‘Inflammation in the membrane. Inflammation in the brain!’* OCD


‘Brain Inflammation Discovered in Those With OCD.’

A study in Canada by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) had demonstrated for the first time, that brain inflammation is 30 per cent higher in those of us with OCD than for those without. It is even higher if you complete an extreme number of compulsions.

The reason why this brain imaging study was significant for me was because it meant that OCD was a biological condition and not just a behavioural one; something vehemently denied by many psychologists and psychiatrists. If you have OCD this is important, because for some of us SSRIs and other treatments and medication have not worked in reducing our symptoms. Maybe this is because inflammation is partly to blame? How can symptoms be controlled if the brain is not working effectively? Treating OCD with anti-inflammatory drugs, created especially for this purpose, may hold the key to tackling OCD.

“Our research showed a strong relationship between brain inflammation and OCD, particularly in the parts of the brain known to function differently in OCD,” says Dr. Jeffrey Meyer, Head of the Neuroimaging Program in Mood & Anxiety in CAMH’s Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute. “This finding represents one of the biggest breakthroughs in understanding the biology of OCD, and may lead to the development of new treatments.” **

Inflammation can be a positive function in the body. It tells us that our body has been damaged or is fighting off an infection; the infected areas will begin to swell as part of the natural healing process. However, surely in the brain, this is not such a good thing as it must also affect so many other cognitive functions and even cause depression, as CAMHS has proved in another imaging study. If the effects of the inflammation can be reduced, then there is hope that OCD can be minimised, because the brain will be able to concentrate on making new neural pathways rather than fighting off an infection. Thus, CBT would surely be more effective.

The study included 20 people with OCD and a comparison group of 20 people without the disorder… The researchers used a type of brain imaging called positron emission tomography (PET) that was adapted with special technology at CAMH to see inflammation in the brain. A chemical dye measured the activity of immune cells called microglia, which are active in inflammation, in six brain areas that play a role in OCD. In people with OCD, inflammation was 32 per cent higher on average in these regions. Inflammation was greater in some people with OCD as compared to others, which could reflect variability in the biology of the illness. **

The beauty of the study means that there is now a chance of simple blood-markers being made to measure the levels of inflammation, so that medication can be administered appropriately. The imaging study was also able to identify who had the highest levels of inflammation and this linked directly to those people who carried out the highest numbers of compulsions. Compulsions are what people with OCD do to relieve the anxiety that they are feeling. The PET scans showed that when people tried to stop doing their compulsions, their inflammation levels rose tangentially. Knowing this will mean that it’s possible to identify who will benefit the most from treatment with anti inflammatory medication. This inflammation may have begun after OCD started, or it may be the cause, but it’s there and must be hampering methods of treatment.

Dr Meyer concluded that:

“Medications developed to target brain inflammation in other disorders could be useful in treating OCD. Work needs to be done to uncover the specific factors that contribute to brain inflammation, but finding a way to reduce inflammation’s harmful effects and increase its helpful effects could enable us to develop a new treatment much more quickly.”

I hope that medical professionals in the U.K. take heed of this study, along that those we know and love. OCD is a complex condition that we can’t always control. However, I am now hopeful that, given the right conditions in my brain, CBT might actually work for me. I just pray the wait for targeted medication is not a long one. I can’t afford to lose any more friends.

*Title loosely based on Cypress Hill’s ‘Insane in the Brain.’

**Medical News Today, ‘OCD linked to inflammation in the brain.’ Tim Newman. 22nd June 2017.

CAMH: CAMH researchers discover brain inflammation in people with OCD http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/about_camh/newsroom/news_releases_media_advisories_and_backgrounders/current_year/Pages/CAMH-researchers-discover-brain-inflammation-in-people-with-OCD.aspx#.WVJeEnByHc0.twitterin.

 

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A letter from my OCD brain to me.


Dear You,

I don’t want to judge you any more. I don’t want to constantly say negative things to you and make you feel worthless. To be honest, talking negatively to you all day long is exhausting and I’m beginning to believe my own rhetoric.

What I really want to do is to be able to celebrate every time you achieve something; no matter how small. I want to be able to jump up and down, squealing with excitement, because you did something that you are proud of; even if no one else notices. I would like to dwell on the serenity felt each time you see a beautiful sunset and to let you dance without disturbance, when you hear your favourite song. I must stop sabotaging all these beautiful moments for you, and learn to be silent and present instead.

Above all, what I don’t want to do anymore, is to give you a hard time. I’m not a bully, I honestly do have your best interests at heart. Always. However, when you really need me to be there for you, I often let you down.

I’m not your nemesis, even though I may come across like that most of the time. I don’t want to harm you. Conversely, I want to be able to encourage you to eat healthily, sleep deeply and love regularly. Instead, all I seem to be able to do is to make you feel sad and the sadness makes you cry. I just come across as heartless and callous and this has to stop. If I don’t stop hurting you, then you will have spent most of your life believing that you have failed. That is not how I want you to live your life anymore.

I’m telling all of this to you now, because one day soon it will be too late to tell you how much I really love you; how much I am proud of you. After all, you have survived many traumas, yet I still tell you that you are a failure and that you are unlovable. What right have I got to judge you so harshly?

What I should be saying is that I love you unconditionally. I should be telling you that your smile is enough for me. I need to explain to you that when I see you laughing, and you are always laughing, that my heart melts with pride. You are brave, loyal and kind, yet I make you doubt these truths about yourself every single day.

I need to give you a break and encourage you to love yourself. Hell, I need to love you too!

I’m gonna try to do right by you from now on beautiful.

Love from,

Your Brain xxx

OCD and Friendship.


Friendship has been so important in fighting my Mental Health condition.

Friends who have been there for me through the worst parts of my illness have been many, but those who have answered distressed calls and texts in the middle of the night are rare and epitomise a wonderful quality; that of selflessness. Those who support us often do so at great risk to their own wellbeing and that worries me. After all, who cares for the carers of OCD sufferers?

When was the last time that you sent someone who has supported you a card or letter telling them just how much they mean to you? Have you ever sent them a gift to demonstrate your gratitude, or more importantly have you tried to give them a break, some respite from your obsessions and compulsions? Our loved ones need respite from listening to us talk about OCD. When we are in the grip of our condition we talk about it a lot, did you know that? I’m not a selfish person per se, but OCD is selfish. In the grip of a severe OCD crisis, I have stolen hours from my support network and destroyed their peace of mind at the same time.

There are forums on the OCD Action and OCD UK websites for our family and friends, but have you told your loved ones that there is somewhere for them to vent their frustrations? I have told my husband, but not my friends. I’m not really sure how to tell them to be honest; maybe because I don’t want them to think that they can’t cope. Who am I to suggest to them what to do, with my background of not coping?

What could you do tonight to give a loved one some respite from your OCD?

 

 

 

Manchester’s OCD Heart.


Manchester is a city of firsts, a city that prides itself on its ability to support the disenfranchised. Yet for all its innovation and explosive creativity, it does not have a Centre of Excellence for OCD.

In an interview for BBC 2, Noel Gallagher pointed to his heart and said:

The thing about Manchester is…it all comes from here.’

Emmeline Pankhurst also noted that:

‘Manchester is a city which has witnessed a great many stirring episodes, especially of a political character. Generally speaking, its citizens have been liberal in their sentiments, defenders of free speech and liberty of opinion.’

We are an empathetic community and those with OCD need our help.

OCD is a condition that starts in the heart and spreads to the mind. Love is the cause of this condition. If we did not love so strongly and show such compassion, then we would not feel such great fear. This fear then mutates into complex rituals and compulsions to protect our loved ones. Our fears grow into beliefs that we may become ill and unable to protect others. We begin to believe our fears that we may accidentally hurt someone or magically think an event to catastrophe. Consequently fear eventually challenges love and we test those who care for us, maybe even irrevocably.

Yes OCD ends in the mind, but it begins in the heart. Those of us with OCD in Manchester need help to heal our hearts and our minds, but we want specialist help. After all, you wouldn’t send a person who literally had a broken heart, to see an eye surgeon.

George Orwell in The Road to Wigan Pier, called

Manchester….the belly and guts of the Nation.

Well the time has come for this great city to become the ‘belly, guts and (MIND) of the Nation.’

We need improved Mental Health services in the North West. In April 2015 it became possible choose our Mental Healthcare provider, when we are first diagnosed with OCD. However, what is the point of this initiative if there isn’t a specialist provider near to where we live?

I hope that hosting the OCD Action conference here helps. Maybe it will spur those in charge of our Mental Health Services to lobby commissioners. We need funds to create a Centre of Excellence for OCD in Manchester. If we can build the first computer, then surely we can tackle OCD.

For Manchester is the place where people do things…. ‘Don’t talk about what you are going to do, do it.’ That is the Manchester habit. And in the past through the manifestation of this quality the word Manchester became a synonym for energy and freedom and the right to do and to think without shackles.

From “What the Judge Saw” by Judge Parry, 1912.

 

Let’s not be anonymous at OCD Action’s 2015 Conference


OCD Anonymity
@stokpic

Do you really know who I am? 
Am I a logo on a blog or a tweet on a Twitter feed?

Do I sit starkly amongst the other anonymous accounts that you have collated over the years?

If, for example, you were attending the 2015 OCD Action Conference this weekend, would you be able to pick me out in a line-up?

I thought not, because I have chosen to remain anonymous.

Female writers over the centuries have done exactly the same thing. Two of my favourite novels were written by sisters who knew that if they were to reveal their true identities, no one would take them seriously because of their gender. 

Have you heard of Currer and Ellis Bell? Possibly not. But I am certain that you will know them by their real names: Charlotte and Emily Bronte. Writing under pen names they produced ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘Wuthering Heights’, two of the greatest novels of all time.

Charlotte Bronte might not have been able to voice her opinions as a woman, but there was no holding back her character Jane Eyre:

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”

I am not a bird either. I am wilful and independent, but I am trapped. My trap is called stigma. Unlike Jane, my net, the internet, has given me a voice. 

This month, PSHE programmes on Mental Health have been released to all schools in the UK. Wonderful people such as Pooky Knightsmith, have worked tirelessly to ensure that teaching about Mental Health is made a priority in Education. Yet this teacher still blogs anonymously. Why? OCD is misunderstood and its impact underestimated. I have felt the thorns of stigma first hand. 

So, in a brave move, I suggested recently to Olivia Bamber at OCD Action, that those of us who are blogging and tweeting anonymously, could write our usernames on our conference badges. We should wear our anonymity with pride! For if we can’t reveal our true selves at the conference, where on earth can we do it?

‘Parenting OCD. Down to Earth Advice from One Parent to Another.’ Claire Sanders.


A book review for inourhands.com

How do you ‘Parent OCD’? Surely that concept is counter – intuitive? Or so I thought until I read Claire Sanders poignant account of how she parented a son with severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

OCD is like a toddler, attention seeking, prone to tantrums and frequently illogical:

“Don’t let OCD get too comfy, or… it’ll scream and scream for more, because you’ve shown it that you will give in.”

It is also dominant and controlling:

“In your child’s head lives a bully. It puts horrible thoughts in their heads, horrible images, and makes them do things they don’t really want to do.”

If your child has OCD, you really do need some ‘Down to Earth’ advice on how to cope. Claire’s book is more than practical, it is from the heart and from the perspective of a mother who has had to accept that her son’s, “OCD is stronger than her bond”, with him. We also learn that she would, “have to fight like a tiger to get him back.”

No one is given a parenting manual when we have a child, fortunately Claire has written a book that will guide you, not just through the warning signs of OCD and how to get a diagnosis, but also through the types of therapy and medication that are available. She will advise you on how to approach your child’s education and what to do to ensure that your family life is not compromised by the condition. In an unflinchingly honest way, she will also explain how it feels when the initial treatments don’t work, what OCD can twist and mutate into and how it can cause explosive panic attacks and outbursts; not just in the sufferer, but family members as well. Claire is always there to hold your hand and like any good friend, she tells you the absolute truth about, ‘Parenting OCD.’

What I also like about Claire’s book is her use of humour, often self deprecating, frequently mischievous and clearly a survival mechanism that has worked for her. For example when faced with feelings of trepidation about their visit to the OCD unit at the Maudsley hospital, she writes:

“Nerves and embarrassment had turned me into my headmistress.”

During that same visit she also noted that:

“The people at the Maudsley know Jedi mind tricks. It gets me through the day.”

Not just parents will benefit from the advice set out in ‘Parenting OCD’. If you are a teacher, health care professional or just an interested spectator, then you too will gain invaluable knowledge of this brutal condition from a first hand perspective. I wanted to review this book because I have OCD and the book has echoed my own thoughts:

“OCD rips your heart out, doesn’t it?”

Looking after a child with OCD is at its best difficult and at its worst destructive. It can affect your marriage, friendships and family life, but still Claire shows empathy and understanding for her son’s phlight:

“It never fails to amaze me that OCD sufferers are able to do as much as they do, given what they are putting up with. I couldn’t do it.”

To echo her own words at the end of the book: Claire you are strong, you keep laughing and you are doing a great job.

Read her book folks, it might just teach you a Jedi mind trick or two.

Reviewed by:

@caughtinaloop caught-in-an-ocd-loop.com

Jessica Kingsley Publishers

73 Collier Street

London

N1 9BE

ISBN 978-1-84905-478-2

Little Miss Perfect – Children with OCD


When I first started to teach, I worked with a child who was a perfectionist, she was also extremely intelligent. Her writing style was mature and imaginative, her use of language skilled and precise. The stories that she wrote were dramatic and intricate, characters were brought to life in vivid landscapes and I loved teaching her because she contributed so much to my lessons; she was positively brimming with ideas.

However, even though she presented as such an able child, I knew that something wasn’t quite right. Pages were regularly torn out of exercise books by her, because she perceived that her work was not perfect. Frequently she tried to sneak her exercise book home with her, to avoid handing it in. Not handing it in would mean that I did not see the perceived flaws in her work; flaws that were not actually there. The book would return to my desk the following day, with all the offending pages removed and the work lost. Usually something unrelated to the topic was presented instead, typed and perfect.

Even before I understood what was happening to her, I tried to work with her on the notion of perfectionism. I discovered that she did not like the way that her writing looked; to her it was hideous as she felt uncomfortable when she looked at it. To me her handwriting was beautiful, full of flourishes and intricate swirls. We began to just write a paragraph at a time and I would mark it straight away, praising her on her presentation and content. She would redraft that one paragraph for me at my desk and I would mark it once again. We gradually increased the number of paragraphs that she would write using this method. Then I began to collect her book in at the end of the lesson, so that she could not take it home and rip out any of the pages. I could see the evident discomfort on her face when I did this. However, in English at least, she began to live with the uncomfortable feelings that she had about her work not being perfect. Sometime later, she was diagnosed with OCD. Unbeknown to me, I had actually been completing exposure work with her; a vital element of treatment for OCD.

The difference between OCD and having perfectionistic tendencies, is that you do do not enjoy having OCD. It is distressing, time consuming and humiliating. For my student leaving her work in my room, with its perceived flaws, was utterly intolerable and she thought about it endlessly. Her thoughts were in a never ending cycle, she was caught in an OCD loop. Many people are not diagnosed in childhood, because they hide their OCD from the world. However, in some cases, as with the girl that I taught, it becomes impossible to hide it any longer. This is because having OCD interferes with daily life, in a significant way.

OCD comes in many different guises. It wears lots of different hats, sometimes all at once. If you can’t find an example of a child’s symptoms on the following checklist,http://www.ocduk.org/types-ocd, they may still have OCD. However, as disparate as the types of OCD seem, sufferers do share some similarities:

  • Extreme anxiety and fear. 
  • Doubting their own thoughts. 
  • Panicking as a result.

I’ll let Laura from OCDNI tell you more:

http://youtu.be/J4e6dH5AZL0

There is a very active and compassionate OCD community on Twitter and Facebook. When I asked recently what school was like for those with OCD, the response was overwhelming. The comments were as varied as the symptoms of OCD, but it was both humbling and enlightening, as a teacher, to read about their experiences. I hope that what follows helps you to understand just some of the daily difficulties that a child with OCD faces.

One of the most significant things that I read about was the sheer exhaustion of having OCD.

“With regards to revision, it was extremely difficult, my concentration levels dropped from about two hours to around twenty minutes, before I was mentally tired and needed a break.”

“I couldn’t concentrate whatsoever.”

This occurs because of the overthinking people with OCD can do. It may also be because they are having repetitive, intrusive and disturbing thoughts on continual loop:

“I always feel terrible for teens with OCD in that regard, having to hide sexual intrusive thoughts.”

A child with OCD is facing a battle in their head every day:

” I worried about using contaminated books and papers. I also worried about contaminating them myself.”

Taken to extremes:

“I’d also not turn in assignments, because of the fear of the teacher contaminating my paper.”

Some were unable to use toilet or canteen facilities at school, for fear of contamination. Bags and equipment had to be kept off the floor at all costs and if they were contaminated then they might have to be scrubbed with bleach or even destroyed. Shoes were replaced at huge expense because of dog faeces:

“Towards the end I was turning up with different shoes, several sizes too big.”

Behaviours that were seen as quirks by others led to bullying and intimidation, which frequently led to fights:

 “It made me an easy target.”

“I would often self harm to punish myself for all of the guilt and shame I felt.”

Girls with OCD might also have another co-morbid condition like anorexia; needing to strive for perfection at all costs. All of my respondents commented on feelings of despair in some form:

“I’m left with an enormous amount of anxiety and depression, which takes away my motivation and ability to think coherently.”

So imagine a day where you are late to school because of checking compulsions. Then on arrival you have to hide your thoughts, can’t concentrate and are frightened of contamination, or your loved ones being hurt if you don’t complete a ritual. Think about what it must be like to fail exams or to drop out of courses, because you are too exhausted to complete them. Not to mention the guilt that you feel, because you are having such a detrimental affect on your family and friends. In addition, you have to avoid your triggers at all costs to avoid having a panic attack. Life is slow and depressing at times, yet this is your childhood when you should feel happy and safe.

That’s OCD and what it’s like to be caught in an OCD Loop.

When you have OCD, Sometimes the Tears Just Roll


Last night the tears fell for hours and they just did not stop. To be fair, I did not try to stop them either. I went to bed early, lit a candle, put my headphones on and listened to my most depressing music. I wallowed like a hippo in mud. I exacerbated the selfishness of the act. I encouraged being sad.

I’m not selfish by nature. In fact I think I am the polar opposite because I do not want to focus on me. My public face smiles and encourages, laughs and supports, giggles and tries to inspire those who share my journey. However, inside I am dissolving; eroding my internal organs with sadness.

My physical health is poor at the moment. Every bone and muscle hurts. At times I can barely get out of my chair as the pain can be so intense. It is as though my sadness is seeping into my bone marrow, into my ligaments and cells, twisting itself around every sinew and slowly but surely cementing my joints together.

So last night, even though there had been many positives during the day, in fact maybe because of the contrasts, I cried and I could not stop. I needed  a profound boost of self confidence but I did not know where to look for it. I listened to songs searching for meaning and absorbed the notes like liquid on litmus paper, trying to match my feelings to someone else’s, but I did not find one song to resonate with how I felt and I have many songs.

What I need I can’t have. What I have I don’t need. What is wrong can’t be put right. Today the tears keep falling, but invisibly because I am a mum and I need to be the other me: smiley full of love. So I will embrace that. What else can I do?

The following song was kindly posted on:

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder/OCD

https://www.facebook.com/ocd.ocd

next to the link about my blog.

It was posted by Kris D Marsden, who is a singer/songwriter from Northern Ireland. It is a stunning song and I am honoured to add it to this post. He is a very talented musician. Thanks Kris 😘

http://youtu.be/HhIMsFkopvU

I drew the picture!!

OCD, Starbucks and Snow


2013-07-26 23.42.54

I have been encompassed by a feeling of icy cold darkness for a very long time. It has been ever present, dictating my actions and infiltrating my dreams, whispering of disasters and dissolving my hope of recovery. It is called OCD. But no more. That’s not to say that I did not feel fear, because I did, but it was not my master. It did not make me cry.

Instead when the plane took off:

  • I did not begin to check the news for images of air disasters.
  • I was not haunted by hundreds of terrifying images of burning bodies.
  • I did not see myself battling through debris in search of a familiar face.
  • Nor did I see myself, in my waking dreams, at their funeral.
  • I refused to complete any research at all so that I could not look for evidence of violent attacks and hospitalisations.
  • I dwelled instead on thoughts of super sized doughnuts, Starbucks and snow.
  • I sat with fear all week and survived.

I am full of wonder, regardless of OCD


My New Year’s Resolution is to believe the words of this beautiful song.

I’m not giving myself a timescale in which to do this.

If I manage to believe that I am full of wonder, then you may be the first to see it, as the nature of my posts will exude positivity and optimism.

Moreover, my OCD fears will have subsided and I will no longer see death under a Northern sky.

The approval of those who doubt my ability to succeed will no longer be sought, because I will be wonder-ful and that never needs validation.

Please watch the video. It might just inspire you too.

Dystopia. Fighting OCD.


 stokpic.com

I have been reading a lot of dystopian novels lately in a valiant attempt to release my inner Katniss. However, if you were actually in my head, then you would know that she has always been in there.

I have always felt righteousness indignation about inequality and unfairness; I have a disabled sister, it sort of comes with the territory. I learnt to fight her bullies at a young age, but strangely was never able to fight my own.

Have you ever been bullied?

When you are persistently attacked day in , day out, you learn not to fight but to accept. You learn to avoid, to hide, to merge and to disappear but not to fight. You lurk in the shadows and try to slip into the night, but you don’t fight.

And then, one day, you do.

You fight when you become angry with the norm. You fight when you can no longer reason away the nagging doubts. You fight when you finally realise that their version of life, with all its idiosyncratic rules, does not have to be your own.

Who determines what way of life is correct? Who decides how we shall conduct ourselves at and what rules we shall follow? Who dictates how our children shall be educated and what topics are allowed for discussion in polite company? How on earth did these choices get made? To keep the status quo and avoid rebellion of course.

But when the bullied stop hiding, when they finally decide that enough is enough, you had better watch out, because their righteous anger will burn you like scalding water and if you have been on the wrong side of the line, if you have not defended the weak and if you were not courageous enough to support them then…

I will probably just continue to be your friend, because life is too short.

I am Katniss, of course I am, but the one thing that I have learnt since having cancer, is that we should not judge each other’s contributions in this world.

Katniss may be in us all, but the circumstances still have to produce the fight. Unless you have lived with adversity, you can’t really have empathy for the weak. Therefore you can’t really feel that anger that Katniss felt. Not really. So I will forgive you instead.

Eaten by OCD


stokpic.com

Some people devour love, others life but,
OCD devours me.
I wear it on my body
Like a giant squawking albatross.
A permanent symbol of guilt,
acknowledging to the world
that I am a fraud;
laden with lies and deceit.
OCD chases me in my
dreams and hunts me down,
hurling me kicking and screaming to the floor.
It forces itself upon me and
enters my body without
permission. I do not put it there.
OCD is the perpetrator
and I am just the victim of
his desires and hatred.
I try to defend myself against
him, but he always overwhelms
and overpowers me.
He beats me down and
circles around me, until I
cry out ‘No more’ and
succumb to his will.
Defeated and belittled I fall
and OCD soars away;
leaving me to face the jeering crowds alone.
They do not believe that OCD
was here uninvited.
They think I have control.
But I am weak.
I wear him over me.
Heavy.
Ugly.
Dead.