Supplemental Help for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 14, 2017 by chrissiehodges

It is widely known that effective treatment for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder begins and ends with medication and/or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with Exposure Response Prevention (ERP). This is gold-standard, evidence-based treatment that proves to have the most positive effect on managing OCD symptoms long-term. But, what are some other supplemental tools and resources that may help with maintaining recovery with OCD?

Therapeutically, OCD specialists may use a variety of therapies to supplement ERP. Mindfulness is a great tool used in conjunction with ERP. Learning mindfulness techniques can help after treatment to recognize intrusive thoughts and apply ERP techniques to manage symptoms. Therapists may also implement Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT). This therapy can be used alongside ERP as well and emphasizes mindfulness techniques in helping to manage intrusive thoughts. While mindfulness, ACT, and other therapies may be used in supplementing treatment for OCD, they are not recommended as solely effective treatment strategies or a replacement for ERP. If you are working with a therapist who is not using ERP therapy, you are wasting time, money, and your symptoms may become worse.

Peer support is an beneficial supplementary service that can be used in all stages of treatment and recovery for OCD. Peer specialists are trained in using their lived experience with mental illness to support individuals who are working toward their own recovery. Peer specialists can also be incredibly effective in helping with the emotional turmoil that can accompany OCD. OCD intrusive thoughts can create negative emotions such as shame, guilt, and embarrassment. While an OCD specialist may be focused on symptom management, a peer specialist can help use their lived experience and mutuality with the often debilitating emotions accompanying OCD to support the individual in treatment.

There are also many secondary fears and urgent questions an individual may experience throughout treatment and even afterward. Common fears include, ‘What if I don’t really have OCD?’, ‘What if these obsessions turn out to be true?’, or ‘What if treatment works for everyone but me?’ Peer specialists can relate by using their experience of working through these fears which helps individuals feel less alone and isolated. Having a peer specialist by your side during therapy can ease the fear and uncertainty of the therapy and the negative emotions as you advance toward recovery. If you are looking for a peer specialist, please make sure they are trained and certified through the state in which they are practicing.

Peer support is designed to be the support you need in between seeing therapists, your psychiatrist, and other mental health professionals. Other tools that can help in real-time struggling would be a newly developed app called nOCD. This is a tool designed to give you real-time support with therapy tools and keeping your recovery on track. Having support from peer support as well as being able to keep track of your therapy successes can absolutely expedite recovery and help you feel less alone in your journey.

There are many other supplementary resources that can help individuals while they work toward recovery with OCD. Success stories and memoirs of individuals living and managing OCD are very helpful. Being able to read about someone who has been successful in what you are struggling with can provide motivation and hope that OCD can be overcome. Support groups in your area or online can be very beneficial as long as they are supporting recovery in a way that leaves you hopeful. It is important to do research on who is leading the support groups. Make sure the moderator is an expert in OCD and/or an individual who has been treated successfully with OCD. Support groups that perpetuate symptoms or loss of hope can be damaging to symptom management.

Websites, blogs, workbooks and books can be helpful as well as long as the content is aligned with evidence-based research and expertise in OCD. There are many self-help sites and individuals who will claim they have a program to ‘cure OCD’ or ‘heal OCD’. If these products or services are not using Exposure Response Prevention therapy and/or associated with an expert in the field who practices ERP, be very cautious in purchasing or engaging in such services.

OCD is a chronic mental illness with no cure, however there is absolutely hope that you do not have to suffer alone and treatment is absolutely effective. ERP therapy can help you get your life back from the overwhelming symptoms of OCD. While supplemental self-help strategies are not recommended as a replacement for ERP therapy, they can be incredible tools to fill in the gaps during therapy.

If you are looking for therapist referrals/resources in your area, or if you are in need of peer support, please contact Chrissie Hodges at ocd.chrissie@gmail.com to schedule a consultation/peer support session. Find out more about Chrissie, her work, and her advocacy at www.chrissiehodges.com. For a great app to help supplement your treatment with OCD, please visit nOCD at http://m.treatmyocd.com/chrissie

There is effective treatment for OCD and it is absolutely possible to live a full, productive, and successful life with OCD. There is Hope.

Thank you,

Chrissie Hodges

Mental Health Advocate/Speaker; Author “Pure OCD: The Invisible Side of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder”; Peer Support Specialist & Resource Consultant/Treatment for OCD Consulting; CBT/ERP Coach/Effective OCD Treatment; Colorado Suicide Prevention Commissioner; Crisis Intervention Team Presenter/Denver Sheriff & Police Department\

www.chrissiehodges.com  www.treatmentforocd.com

Pure OCD Wants Us to Stay Quiet. Let’s Be Loud!

Posted in Uncategorized on March 2, 2017 by chrissiehodges

It is inspiring to read stories of human suffering that ends in triumph over adversity. Those stories give us hope and the assurance that we are not suffering alone.

But, for those of us with Pure OCD/Intrusive thoughts, it is not as easy as crafting a well-written, inspiring piece.

Mental illness in itself brings shame and guilt. Many individuals will receive treatment, learn to cope with symptoms, and run as far from the label of their brain disorder as possible. The stigma can be perceived as something that can absolutely destroy your life if the wrong person knows you have suffered with mental illness.

But, there is a whole other layer of shame and embarrassment associated with Pure OCD, and those exacerbated, negative emotions are likely fueled by the OCD itself. That seems odd, right? Well, it is a secondary fear OCD plagues us with when contemplating coming out of our own OCD closet.

We know that our obsessions are not a reflection of our character, our moral compass, or who we are as an individual. Therapy teaches us how to see our obsessions just as any other intrusive thought we may have and not to assign meaning to it. But, what if other people don’t understand it in the way that we do? What if people questioned whether we really had OCD or not? What if they judged us based on our obsession? What if they believe we really could be capable of acting on our obsessions? What if they thought we were a monster?

We spend so much time battling those thoughts about ourselves, until we finally understand what OCD is and how it affects us. So, to have to go through all the ‘what if’ questions for other people feels even more exhausting! We can’t convince everyone and that opens up uncertainty when contemplating how and whether or not to share our experience with Pure OCD with others. And as we all know, uncertainty is a breeding ground for OCD thoughts.

I had all the same questions I mentioned above about those that will hear my story about emetophobia, scrupulosity, and homosexual OCD. What if people just think I’m really nuts and I’m using OCD as an excuse? What if they think I’m just in the closet and I don’t want to come out? What if they think I’m making it all up? These questions kept me from telling all the details of my story for years, and sometimes still do! I had to make a choice. I had to take the risk and live with the uncertainty that maybe people won’t believe me. Maybe they will judge me. But, what if my story helps someone? What if it saves someone’s life? That was a risk worth taking for me.

So, I started in a place where I felt comfortable. First, I started talking about OCD in general without getting into the details about my own struggle. I would talk about what OCD is and what it is not with a general overview of my story. When I got comfortable with that, I pushed it a little further and talked about my suicide attempt in general without details. When that became easier, I began going into more detail about my story and suicide attempt. And this is how learning how to effectively tell my story keeping my comfort level as the utmost importance in check.

It took me many years to be able to talk about the intricate details of my story with Pure OCD, and I still sometimes ruminate when I leave a venue on whether or not it was received with acceptance and believed by my audience.  But through the years, what has really given me the courage to keep speaking out is the profound effect my story has on those suffering alone and in silence. Even if they are suffering by supporting a loved one with mental illness, they still understand and appreciate the openness. Overall, my insecurities have become less important and helping others feel less alone now takes center stage.

At the end of the day, the questions OCD will throw at you about whether or not people will judge you, believe you, accept you, or even respect you because of your journey with mental illness are meaningless.  The real value is that YOUR STORY MATTERS. What you have been through with OCD can and will impact others who need to hear your message of hope and survival. You will be surprised how many people will resonate with your journey. You may not get instant validation, but people listen and they remember. And the personal impact is you will begin to feel more comfortable in your own story and push farther into recovery as you will be less afraid to hide and silence what you have lived through.

Start slow, share the details as you feel comfortable, and let the thought of helping others feel less alone be center stage.

OCD will tell you that you shouldn’t speak up and out about overcoming its claws of shame, guilt, and embarrassment, but I’m here to tell you that your story is powerful, it matters, and it can change and save lives.

If 99 out 100 people in a room reject your message, but one life is saved…it is worth the risk.

There is hope, recovery is possible for anyone,

Chrissie Hodges

Mental Health Advocate, Public Speaker, Peer Support Specialist, Resource Consultant, ERP Coach/Effective OCD Treatment

http://www.chrissiehodges.com

OCD Told Me Not To, but I’m Telling My Story Anyway

Posted in Uncategorized on February 1, 2017 by chrissiehodges

 

I was sitting on the steps of the psychology building at Georgia Southern University with a dark, terrifying poem I had written in my hands about my OCD. But this time, I had a smile on my face while reading it. Smiles had been hard to come by these last eight weeks of my HOCD relapse. But, I felt different today. I read through the tear-streaked poem which reflected the darkened hole I occupied with no signs of hope. I wanted to tear the paper up. But I thought I should hang onto it to remember. To never forget the torment I had been through. I may need reminding someday.

Today though, I felt optimistic. I was four weeks into Exposure Response Prevention therapy and I was finally feeling bouts of relief lasting more than just a few minutes. I had gone an entire morning without the bad thoughts, the bad groinal feeling, and the crippling anxiety. I couldn’t believe life could feel like this. The tears began to fall onto the poem for a much different reason this time than usual. They were tears of joy. I felt actual optimism. Those feelings were foreign territory for me. But, now I could hope.

I looked up into the sky and said out loud, “One day I hope to be able to tell my story of living with these horrible thoughts, surviving a suicide attempt, and learning to live and be okay with this debilitating disorder’. As soon as the last word came out of my mouth, a dark feeling of shame came over me. It was as if OCD was speaking back to me saying, “No one will ever believe you. No one will accept you. No one will love you if they know.’ And I lowered my head to obey the command of shame. I will never tell.

I lived for the next 14 years in silence and in shame. I told only glossed over details of my experience if I had to. I believed the lies OCD told me that ‘if anyone knew, they would not believe you. They would judge and leave you’. I lived a life simmering in anger and sadness, harboring a secret I felt would expose me as some kind of monster. While I knew that I had OCD and none of my obsessions were a reflection of my character, my wants, or my desires, there was still the ‘what if’ fears surrounding other people. I couldn’t control whether people believed me or not, but OCD assured me they would think horribly of me.

That silence ended for me in 2011 in the midst of a terrible relapse. As I worked my way out of the paralyzing symptoms of harm and relationship OCD, I had an incredible realization. I had a choice. I can either be angry, sad, and keep living in silence about my experience, or I could take the risk and tell my story out loud and try to help others living in silence as well. I knew there were others like me, I just didn’t know who or where they were! I wanted to find them. So, I joined Toastmasters and learned how to speak publicly.

For the next five years, I took any speaking engagement I could, started a podcast, and branded myself as someone not afraid to speak about the unspeakable type of OCD that is Pure O sexual and violent intrusive thoughts. It was scary but liberating! As I became more confident in my speaking ability, I began sharing more details about my story. Each time I would go into detail, my OCD would caution me about the repercussions of my actions. But each time, just like ERP therapy, I would ignore OCD and face the fears of rejection and judgment. An amazing thing happened. I began meeting people all over the world with Pure OCD. They gave me more hope, more courage, and more drive to speak even louder. It is all of the wonderful people who encouraged me that helped me attain recovery, speak my truth, and rid myself of the embarrassment and judgment that comes along with having OCD. I will forever be grateful to our community of people who live with OCD.

The culmination of all the suffering from Pure OCD and the personal stigma and pain that followed has paid off. I have been able to finally publish the story of my life with emetophobia, HOCD, and scrupulosity without fear. This has been the ultimate goal of mine that OCD has always given me pushback on. But, I have won. I beat OCD.

Today, I revisit that girl so long ago who sat on the steps of the psychology building as tears roll down her face. I look at her and I say to her, “You have a long road ahead of you, but you will speak out. You will tell your story. You will overcome OCD. And you will help those who are unable to find hope just yet, see that OCD can be defeated.’

My hope is that you can find solace and comfort in knowing you are not alone. You are not a monster. You are not the one person that can’t be helped. You won’t be judged or rejected because of your obsessions. And you are worthy and deserving to live a good life.

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If you decide to read my memoir, I would love to hear your feedback and how it relates to your journey of living with Pure OCD.

Visit http://www.booklocker.com or http://www.amazon.com to purchase ‘Pure OCD: The Invisible Side of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder’ by Chrissie Hodges

Thank you for your continued support. Keep fighting!

Chrissie Hodges

Mental Health Advocate, Peer Support Specialist, ERP Coach; Effective OCD Treatment, Author; Pure OCD: The Invisible Side of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

 

Are You Trivializing OCD?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2016 by chrissiehodges

It was an interesting conversation to compare experiences with a fellow peer support specialist who worked in a different agency than my own, until it took a crippling turn. In answering the question of why I got into peer work with my lived experience with Obsessive-Compulsive disorder, the response I received was a chuckle and, ‘well, we deal with people who have way more serious problems than just OCD’.

My frontal lobe began to throb as the OCD monster living in the back of my brain took the opportunity to pounce. The rumination on whether my illness was as severe as I experienced it, if I was just weak and stupid, and the idea that maybe I just wasn’t as sick as other people completely took over. I stood staring at this gentleman unable to even respond. He sensed the awkwardness and change in the environment and quickly excused himself. I sat down, gripped the arms of the chair, and began talking myself out of believing my experience with OCD was as silly as everyone must think it is.

This isn’t the first time I have encountered this belief about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. This also isn’t the first time I feel upset about why the societal portrayal about OCD isn’t taken seriously. Nine out of ten times I tell someone I live with OCD, they will comment that they have OCD too or they have a ‘little bit’ of it, and it is typically accompanied by a chuckle or excitement about their little coveted rituals. My commitment is to use those opportunities to educate, but that does not always turn down the heat that simmers inside of me about the implications of allowing a majority of the population to trivialize an illness that drives individuals including myself to attempt or die by suicide.

Although I feel baffled that people won’t just get it, there are several reasons we are up against when convincing those that OCD is not just a trendy illness we should be able to overlook:

  • The Media Portrayal

This is an ongoing battle for mental health advocacy; staying in front of those that use mental illness in humor and drama to enhance their characters. We are forced to play catch up when it comes to characters like ‘Monk’ in educating about the severity around mental illness. No, OCD is not advantageous in becoming successful in their career. No, people don’t enjoy their obsessions and compulsions as typically portrayed by the media. No, just because you like Christmas does not mean you have ‘Obsessive Christmas Disorder’. When we have to come in after the fact and educate people on the realities of OCD, we typically are viewed as ‘too PC’ or ‘weak-minded’ to not be able to just let go and have a laugh about it. It is a maddening cycle.

  • Not Enough Individuals are Willing to Share Their Story

Shame, guilt, and embarrassment are three undesirable side-effects of having OCD. We have insight our obsessions aren’t aligned with our morals and values, yet we cannot stop them or the compulsive behaviors. This makes us feel weak and stupid. Because of this, many of us retreat into a shell of shame hoping no one discovers the dirty details of what we were forced to face with OCD. It is this shame that keeps us silent about our struggle. We stay silent believing people may judge us, reject us, or believe the obsessions are true and real. While the silence is understandable, it is damaging in our fight to educate the realities of OCD. We need more people to come forward and share the details, struggle, and repercussions of delaying treatment.

  • Lack of understanding about the term ‘Disorder’

Hey, I’m not denying that most people don’t experience obsessions and compulsions, but I have a real problem with people defining those experiences as a disorder when it really isn’t. Why? Because trying to normalize our suffering against those that believe they have ‘a little bit of OCD’ can make a devastating impact. The miserable secondary fear that can accompany OCD in many of us is that we really don’t have OCD and we really just are crazy, weak, or stupid. When someone claims that they have OCD and they really don’t, sufferers may internalize this as ‘everyone has a little bit of OCD, it’s you that just can’t handle it’. OCD is a chronic disorder that cannot be controlled by outthinking or developing a ‘strong and resilient mind’. My go-to argument with people who claim to have a little bit of OCD is always, ‘Do you enjoy your obsessions and/or compulsions? If you do, then you do not have a disorder’. This is a definitive difference between those that have the actual disorder and those that just want to use the terminology as a label for their behaviors.

So what can we do?

The best way to change OCD’s quirky reputation is to start speaking out with education and lived experience. My advocacy philosophy has always been ‘people don’t know what they don’t know!’ I have survived mental illness and the stigma accompanying it so I look at it as my duty to give back to those that don’t have their voice yet.

It can feel daunting standing up to people who are disrespecting the disorder, but there are many ways to approach it that are non-defensive and strength-based. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing your lived experience, use someone else’s or use your own as a general example.

Write places/people using OCD as a quirky or offensive way to advertise. We don’t have to be scathing and angry, but we can make an incredible impact by using our experiences to highlight the offensiveness that goes along with trivializing our suffering. You’d be surprised how many people will listen and respect your experience.

And finally, don’t ever let others bully us about our authentic experience with OCD. People will say we just need to ‘get over it’, or ‘develop a stronger mind’, or we are being ‘too sensitive’. It is easy for others to say these things when they haven’t walked in the shoes of the misery of OCD. Sometimes we have to agree to disagree with people who aren’t willing to hear our arguments, but planting seeds can be just as effective. One day that individual proclaiming people with mental illness are just ‘weak’ may find themselves in a position of needing help for themselves or their loved ones. They may just be thankful we took the time to educate them even if it is years later.

Every once in a while I will become paralyzed by fear just as I had with the gentleman who insinuated OCD isn’t as bad as other illnesses. When it happens, I need the time to process why it affected me so deeply. He had bumped up against the underlying fear that perhaps my OCD experience wasn’t as bad as it was and I was just weak. I needed to put that fear in place and remember that my feelings can only be discredited if I allow them to be. So, I demanded the monster to let go of my frontal lobe, found the gentleman, and explained to him why his statement devalued my actual experience.

He was grateful I had taken the time to address him directly. I was grateful for the opportunity to educate.

 

Thank you for taking the time to read,

Chrissie Hodges

http://www.chrissiehodges.com

Mental Health Advocate/Public Speaker; Peer Support Specialist; CBT/ERP/Stigma Coach: Effective OCD Treatment; Podcast Host ‘Two Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’; Crisis Intervention Team Presenter: Denver Police & Sheriff Department

My Kick-Off to OCD Awareness Week!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 10, 2016 by chrissiehodges

ocdweekHappy OCD Awareness Week!

I’m going to admit it, I’m not good at cramming all my energy into a week, a month, or even days that are dedicated to a specific cause. It gives me anxiety, not surprisingly! As most of you know, I try to live and breathe advocacy for OCD, so knowing I should be doing something at a specific time really gears up my insecurity and fear.

But, I’m gonna give it a go this year for OCD Awareness Week.

I’ll be posting a short live video on my facebook page and a short blog each day pertaining to our most common topics involving OCD. (Friend me at Chrissie Hodges to join in!)

The important question is why do I think OCD awareness is important? Where in the world do I start?! Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is so much more than just the physical, quirky disorder it gets pegged to be in the media. It is so much more emotionally complex and debilitating. This is often what keeps those of us that suffer trapped in our own misery.

While most people would believe OCD is something we all have ‘a little bit of’ and even brag about their top OCD traits, sufferers cower in shame desperately hiding their behaviors and thoughts in real terror of being judged or worse perhaps seeing the obsessions become true. I’ve always thought if anyone could step inside my head when I am experiencing obsessions and mental compulsions, they would never dare to see OCD as laughable or desirable again.

I work as a peer support specialist with individuals who live with mental illness. A few weeks ago, I shared my diagnosis of OCD with a peer and they looked at me and said, ‘well, you only have OCD, so you don’t really understand what it’s like to have a ‘major’ mental illness’. For a moment, my body language shifted and I felt myself lowering my head and backing away like a child who just got in trouble. The fears of OCD not being a serious illness and maybe I made it all up and maybe I am just weak and maybe I was never as sick as I was began to surface. I wanted to run away feeling stuck in my own anxiety of fear that perhaps I am a phony and OCD really IS that stupid, quirky disorder that I just couldn’t get a grip on all those years back. But, I stopped the cycle in its tracks and sat up straight. I looked the peer in the eye and said, ‘You are right, the media does OCD no justice. Do you mind if I share my actual experience with OCD?’ After I told my story, the peer shook his head and said, ‘that sounds worse than anything I could ever imagine experiencing.’

The point isn’t that my story is worse, yours was more difficult, or others deal with more than any of us. The point is that suffering is suffering, no matter what the diagnosis or experience. There can be no comparison.

More importantly, the point is that we have a mission. Our mission is to spread awareness for all mental illness and the realities we face as sufferers. Anyone who truly lives with mental illness could attest that we would not wish our symptoms on our worst enemy. The realities of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder aren’t any worse or better than any other illness. Sufferers spend years in torment and torture physically and emotionally with the battle of shame, embarrassment, and guilt.

For me the importance of OCD Awareness week is to hear the stories of those that survive this debilitating illness. The importance is to bring education to those who do not understand the magnitude of OCD to the forefront. And the importance is to provide solace and peace to those who are suffering in silence and alone.

This week I will address the emotional issues associated with OCD so many of us face but are sometimes too ashamed to admit or talk about. I hope in you will find through this week with my contribution and others that you are not alone in your fight and you do not have to be ashamed of who you are with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

Thank you for taking the time to read,

 

 

Chrissie Hodges

Mental Health Advocate/Public Speaker; Peer Support Specialist: Behavioral Healthcare Inc/Ft. Logan Institution; Podcast Host ‘Two Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; CBT/ERP Coach/Peer Specialist: Effective OCD Treatment; Crisis Intervention Team Presenter: Denver Police & Sheriff Departments

The Emotional Struggle of Diagnosis

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 14, 2016 by chrissiehodges

Hello my friends! Welcome to my blog and thank you so much for taking the time to check it out.

I want to share with you a blog I wrote that was picked up and published on Mental Health on The Mighty. This was a VERY difficult blog to write as I had to revisit the time of my life when I faced a brand new diagnosis and all the confusion and emotion that went along with it. I had no idea how I would face the world with a new label of ‘mental illness’. I didn’t know if I could trust my brain anymore. I had no idea who this new Chrissie would be.

I hope you enjoy it and can relate. The more we dig into these moments in our journey of recovery, the less we will feel alone.

Please follow the link to the article and please share with anyone you may think can benefit.

https://themighty.com/2016/09/accepting-insight-into-psychosis-and-your-mental-illness/

Thank you for your continued support,

Chrissie Hodges

Mental Health Advocate/Public Speaker; Peer Support Specialist/Behavioral Healthcare Inc/Colorado Institute at Ft. Logan; CBT/ERP Coach/Effective OCD Treatment; Host ‘Mental Illness Matters Radio’; Crisis Intervention Team Presenter; Denver Sheriff & Police Department

Understanding Pure O: Help! My Groin Just Moved!!!!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 13, 2016 by chrissiehodges

Sitting on a panel in a large banquet room at the International OCD Conference, I nervously glanced down at the word ‘groinal’ I had written on the pad of paper in front of me. Should I say it out loud? Sean Shinnock was speaking passionately about his experience of working toward recovery from Pure OCD/Intrusive thoughts, but all I could think about was that word on the paper glaring at me.

What if I say it out loud and everyone gives me dirty looks or thinks I am seriously crazy?

As Sean wrapped up his story, I looked at both he and Alison Dotson and made a quick decision. I guess this is just like practicing Exposure Response Prevention; I’m going to take the risk of saying it out loud to the crowd of people and live with the uncertainty of how they will respond!

I proceeded to talk openly about what has been coined as the groinal syndrome. This happens when exposure to a trigger from a sexual obsession causes you to question whether or not you feel a sensation in your groin. This is perhaps one of the most terrifying, ensnaring, and shameful aspects of Pure O/sexual obsessions. This phenomenon can single-handedly keep people from asking for help or disclosing their most torturing symptoms of OCD to a professional.

Why does it happen?

There are many explanations to help individuals understand why the groinal happens, but the bottom line is it happens to keep us trapped in the cycle. The explanation of why doesn’t matter. We cannot answer why we end up with a particular obsession, so trying to figure out the why in experiencing the groinal syndrome will have us running in circles.

The easiest way to explain it is this: If I told you with absolute certainty that your family is going to die in a plane crash if your elbow itches, you’d be very conscious of whether or not your elbow is itching and you’d second guess whether or not it really was itching. In fact, you may be so hypervigilant about your elbow itching, you’d probably subconsciously cause your elbow to itch to try and justify if it was really itching or not.

This is the logic behind the groinal syndrome. None. There is no logic. It makes no sense. It doesn’t prove or disprove anything. It exists to freak us out so badly that it could take us down with one twinge in the crotch. It is truly maddening.

The groinal showed up for me in my teenage years when I was battling some serious sexual obsessions. I actually knew there was a distinct difference between being aroused sexually and this horrible panic of a feeling in my groin area when triggered by OCD. But not being able to decipher the exact difference kept me in the cycle of seeking proof and disproof:

I just looked at my cat’s hind area, did my groin just move? I think it did! Should I look again to prove it did or didn’t? What if I did feel something? What does that mean? Does that prove I am attracted to my cat? My cat is a female, does that mean I’m attracted to females? Does that mean I’m gay? Should I find a male cat and see if my groin moves when I look at him to try to prove I would like males better? Wait, does that mean I’d be attracted to male cats? Ahhh!!! HELP!

This inner dialogue seems comical, but I couldn’t stop it from happening. It seemed if my physical body is reacting, there is no way I couldn’t consider the obsessions to be somehow true. I would become trapped in a cycle deciphering if my groin really moved and if it actually did, was it something I liked or didn’t like? I could never accurately recreate the sensation, so I’d get stuck worrying whether it really happened or if I imagined it. There was never a definitive answer. There was never an end to the torment.

The groinal syndrome was the main reason I kept silent. When all other triggers or ruminations could almost be proved as irrational or ridiculous, the groinal syndrome was a dark secret I deemed the one thing that may prove my obsessions were real. There were times I felt I had convinced myself the sexual obsessions were irrational and maybe a phase, but then I’d remember the groinal syndrome and lose all hope. How could I argue with physical sensations? Doesn’t that make it a reality?

After a suicide attempt, hospitalization, and diagnosis of OCD, I still kept quiet about these terrible feelings I had in my groin. I was terrified if I told anyone about them, it would disprove I had OCD and I’d have to live with the idea that my obsessions were real and the diagnosis was wrong or fake.

My silence was shattered when I began Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) treatment for OCD. My doctor pointedly asked me one day if I ever experienced sensations in my groin in response to my sexual obsessions. It felt like my head was lit on fire when he asked me that question.

Why is he asking this question? How do I answer? Do I tell the truth? What if I say yes and he says that proves I don’t really have OCD and these sexual obsessions are true and real? What if I lie and say no and he says, well if you don’t that means you don’t have OCD? Then he’ll know I lied and may not trust me enough to work with me! What do I say?

I cleared my throat and stalled as long as I could.

‘Well…um…yes…sometimes…I think I do…’ I answered shyly.

‘Okay, that’s typical with sexual obsessions to have groinal movement. Let’s move onto the next exposure…’ he casually replied.

I burst into tears. This is part of OCD! I’m not some freak person who can’t control my physical reactions! I can’t believe this groinal movement isn’t my fault! Oh my God, I’m going to be okay!

But, similar to having knowledge about OCD doesn’t magically stop symptoms, knowledge of the groinal doesn’t stop it from happening. It is still uncomfortable and alarming when it happens now, even 18 years later. But it sure does help knowing it is part of my illness. It also helps knowing I am not alone in my experience of it and the shame and embarrassment that comes along with it.

I took a deep breath on the panel at the OCD conference, took the risk, and said the words out loud about what the groinal syndrome is and how horrible and shameful it is to experience it. I did it because I didn’t want anyone to question the reality of their diagnosis. I did it selfishly so I could know there were others who experience it as well. But mainly, I did it so others knew this groinal syndrome was real and we don’t have to be ashamed. We don’t have to be embarrassed. We don’t have to feel guilty. And we don’t have to suffer in silence anymore.

I found out very quickly the risk was worth taking. Many people were shocked this was an actual symptom of Pure O/sexual obsessions.  Many people were grateful to know they were not the only ones experiencing this. I was grateful I could say it out loud in a room full of people and not be judged or labeled a freak. It was an incredible moment of triumph for all of us sufferers of Pure O.

A few days after I arrived home from the conference, I opened my email to find a message from someone who had been in that presentation. She could identify with the groinal syndrome and her message to me was simple and hilarious:

Never trust the groinal!!!

groinal

The symptoms of Pure O/Intrusive thoughts can be sneaky, paralyzing, and can make you question everything about yourself. Never underestimate the power of the disorder. But never forget you are not alone in your symptoms and your battle. Never stop fighting, never give up, and always keep winning against this beast that is Pure O!

Thank you for taking the time to read!

Chrissie Hodges

Mental Health Advocate/Public Speaker; ERP Coach & Peer Support/Effective OCD Treatment; Peer Support/Behavioral Healthcare Inc/Institute at Ft. Logan; Crisis Intervention Team Presenter/Denver Police & Sheriff Dept.; ‘Mental Illness Matters’ Radio host