On the 37th episode of Shit We Don’t Talk About, Mia has a chat with OCD sufferer, author, and advocate Chrissie Hodges. Chrissie has lived the “Pure-O” experience and still is. She’s a wealth of knowledge and experience, so give this one a listen!
Please be aware there are trigger alert topics & language in this conversation. You can read the transcript of the podcast for any triggers in the conversation & proceed with caution.
Click to Read: Podcast Transcript (fyi, this transcription isn’t great and I’m having it redone but, for now, here it is!)
Chrissie lives with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), which by the way, is NOT an adjective or personality trait! Please remember that the next time you want to say that you’re “a little OCD”.
OCD is massively impactful in the lives of people that suffer from it. It goes well beyond hand washing or just being neat. OCD often includes pervasive intrusive thoughts that drive complicated and often debilitating mental and thinking rituals.
Chrissie has dealt with intrusive thoughts centered around vomiting, violent intrusive thoughts, religious intrusive thoughts, and sexual intrusive thoughts. These are some of the most common themes among OCD sufferers worldwide. Often a person dealing with this problem is not even aware that they are dealing with OCD. To them, this is just “normal”.
Misdiagnosis and mistreatment of OCD are two VERY common problems. Even after a suicide attempt put Chrissie face to face with her first accurate OCD diagnosis, she had a difficult time accepting and understanding that this was her problem.
Chrissie describes the intrusive thoughts that come with OCD as “making you feel like you’re going crazy, except you are totally aware that you are not”. This is one of the things that makes OCD so crippling.
Someone with OCD is driven to follow the intrusive thoughts because NOT following them feels incredibly dangerous. You cannot simply decide to shrug off intrusive thoughts, and telling someone with OCD to “just relax” is not in any way helpful. If they could just relax and ignore the thoughts, they would!
Chrissie’s experience as a peer support specialist has shown her that OCD does not discriminate. It appears across genders, ethnic backgrounds, and economic backgrounds. The most common OCD themes she encounters are sexual orientation OCD, pedophilia OCD, and harm OCD. These are difficult things to talk about, much less have stuck in your brain all day long!
The OCD sufferer dealing with these “hot topics” feels alone, shameful, and like they must remain silent. This just adds to an already heavy mental and emotional burden.
OCD is more than just mental. The more powerful the mental fixation becomes, the more likely one is to manifest physical sensations related to the specific fixation.
Here’s the difficult thing when it comes to treating and overcoming OCD. The natural response to scary, disturbing, intrusive thoughts is to avoid and run away from them. Before understanding how treatment works, the OCD sufferer will want to avoid them at all costs and will spend a huge amount of time trying to fight against those unwanted thoughts. That is the exact opposite of what needs to be done. The proper treatment for OCD is to go TOWARD the scary thoughts and obsessions while NOT avoiding, running, or fighting against them. This is incredibly difficult, but also incredibly effective.
Chrissie knows that often OCD sufferers feel alone and like they are broken, defective, or evil in some way. Toward that end, she has started an OCD peer group practice to help OCD sufferers connect, know they are not alone, and support each other.
It is critically important to understand that popular mental health and personal growth advice is NOT appropriate for OCD (and other anxiety disorders). Telling an OCD sufferer to “choose happy” is VERY bad advice. Very bad. The most popular advice you’ll find online generally does not apply to OCD, nor does “generic” recovery advice, which can often rob sufferers of hope rather than providing it.
Other topics covered in the podcast (that I had never heard of!)
- Religious Scrupulosity
- Identified Patient
- Groinal Response
About Chrissie Hodges
Chrissie is an OCD sufferer, peer support specialist, advocate, and author. You can find her online in a bunch of different places, so do that!
- Book: Pure OCD: The Invisible Side of Obssessive-Compulsive Disorder
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