I have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. The short description of this condition is having obsessive thoughts that get looped in my brain and won't go away, unless I perform a compulsive act, called a ritual. One well-known form of OCD is germophobia. The affected person has obsessive thoughts about germs, about being sick, about contaminating others, etc. and has to wash hands in a ritualistic way. For me this means using lotion soap, followed by foaming soap (gets under the nails better) and if it's a bad day, hand sanitizer afterward.

Because of my family's religious practices, which included complete abandonment of the medical system, I didn't get a diagnosis till I had an "episode" in college algebra class. For each of the four classes I attended I had a specific color - For English class I used a green folder, green notebook, and wrote in green ink. For math class it was blue. One day in October of 2004 I ran out of blue ink in my pen. I started to have a panic attack, searching over and over in my purse and my backpack for another blue Pilot V point pen. Other people in class offered me pens and in fact I had probably five or six pens on me, but none were the RIGHT kind of pen. In the end I had a panic attack, broke down crying in class, and was taken to the campus counseling center. There I received my diagnosis at age 21.

I also had/have obsessions about symmetry and even numbers. I couldn't walk up a flight of stairs if it had an odd number of steps, or else the leg that took one less step up than the other would physically hurt until I could go back down the stairs, thereby restoring symmetry. Let's just say OCD is a pain.

I started studying OCD and neuroscience and was greatly comforted by it. I read about the "god module", about studies using brain imaging on Franciscan monks and Tibetan monks during meditation. I came to realize more and more that belief in a god is centered in certain portions of the brain.

Once I started taking SSRIs for controlling my OCD symtpoms, I stopped praying. I stopped having religious rituals, as well as germ and symmetry ones. During my pregnancy and subsequent nursing (a total of 2 1/2 years for the two) I was not taking medications, and my belief in G-d grew stronger again. I started reading devotionals, praying, reading my bible, etc.

I now treat my OCD through a combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy, EMDR (eye momevement desensitization and reprocessing) therapy, diet, exercise, and sleep. I also take an antihistamine for anxiety, which reduces obsessive thoughts as well. Some days are absolutely fine and some are harder. If my rituals once again disturb the functions of my life, I'll go back on SSRIs (I hate the side effects). But remembering all this has sort of helped me to forgive myself for holding onto the god belief as long as I did.

We are NOT created equal. We have varied abilities, deficiencies, advantages and disadvantages. I have OCD combined with an extremely religious upbringing. Today I've decided it's okay I didn't catch on sooner. It's not my fault I compartmentalized my intelligence. I embraced Creationism (groan) because it supported by primary delusion, and because without treatment for OCD I would have been in mental, physical and emotional agony if I'd tried to amputate belief any earlier. I just thought I'd share these thoughts for anyone else who's been feeling a bit bad about staying in the cult as long as they did, or jealous when they see the very young act and think rationally, when they themselves held onto god belief longer than maybe they wish they had.

Views: 98

Tags: anxiety, attack, belief, brain, compulsive, counting, disorder, episode, germophobia, god, More…meditation, module, monks, neurochemistry, obsessive, ocd, panic, ritual, symmetry

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Comment by Angie Jackson on April 26, 2009 at 10:19pm
Amanda - I've just started doing EMDR recently. My therapist has cerebral palsy so the pen I'm supposed to follow with my eyes doesn't always move smoothly anyway, it's more about unfocusing my eyes and having a sort of stream-of-subconciousness. I find it helpful for this and for PTSD from my culty childhood.

I "found my way" by studying cults (personally) and Islam (in school as Mid East studies major). I realized it was so easy to find all these other belief systems insane and laughable. It made me question my own beliefs and I found they didn't hold weight. Also, the diet/exercise/sleep regime has a similar effect on neurochemistry as SSRIs. This awareness should help though if I get fear of hell or other religious holdovers, it will probably coincide with other OCD symptoms so at least I'll know what's going on and not have to flip out about "backsliding"
Comment by Clarence Dember on April 25, 2009 at 11:37pm
That's informative. Glad you were able to gain control of that tendency.

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