject me if they find out and live with the uncertainty that they may not believe me. It can be JUST as scary as facing your own obsessions, but it is JUST as liberating when you learn to disassociate from the shame and guilt.

I have rarely encountered anyone who when they have found out about my obsessions, they actually question whether or not I ‘really’ feel like that. Just like the shame associated with my personal Pure O obsessions, I am only reacting to the anxiety of the unknown…and I quickly learn that the unknown is never as bad as my OCD mind expects it to be.

Understand why the shame is there, embrace it as a side effect, let it go, and move forward. You are not alone.

Stay diligent in your treatment and recovery, friends.

Chrissie Hodges

Public Speaker/Mental Health Advocate/Radio Host ‘The Stigma of Mental Illness’ Radio

To CBT or not to CBT: Is that the question?

Posted in Uncategorized on July 30, 2013 by chrissiehodges

When I decided to go through with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for my diagnosis of Pure O/OCD, I truly believed that there was no other hope. If this did not work, I would be doomed to live a life bordering on staving off the urge to commit suicide more frequently than I would like to admit. Fortunately, the stars aligned for me when I was seeking out therapy for OCD rather than relying on medication every day.

WAY back in the day—1998, there was definitely not as much information on the internet as there is today, and in fact I had to search for days and days to find qualified OCD specialists and websites that could even explain what CBT was!? I had no idea how important ‘key words’ were then!! However, one day in my awkwardly worded web searches, an article popped up called ‘Thinking the Unthinkable’, (http://www.ocdonline.com/articlephillipson1.php) and I literally screamed out loud as I read it as everyone in the library computer lab gave me evil looks and shushed me from all directions. I couldn’t get enough…I scoured Dr. Phillipson’s website soaking up every single word thinking I had FINALLY found someone that GETS ME!!!!!  I knew then I had to contact this man and no matter what the cost financially or emotionally, it was imperative that I become one of his success stories.

And shortly thereafter, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with Dr. Steven Phillipson ensued.

15 years after that therapy, I still use the techniques instilled in me to manage my obsessive thoughts as they arise. I am still so grateful that I took the leap, that I held on to hope, and that I threw myself into the therapy 100% with my full trust in a Doctor who my blind faith in him completely paid off. I owe my life to that man.

I am absolutely a CBT success story. Of course, I am not cured of OCD, but I live a relatively normal life and manage all of my obsessive thoughts and have control over my life whereas at one point in my life, OCD was almost responsible for my death at my own hands. But, just because I feel confident in my experience with CBT does not mean I did not have the SAME doubts and fears that you have or will have if you decide to go through with it. Here were a few of my fears during CBT:

1. Even though Dr. Phillipson has helped many people with the same OCD spike that I have, I believe I am different and he won’t be able to help me;

—-Dr. Phillipson was completely prepared for this fear and in fact, he said that almost everyone he treated had the same fear! While hearing that I was not the only one did not make the fear dissipate, it did confirm that I could trust my therapist and have more confidence that he knows people who have OCD inside and out.

2. What if I go through with the therapy and it doesn’t work? I am afraid that will mean that I do not have OCD and that my obsessions are real!!?

—-As part of CBT, Dr. Phillipson was aware of this fear because I repeated it to him very many times, but he was careful not to reassure me—he needed me to realize that there are always ‘possibilities’ that we can never prove or disprove. Again, I had to just trust him and know that he would probably not treat me if he truly did not believe that I had OCD. Since then, I have learned that MANY people experience this fear as a secondary fear to their OCD. When I am involved in an OCD cycle, this is hard for me to grasp and understand, but it is true and you can take comfort in knowing that professionals are qualified to diagnose you with OCD—-even though OCD may FEEL real, it is NOT real.

3. Dr. Phillipson let me know that the therapy will not make the thoughts go away, but that it will help me to not react. THIS TERRIFIED ME! WHY AM I PAYING MONEY IF THE THOUGHTS AREN’T GOING TO GO AWAY!?!?!??!?!

—-This was the most difficult fear to deal with. Up to this point when I was not on meds, I could not imagine my life without the fear and all of the ruminating and anxiety that went along with it? I WANTED the therapy to make the thoughts GO AWAY! Well, it is hard for us who suffer with OCD to understand this because we are conditioned by our brain to fear the thoughts. The TRUTH is that we have bizarre thoughts all of the time but because they are not accompanied by the anxiety, we do not perceive them as a threat. CBT is designed to transform the obsessions into those petty everyday thoughts that are not charged by our reaction. Once I got through 3-4 exercises and realized that the point was to eliminate the ANXIETY rather than the THOUGHT itself, I began to understand the concept.

Every person’s experience is different with OCD and treatment involves so many different factors. But here is my advice if you are thinking about CBT:

1. Find the right therapist for you: Not every method works for everyone. Dr Phillipson was VERY matter of fact and had little emotional connection to the therapy. This worked for me because I needed someone to take control and not give me any options. It was that tough-love attitude that made me want to succeed. MAKE SURE when you seek out a therapist for OCD that the therapist performs CBT and ERP—otherwise they may not be adept in treating patients with OCD. Interview several OCD Specialists and make sure they are the right fit for you in order to set you up for success.

2. When you begin CBT, GO FOR IT 100%! CBT will work wonders for you if you dive into it head first. You HAVE to be willing to be uncomfortable—to endure the pain—to take every risk possible knowing that the outcome will be beneficial. Many people find tremendous success with CBT when they get to a point that is almost rock bottom…I knew the only thing I had to lose was my life so I thought that I had no other choice. CBT IS NOT FUN AT ALL, BUT IT WORKS IF YOU ARE WILLING TO DO THE HARD WORK!!!!!!!

3. When you find the right therapist and are ready to give 100%, HAVE FAITH IN THE PROCESS!! I know, I know this sounds way easier than it is…but hang on like hell to hope! Research success and graduate stories that are just like your obsession…read books of OCD success stories…reach out to other people who have gone through the treatment and find a mentor. But, most importantly, TRUST IN YOUR THERAPIST! OCD Specialists WANT you to get better…they want you to succeed. Give them 100% and hang on to faith that You will be a success story.

There are many different treatments for OCD….but in my experience and in many other success stories involving OCD, the answer to ‘To CBT or not to CBT’ is

ABSOLUTELY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YOU ARE WORTH IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IT DOES WORK!!!!!!!

Thank you for taking the time to read. Here are some links that may be helpful:

ocdonline.com, theotherocd.com, effectiveocdtreatment.com

Have a fantastic day

Chrissie Hodges

Public Speaker/Mental Health Advocate

Radio Host: ‘The Stigma of Mental Illness Radio’


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