Therapy for OCD
How is it that OCD has become synonymous with clean and orderly when the interior experience is such chaos? Sure, for some people, their OCD looks like raw hands, doors locked and relocked, etc, but for most of us, it can take on so many different flavors with an underlying hold of anxiety, guilt, and shame. You are not what your OCD fears you might be. Let's work together so you can get to know who you truly are when obsessional doubt and uncontrollable urges don't rule your life.
What is OCD?
I'll be perfectly honest with you. I did not truly understand OCD until after I had my second child. I would look at my little baby sleeping and think, "What if she died and she's just mimicking breath and is really a zombie." Despite being a licensed clinician at that point, I thought that I was losing my mind. It was so scary and so overwhelming that I didn't know how to begin to explain what I was going through to others. When I would express this to a few close friends, it was such a far fetched thought that people thought I was joking--and that response made me want to hide what was happening even more. As I started to connect the dots, I realized that my OCD symptoms reached back into my childhood. All of these scary, shameful thoughts I had were not because I was a bad person, but because I feared I might be. As I healed my own OCD, I recognized that
OCD develops as a way to give us control when we don't feel we have any. We believe ourselves to be something shameful or wrong (someone who is not careful, someone who is dangerous, etc.) and then work hard to try and not be the person we fear most. The stories we tell ourselves take over our lives, even if we can even recognize that they don't quite make sense or align with our observations. For many people, the stories feel so true and so intense, that the OCD is able to operate entirely out in the open while going entirely undetected.
I use the Inference Cognitive Behavioral Therapy model to treat OCD. This model guides clients through the process of recognizing the real from the imagined so that clients can fully stay present in the here-and-now, grounded and connected to their senses. I weave in the Trauma Resiliency Model with this so that you can learn how to trust your senses and regulate your nervous system without engaging in compulsions to do so. I-CBT is now considered evidenced-based, although it is not as commonly used as Exposure and Response Prevention. I find that for neurodivergent folks, I-CBT is a better first-line treatment. If you are looking for an ERP therapist, I am happy to refer you to some of my very talented colleagues.
OCD and Neurodivergency
While 3% of the general population has OCD, 9% of ADHDers have OCD and 15%+ of autistics also have OCD. Many ADHDers and autistics are also misdiagnosed with OCD since stims, sensory needs, and trauma can all look like OCD from the outside. By utilizing a Neurodiversity Affirming Lens, I work collaboratively with my clients to explore the symptoms causing them distress and to figure out together what is truly OCD and what are neurodivergent traits that can be more appropriately supported with other interventions, including trauma work, meeting sensory needs, and a better understanding of traits.
In a recent study, 100% of new parents responded that they have had distressing intrusive thoughts during the early postpartum period. Whether scary, shameful, or otherwise distressing, it is something that parents usually do not discuss amongst one another. The silence perpetuates the shame and stigma. For some people, these thoughts wane over time, but for others, they increase and become increasingly distressing. Imagining scary scenarios does not make you a bad parent. Feeling like you need to constantly check your baby for breath, constantly clean, research indefinitely, or any other behavior that feels beyond your control does not make you broken. Together, we can learn how to connect with the here-and-now so that you can be ready to respond to any true threat that may occur while being able to stay present (and maybe even enjoy!) your baby.
OCD Couples Therapy
Whether you are the partner with OCD or the partner left confused by your significant other's behavior, OCD can be so hard on relationships. By learning about OCD and developing a shared relationship, couples therapy allows for both partners' experiences within the therapeutic space. I find that there is often trauma, mistrust, and exhaustion that seems to reverberate throughout all aspects of the romantic partnership. By naming what felt unnamable, learning how to support each other while taking personal accountability, and finding ways to reconnect, couples are able to move past OCD and once again experience a relationship grounded in values, respect, and love for one another.