All Posts Tagged: obsessive thoughts

Superstitious Behavior Psychology

Let’s face it, everyone has exhibited superstitious behavior at some point: we probably can all think of someone we know who always plays a certain set of lucky lottery numbers and most of us have crossed our fingers at one time or another for luck. Believing a little superstitiously can make us feel like we have some control over various circumstances and can help us make sense of a situation. But when rituals need to be repeated over and over to avoid perceived negative outcomes and this type of behavior begins to rule someone’s life, it has spiraled out of control, causing more anxiety than it relieves. At this point, the superstitious behavior psychology can be, and often is, a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

The Difference between Superstitious Behavior Psychology and OCD

You might worry that your superstitious behavior is actually a sign that you have OCD, so here is how you can tell the difference:

  • Before running a race, do you wear a certain pair of “lucky” shorts because you won your last few races while wearing them? That is a facet of superstitious behavior. Why? Because, while wearing the shorts can help give you confidence and provide positive thoughts, you aren’t performing a ritual wherein your success in the race depends on the repetition of a certain behavior.
  • Do you attribute the outcome of a situation to the “magic” of the ritual you perform? That is a sign of superstitious OCD. As an example, if you feel that you must take a certain number of practice swings at a golf ball in order to do well on each hole, that is more in the realm of OCD. Why? Because, if you get so anxious that you can’t complete the hole if the number of swings is interrupted or if something hinders your ritual, you are obsessing about it.
  • In superstitious OCD, a “normal” superstition becomes disabling. Superstitious behavior psychology might make someone avoid booking a hotel room on the 13th floor, but a person with superstitious OCD would find they couldn’t step on a crack in the sidewalk without having to complete a certain ritual to avoid the evil that would be sure to befall them or someone they love for their perceived transgression.

What Does Religion Have To Do With It?

For people with OCD, religion can enter into their obsessions in the form of trying to pray correctly or feeling that if certain rituals aren’t followed correctly, the things that go wrong in the world around them are their fault. This type of religious OCD is called “scrupulosity”. For example, a Jewish person with this condition may feel that if they have been exposed to pork in any form and can’t get “clean enough,” and then subsequently something bad happens to a family member, it is a punishment because the OCD patient has offended God. In another example, a Catholic person may worry that if they haven’t kneeled correctly at the altar or haven’t said the rosary properly or a certain number of times, disaster will come to themselves or their loved ones.

How to Get Help

As with any type of OCD, help comes in the form of both therapy and medication. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Exposure Therapy help the person in treatment learn to face the situations that trigger their obsessions. In these types of therapy, the patient is gradually encouraged to put themselves in situations that would normally trigger their rituals and then discouraged from performing them. By taking these guided risks, the OCD patient learns that their fears are unfounded. Additionally, certain medications such as antidepressants are helpful in reducing the symptoms of OCD and religious OCD.

To get more information and help for OCD and/or superstitious behavior or religious OCD, please contact Dr. Andrew Rosen and The Center for Treatment of Anxiety Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 or email Dr. Rosen and The Center today.

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HOCD

HOCD or Homosexual Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is defined as the questioning of one’s sexuality by a person who already suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). What this means is that someone with OCD who is happy in their straight, heterosexual orientation becomes fixated on the question of whether or not they are actually gay. Over time, these thoughts and worries about the possibility of being gay begin to consume their lives.

People with OCD experience their obsessions in different ways from each other, but the underlying premise is that they are dealing with disturbing unwanted or intrusive thoughts. An example would be that a person who suffers from OCD is physically healthy but begins to worry about whether they actually have cancer or another serious illness. In the case of HOCD, straight people with the disorder spend countless hours wondering if they could really be gay or if they could suddenly become gay (conversely, homosexuals with Straight OCD, constantly worry if they are, or could become, straight). People with HOCD expend a great deal of energy and countless hours trying to “know”, without a doubt, that they are straight and not gay.

The Differences Between Being Homosexual and Having HOCD

So, if you are questioning your sexuality, how do you know the difference between having HOCD and actually being gay?

Typical HOCD symptoms include:

  • Currently suffering from OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
  • Recurring unwanted or intrusive thoughts about your own sexuality
  • Constantly reassuring yourself that you are straight
  • Avoiding people of your same gender due to anxiety or unwanted fears that you might be gay
  • Worrying that you might be sending out “signals” that will make others think you are gay
  • Homosexual thoughts are repulsive to you, rather than arousing
  • Feeling no attraction to your same sex
  • Repeating an action because you worry that you might have done something in a way that makes others think you are gay (example: a man repeatedly gets up and sits down on a chair because he worries that he takes a seat in a way that looks too feminine). Repeating the action relieves the anxiety, but you need to continue repeating the action to continue anxiety relief.

Typical Homosexual characteristics include:

  • Homosexual thoughts are enjoyable and/or arousing to the person, even if they hide their sexual orientation from others or are ashamed of it
  • Having had past sexual experiences with those of their same gender
  • Preferring to date or have sexual encounters with people of their same gender instead of with those of the opposite sex
  • Often, people who are gay report having felt differently than their same-sex peers at an early age. Additionally, researchers have found they preferred to engage in activities associated with the opposite sex from early childhood onward

HOCD Treatment

HOCD is treated in much the same way as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). In general, cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness-based therapy is used to help the person reduce their response to their thoughts and help them deal with their obsessions. Additionally, these behavior therapies may or may not be combined with medications such as SSRIs (Prozac, Zoloft, etc). By changing one’s behavior and responses towards one’s intrusive thoughts, it is possible to neutralize and eliminate the fixation.

For more information about HOCD or to explore treatment options, please contact Dr. Andrew Rosen and The Center for Treatment of Anxiety Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 or email Dr. Rosen and The Center today.

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Obsessive and Intrusive Thoughts Often Increase After Shooting Tragedies Says South Florida Mental Health Expert

In recent weeks, we have all heard about the terrible shootings happening across America; first, the movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colorado, and then the Sikh temple shooting near Milwaukee. These incidents affect everyone substantially but they can have a severe impact on people who suffer from obsessive and intrusive thoughts as a result of an anxiety disorder.
           
Obsessive intrusive thoughts are one of the most common symptoms of anxiety disorders, and they can be increased dramatically by these types of stories. They are recurring scary, invasive notions and/or images that can be paralyzing and unrelenting. The more they occur, the more the person thinks about them, which further cements them into their psyche.
           
There are three types of obsessive intrusive thoughts:

  • Blasphemous religious thoughts revolve around concepts that are considered particularly sinful to the person thinking them
  • Inappropriate sexual thoughts or images can involve intimate actions with strangers, family, friends, or any number of other people
  • Catastrophic thoughts or violent obsessions involve visions/thoughts about harming others or oneself

It is the last of these that can easily be stirred up when a violent act such as a mass shooting occurs and is widely broadcast over the news channels. With 24/7 news stations continuously relating stories about the killer’s state of mind both before and after the event, it’s easy for victims of catastrophic intrusive thoughts to wonder if they could follow that same path. Each time the thought occurs, they may believe themselves more and more likely to follow the compulsion. These thoughts can be so powerful that the person may eventually cut themselves off from friends and family out of a fear for their loved one’s safety.

The good news is that there is help available to stop these intrusive thoughts, and for all anxiety disorders, in general. Your mental health professional may suggest exposure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, or in some cases, medication. If you or someone you know is suffering from catastrophic intrusive thoughts, please seek help and get on the path of returning to a normal life.

For more information about obsessive and intrusive thoughts, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), or about anxiety disorders, contact Dr. Andrew Rosen and The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida. They can be reached by calling 561-496-1094 or by emailing Dr. Rosen and The Center today.

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