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Teen Issues: Teenagers and Online Porn

There’s no doubt that the Internet and technology have made the world of parenting vastly different than it was in the past. There was a time when a parent’s biggest concern was finding their child with a Playboy magazine, which probably just piqued the child’s curiosity. Now, with sex being more prevalent in the news, movies, and even in children’s programming, it should be no surprise that more parents are discovering their teenagers taking their curiosity one step further and into the world of full-blown pornography.

Reacting Appropriately

Discoveries like this often lead to knee-jerk reactions by parents. Consider these tips for handling your reaction to finding your child watching porn:

  • Calm down before approaching your teenager. Even the best-prepared parent is bound to be emotional in this situation and talking immediately will probably not be very effective.
  • Get your thoughts straight. Most parents’ first reaction to their teen viewing porn is to think there’s something wrong. In reality, viewing porn online is not uncommon. Studies show that 42% of Internet users, ages 10 to 17, report having seen online porn at least once in the past 12 months.
  • Be open to discussion. It’s important to realize that teenagers will naturally be curious about sex. Approaching the conversation with the intention of easing that curiosity, rather than being accusatory, will make everything much more productive.

Handling the Conversation

This is “The Conversation” – the one every parent fears from the moment their child is born. It’s probably going to awkward. It may be uncomfortable for one or both of you; but in the end it can be a pivotal conversation in your child’s development. Try these tips for making it easier:

  • Help them to understand they’re not in trouble. Make the focus more about educating them correctly about sex, rather than making it about punishing them.
  • Invite them to ask questions. Since curiosity is often the biggest factor in these scenarios, it’s important to be open to your child’s thoughts and feelings.
  • Consider starting the conversation in the car, where it’s easy to talk without making eye contact. Just make sure you’re close to home so your teenager doesn’t feel trapped by the confines of the car if they’re uncomfortable.
  • Accept that they may not want to talk with you. This is highly likely and forcing the issue isn’t going to help anything.
  • Consider alternative resources for educating your teenager. If they’re not open to a discussion, you might try casually leaving education materials around or even providing them with information they might be better able to relate to. There are great for-teenagers-by-teenagers resources available nowadays.
  • Explain the real concern with these teen issues, which is not that a teenager may be looking at porn…instead, the focus for this conversation should be keeping their understanding of sex grounded in real life. Some important aspects to discuss are:
    • Realistic body expectations. Help them to understand that porn actors’ bodies are often drastically modified by makeup, surgery, and by other methods, and are unrealistic portrayals of the average person.
    • The emotional side of sex which typically has no representation in pornographic materials.
    • The “every day” side of sex and how it differs from the fantastical elements they see in porn. An easy comparison might be pointing out the differences between how life is portrayed in blockbuster action movies versus what they see in their everyday lives.
    • The fact that some online porn sites show hardcore sex, sexual violence, and perversions. Help your teenagers understand that these sites do not generally reflect real life and aren’t made to be watched by teens, in any case.
  • Don’t be afraid to discuss the feelings that porn can generate. It’s important for teenagers to understand this and how those feelings can be addictive.
  • Discuss the differences between viewing sites and interactive sites, such as social media and chat rooms, where topics related to porn may come up. It’s important for them to know about sexual predators and the risks that can be involved in these types of interactions.
  • Set some guidelines. Just as there are places you would consider dangerous in the real world, your teenager needs to understand that there are dangerous places in the virtual world. Help them to understand that you will be monitoring their computer usage while still trying to protect their privacy.

Still having a hard time coping with this change in your teenager’s life? For more tips about teen issues and approaching your teenager about online porn, contact Dr. Andrew Rosen and The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 or email Dr. Rosen and The Center today.

 

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Cell Phone Addiction

In today’s world of technology and social media, smartphones have become the technological equivalent of heroin. And just like heroin or any other drug, smartphones can become addicting. Most of us turn to our phones when we’re happy, sad, bored, or angry. Our phones are always there for us when we need them. And, as with any other “drug,” that can be a cause for concern. A cell phone addiction can separate us from our loved ones, stress us out, negatively impact our careers, and damage our relationships.

Addiction vs. Overuse

According to recent studies, 90% of Americans would fall into the category of overusing or abusing their smartphones, while between 10 – 12% can be diagnosed with an actual addiction. Other shocking cell phone related statistics include:

  • 70% of people say they check their phone within 1 hour of getting out of bed.
  • 56% check their phone within 1 hour of going to sleep.
  • 51% check their phone continuously while on vacation.
  • 44% said they’d experience a great deal of anxiety if they lost their phone and couldn’t replace it for a week.

Sound familiar? As always, the first step to solving a problem is realizing you have one. A good cell phone addiction test is to read through the following list to see how it relates to you and your daily life. If you find that more than just one or two items apply, you may be addicted to using your smart phone.

The signs of possible cell phone addiction or abuse include:

  • Spending more time on your smartphone than you realized or mindlessly passing time staring at it even when there are more productive things you could be doing.
  • Spending more time texting, emailing, or tweeting others as opposed to talking to real people.
  • Sleeping with your phone under your pillow or beside your bed.
  • Answering texts, emails, etc. at all hours of the day and night, even when it means interrupting something else you were doing or diverting your attention from something that requires focus and concentration.
  • Secretly wishing you could be less wired or connected to your phone.
  • Feeling ill-at-ease or anxious if you accidentally leave your phone behind somewhere or if it’s broken or lost.
  • Giving your phone a permanent place-setting at the table during dinner time.
  • Feeling an intense urge to check your phone any time it beeps or buzzes.

Managing Your Phone Usage

If you are concerned about overuse or addiction to your cell phone it may be wise to take a few steps toward managing the problem:

  • Try to resist answering your phone every time you get a notification. Avoid temptation by putting your phone on silent (with no vibrate) for a while.
  • Be disciplined about not using your phone in certain situations, such as meetings, family dinners, driving, or during certain hours (for example, between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.).
  • Try removing apps that are not a priority. Accept that you don’t need to have access to everything all the time. Some applications might be more appropriate for your computer or laptop than your phone.
  • Take advantage of Airplane Mode. This is a quick, simple way of turning off notifications on your phone, while still having the ability to take pictures and access local files.
  • Add an app that can help. As ironic as it may sound, there are apps you can use – such as BreakFree or StayOnTask – which will help you limit your smartphone usage.

The important thing to focus on when facing smartphone addiction or overuse is the impact this issue may be having on your life. To a degree, this issue has become an accepted part of society. So many of us deal with smartphones on a day-to-day basis it’s easy to disregard this as being no big deal. If you suspect otherwise, open yourself up to loved ones to ask their true opinions on the subject. Conversely, if you have a loved one who has fallen victim to smartphone abuse or addiction, voice your concerns to help make them aware that a problem may exist.

If either of these situations fit you and the tips above haven’t worked, it might be time to speak with a professional to discuss more specific steps. To get more information and help for breaking a cell phone addiction, please contact Dr. Andrew Rosen and The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 or contact Dr. Rosen and The Center today.

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Coping Mechanisms for Overcoming Holiday Stress

Once again it’s that time of year for holiday music, joyful giving, and memorable parties. Unfortunately, however, holiday cheer is not always as easy to find as one would think. In fact, the holiday season is often the time of year that anxiety, stress, and depression is highest for many people.

It makes sense when you think about some of the factors that come along with most people’s holidays. Consider these triggers, which can cause a spike in anxiety and holiday stress during this festive season:

  • Going home – Returning to your childhood home can bring up associated unhappy memories and old anxieties.
  • Relatives – Most people have at least one family member they avoid throughout the year because of the toxicity that person brings to social interactions. Family gatherings during the holidays often mean these less-than-cheerful reunions will occur.
  • Life changes – This is the time of year where people tend to reflect on the previous year and the major changes that have happened, such as divorces or deaths in the family. The seasonal cheer and happiness often opens the door to anxiety and depression when these thoughts come up.
  • Holiday parties – This is the time when we are expected to attend office parties or get-togethers with friends and neighbors. Crowded rooms and large groups of people can be difficult to face for anyone, but these types of gatherings can be especially difficult for those suffering from social anxiety disorder, even if they are not the center of attention.
  • Routine – While focusing on changes are difficult for some, focusing on routine and the sameness of family tradition can be a struggle for others. Visiting the same homes, going through the same conversations, and having the same dinners can demonstrate a monotony that makes people feel like their lives are stuck in a rut.
  • Lowered Defenses – The holidays come at a time when the weather is changing, flu is rampant, and holiday engagements leave us sleep-deprived. It’s no wonder that our body’s defenses are not up to the rigors of fighting the anxiety that can come around at this time.
  • Travel – People have to face the crowds and travel issues that make them avoid traveling the rest of the year. And, for someone who suffers from social anxiety disorder or a fear of flying, holiday travel can bring up extreme distress and worry.

Holiday Coping Mechanisms

While it’s easy to see how this time of year can provoke anxiety and stress in a number of people, there is good news. There are a number of holiday coping mechanisms you can use to ease your way through the holiday stress:

  • Accept imperfection. Oftentimes, we idealize the holiday season and envision a movie-like perfection to how it will go. Perfection is not reality and realizing this early will go a long way in preventing holiday stress.
  • Don’t look to alcohol or drugs for relief. While this may seem like an easy solution in the moment, it often makes things worse in the long run.
  • Reach out to others. When holiday depression starts to sneak in, look for relief in the company of others. The holidays are filled with religious and community events that often make it easier to seek social support.
  • Maintain healthy habits. People correlate the holidays with weight gain and unhealthy eating but it doesn’t have to be that way. Loading up on baked goods and fattening meals can lead to negative self-thoughts. Look for healthier alternatives instead.
  • Stick to a budget. Financial concerns are one of the leading stressors for this time of year. Whatever your financial situation is, set a budget and stick with it to maintain control of your situation.

Coping with Holiday Travel Fears

One of the most anxiety-inducing aspects of the holidays is the dreaded travel to family events. Traffic delays, crowded airports, and overflowing train stations can bring about an entirely different type of stress, especially if you already suffer from a fear of flying or of crowds. Just like with any other anxieties, however, there are ways to confront and overcome these fears:

  • Plan and confirm all details – Organization is the best way to ensure your travel plans will go as smoothly as possible.
  • Think ahead – Oftentimes, giving voice to your anxiety is the best way to address it. What are you stressing about? Make a list of all your concerns and pre-plan ways to overcome them so you’ll be prepared if the worst happens.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help – If you’re flying and claustrophobic, don’t be afraid to ask for an aisle seat. If you have a fear of flying, let the flight attendant know when you board so they can help make your flight more comfortable. Asking for help can provide more relief than suffering alone in silence.

Ultimately, if you find holiday stress is becoming overwhelming despite the recommendations listed above, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Your holiday season does not need to be ruined because of stress, anxiety, or depression. If you or someone you know is unable to cope with the holiday burdens, it may be time to reach out to a professional.

To get more information and help for holiday stress, anxiety, or depression, please contact Dr. Andrew Rosen and The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 or email Dr. Rosen and The Center today.

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College Students: Why Are We Seeing an Increase in Psychological Disorders?

College is supposed to be the highlight of young adult lives. It represents a time for independence, new experiences, and carefree living before the “real world” and true responsibilities kick in. So why is it that today’s college students are so susceptible to so many mental health concerns?

The statistics related to psychological disorders and mental health concerns among college students have become so alarming that many are referring to it as a mental health crisis. The numbers speak for themselves:

  • 1 in 4 young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 have a diagnosable mental condition.
  • More than 64% of young adults who are no longer in college are no longer attending because of a mental health related reason.
  • Over 30% of students meet the criteria for an alcohol abuse diagnosis.
  • A 2006 survey showed nearly 20% of students had eating disorders whereas a study in the 1980s revealed only 4-5% of students with this concern.
  • The suicide rate for young adults ages 15-24 has tripled since the 1950s.
  • A 2013 survey found that 57% of college women and 40% of college men reported “overwhelming anxiety” in the year leading up to the study.
  • Students are facing college depression. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that, in 2011, the American College Health Association–National College Health Assessment (ACHA–NCHA—a nationwide survey of college students at 2- and 4-year institutions—found that about 30 % of college students reported feeling “so depressed that it was difficult to function” at some time in the past year.
  • 95% of college counseling center directors state that there are growing concerns on their campus with the number of students who demonstrate significant psychological problems.

What’s Different for Today’s College Student?

There has always been a certain amount of phase of life adjustment anxiety that goes along with leaving a familiar setting and going off to college. But, what could explain why the numbers associated with psychological concerns among college students have risen so greatly over recent years? Surely colleges have always had the same high standards with regard to homework and reports? While that may be true there are, in fact, quite a few factors that could be contributing to these statistical increases:

  • Technology – while one could argue that technology makes college student’s lives easier, it also provides high potential for chaos, information overload, and hyper-connectivity, which can all combine to create additional stress.
  • Lack of family structure – in today’s fast-paced, divorce-heavy world it can be challenging to find young adults who have a stable, reliable family system. When they’re thrust into the new realm of college living this lack of guidance and support can lead to increased mental health concerns.
  • Early education concerns – many studies show that students entering college today are not as prepared for it academically as they should be. Bridging that gap between their lack of knowledge and increased expectations of college versus high school can play a huge role in the psychological issues we see today.
  • Overprotective parents – in today’s world of participation trophies and overindulgent, parents, children are often not prepared to cope with disappointment or negative feedback. This can lead to them entering the college world completely unprepared for higher education’s normal challenges and the resiliency to adjust to them.
  • Economic pressures – high unemployment and a tough economic climate mean parents are less able to help their children with the financial responsibilities of college. Along with this comes an increase in students working in addition to school, and additional issues for them to worry about.

How Can You Help?

Today’s college student needs to understand that it’s okay to talk about the difficulties they’re facing. Even as society becomes more open to discussing mental health concerns there is still a lot of stigma attached to the subject and it can be scary for students to admit there’s a problem. As many of the above factors show, lack of structure and guidance also plays a big role in the psychological troubles of our students. Knowing they have support and understanding can give students a way to plant their feet in and work toward resolving their issues. Take time to help them learn how to prioritize and structure their new responsibilities so they can reduce the chaos that surrounds them.

In some situations, the best resolution will be to seek professional help. A therapist or other mental health professional can help students get to the root of their problems and provide coping techniques that will allow them to move confidently through the rest of their college years.

If you know a college student who is struggling with college phase of life adjustment anxiety or if you need help yourself, contact Dr. Andrew Rosen and The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 or email Dr. Rosen and The Center today.

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Eating Disorders: The Hidden Problem of College Students

Dieting and the body image concerns that lead to it are nothing new in our society. But what happens when innocent dieting becomes something worse? The effects of eating disorders, when left untreated, can result in damage to almost all organ systems, as well as leading to osteoporosis, delayed growth, hearth failure, and even death. The scary part is that the numbers associated with eating disorders are probably higher than you would expect, especially among college students:
• Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder, as well as a suicide rate that is 50 times higher than that of the general population
• 91% of college women have attempted weight control through dieting
• 35% of those “normal” dieters will progress into pathological dieting
• 20-25% of those who progress to pathological dieting will develop partial or full-syndrome eating disorders

Why College Students?

We see people dieting at all ages but college students are especially susceptible to having innocent dieting morph into a problem. This is easy to understand once you look at the factors that can contribute to eating disorders among college students. For many, college presents:
• A time when appearance and image become more important because of new ventures into dating and the chance to make new friends
• The first time they’ve had the freedom and responsibility to make their own food choices
• Feelings of isolation and homesickness
• Intense peer pressure
• Pressure to achieve academically
• A new crowd of people who may not recognize mood or behavior changes
• Separation from regular family and friends, which can make denying or hiding their illness easier

For a freshman student, the start of college may cause some phase of life adjustment anxiety as the world becomes much larger and more complex and stressful in a very short amount of time. Focusing their energy on their eating and weight can often be an avenue for seeking a sense of control that they can’t find in other aspects of their lives. In fact, while it might seem like eating disorders are about food, weight, exercise, and eating, they are more often related to anxiety, depression, perfectionism, low self-esteem, trauma, or other psychological and emotional issues.

Common Types of Eating Disorders

There are 3 different types of eating disorders:
• Anorexia nervosa occurs when someone goes to extreme measures to avoid eating. People suffering from this disorder are often abnormally thin but still talk about feeling fat on a regular basis
• Bulimia occurs when someone practices a “binge and purge” cycle. A person suffering from bulimia will eat a lot of food at one time (bingeing) but then vomit it up in an attempt to prevent weight gain (purging). Excessive use of laxatives or dieting pills could also be an indicator of bulimia
• Binge-eating involves uncontrollable, excessive eating that is often followed by feelings of guilt or shame

Are you still doubt about eating disorders being truly prevalent among the college crowd? Outside of the typical eating disorders some particularly scary trends have been known to pop up on college campuses over the years, including:
• “Drunkorexia,” which involves starving oneself throughout the day in order to drink and party all night without gaining weight from the alcohol
• “Binge and purge parties,” which are focused around talking about and eating massive amounts of food followed by a bathroom rotation to vomit everything back up
• “Nap dieting,” where you “sleep off” hunger by taking a nap to avoid eating every time you feel hungry

How to Help

One of the best ways to prevent or assist with eating disorders is to become knowledgeable about the subject and help educate others. If you know someone who might be suffering from an eating disorder, pay attention and watch for the following:
• Mood changes
• Weight fluctuations
• Preoccupation with food and weight
• Changes in eating behavior
• Changes in exercise behavior

Discussing these changes with someone who might have a problem can be difficult and should be handled with care. Watch the language you use and try to avoid words like “heavy,” “fat,” or “thin.” Any discussion could easily lead to anger or denial so be prepared to tread lightly. It’s important to remember that eating disorders can often develop from a feeling of being out of control so the more you can let your loved one lead the process to recovery, the better off they’ll be.

When in doubt, it’s always best to seek professional help. If you are suffering from the symptoms of an eating disorder or think a loved one may be, contact Dr. Andrew Rosen and The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 or email Dr. Rosen and The Center today.

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Infidelity: Has it Increased Since the Internet?

Affairs are nothing new in the world of relationships but since the invention of the internet, do you think the ability to be online from anywhere and at any time has increased the chances of you, your spouse, or your significant other having an affair? In other words, has cyber-space made it easier than ever to cheat within a marriage or a relationship? Overwhelmingly, the answer is “yes”.

In 1998, prior to the Internet, the University of California conducted a study on infidelity and found that 14 percent of women and 24 percent of men had been unfaithful to their spouse. In 2014, the Associated Press’ Journal of Marital and Family Therapy reported that in 41% of marriages, one or both spouses have admitted to infidelity (either physical or emotional). So, what is it about the internet that has raised those statistics?

What Has Changed Since the Internet?

  • Many people don’t feel that an online affair is a “real” affair
  • Social media sites make it easy for people to contact each other and engage in flirting through online chatting, emailing, and messaging
  • Social media sites give people a way to get back in touch with exes, prior flings, and The One The Got Away
  • There are thousands of online dating sites, including those that are set up specifically for people who are looking to cheat
  • The Internet offers both anonymity and a way to reinvent yourself, making it easy for people to live a secret life
  • The internet offers ready access to pornography

What Counts as Cheating?

Cheating means different things to different people: some people don’t feel they are cheating if they engage in any form of sexual behavior as long as they don’t have intercourse, while others feel that something as simple as flirting is a form of cheating. Basically, cheating happens when your partner goes beyond your feelings and beliefs about what type of contact is appropriate with another person. If their behavior is unacceptable to you and you feel betrayed, then they have violated your trust.

The best thing to do is to have a frank discussion with your spouse or significant other about what each of you considers to be cheating (online or otherwise) before a problem comes up. Set rules down for each other so you both know where the boundaries are and will know if your behavior is crossing the line.

  • Your significant other spends a lot of time online and they close out the screen when you walk into the room (or consistently keep the monitor turned away from you)
  • They spend excessive amounts of time chatting with online friends or are up all night on the computer
  • They are secretive about who they are communicating with online
  • They won’t connect with you online (for example: you aren’t their Facebook friend or they won’t let you follow them on Twitter)
  • They password-protect their computers and their phones and won’t give you those passwords
  • Checking their Favorites tab or looking at their browser history shows they are visiting chat sites or dating sites. Or, if their browser history is always cleared, it could be a sign of an online affair

Have Questions? Need Help?

First, don’t accuse them unless you have proof! Talk to them to try to get some of your questions answered. Then, if you still think your spouse or significant other is cheating, see a professional therapist to uncover the reasons behind the problem and to determine if the relationship is worth salvaging.

To get more information and help for infidelity and online affairs, please contact Dr. Andrew Rosen and The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 or email Dr. Rosen and The Center today.

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Separation Anxiety and School Refusal

The summer is waning – it’s almost time for autumn to roll around again, which means school will be starting soon. While most children look forward to this time so they can see their friends and enjoy various school activities, this can be a period of major anxiety for some school-aged children. These kids are extremely unwilling to leave home or be away from major attachment figures such as parents, grandparents, or older siblings. The beginning of the new school year is often seen as a threat to them, resulting in elevated anxiety levels and possible school-related disorders, such as separation anxiety disorder and school refusal.

In some cases the separation anxiety and school refusal follow an infection or illness or can come after an emotional trauma such as a move to another neighborhood or the death of a loved one. The anxiety generally occurs after the child has spent an extended time with their parent or loved one, perhaps over summer break or a long vacation.

Anxiety Definition

A teen or child is said to be suffering from a separation anxiety disorder if they show excessive anxiety related to the separation from a parent or caregiver or from their home, or if they exhibit an inappropriate anxiety about this separation as related to their age or stage of development. School refusal and separation anxiety are not the same: school refusal is not an “actual” diagnosis, instead it is a result of the child or teen having a separation anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, or social phobia, among other diagnoses.

Separation Anxiety Physical Symptoms

Children with separation anxiety have symptoms which can include:

  • Excessive worry about potential harm befalling oneself or one’s caregiver
  • Demonstrating clingy behavior
  • Avoiding activities that may result in separation from parents
  • Fearing to be alone in a room or needing to see a parent at all times
  • Difficulty going to sleep, fear of the dark, and/or nightmares
  • Trembling
  • Headaches
  • Stomachaches and/or nausea
  • Vomiting

A child who exhibits three or more of these symptoms for more than four weeks is likely to be suffering from a separation anxiety disorder.

Treatment for School Refusal and Separation Anxiety

When treating a child with separation anxiety and school refusal, therapists try to help the child learn to identify and change their anxious thoughts. They teach coping mechanisms that will help the child respond less fearfully to the situations that produce their anxiety. This can be done through role-playing or by modeling the appropriate behavior for the child to see. Medication is sometimes appropriate in severe cases of separation anxiety. Additionally, the therapist encourages child to use positive self-talk and parents help with this therapy by actively reinforcing positive behaviors and rewarding their child’s successes.

Have Questions? Need Help?

To get more information and help for child anxiety, separation anxiety and school refusal, please contact Dr. Andrew Rosen and The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 or email Dr. Rosen and The Center today.

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What is Religious OCD?

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by unwanted, intrusive thoughts and anxiety (obsessions) about something and the behaviors (compulsions) that people who suffer from the condition use to relieve the anxiety. This particular anxiety disorder represents a very serious condition that often grips the victim’s mind with fear and, in a very real way, controls their lives.

OCD is a broad disorder that encompasses many subgroups: in the case of religious OCD (also known as scrupulosity), the person is fixated on obsessions that are based in religion and/or religious beliefs, or around beliefs concerning morality. People who experience this form of OCD suffer from obsessive religious doubts and fears, unwanted blasphemous thoughts and images, as well as compulsive religious rituals, reassurance seeking, and avoidance.

People with religious OCD strongly believe in and fear punishment from a divine being or deity. Experts estimate that anywhere between 5% and 33% of people with OCD may experience scrupulosity and the number likely rises to between 50% and 60% in OCD sufferers who come from within very strict religious cultures. Even people who are not particularly religious can suffer from scrupulosity because they worry about being morally compromised or unintentionally offending others. A common thread throughout the spectrum is the linking of thoughts and actions: people with scrupulosity believe their thoughts are the same as actions, so they worry not just about what they have done, but also about what they have thought.

Examples of Religious OCD

Religious OCD can take many forms. A CNN news article tells the story of a Jewish woman who was so consumed with obsessions surrounding exposure to pork that she spent a large amount of time each day washing her hands and cleaning items that could even have remotely had the potential to come into contact with pork. An ABC News report discusses the problems of one Catholic woman who was faced with saying hundreds of prayers a day to obtain forgiveness for her self-perceived wrongdoings. The same article recounts a story about a man who eventually stopped eating and speaking in an attempt to please God by making sacrifices similar to those made by certain biblical figures. Even pillars of religious faiths may have been victims of scrupulosity: it has been suggested that both Martin Luther and St. Ignatius of Loyola may have exhibited religious obsessions.

Symptoms of Religious OCD

Scrupulosity rituals can include such behaviors as:

  • Compulsively praying, which can involve restarting the prayer if you get distracted while saying it and/or repeating it if you didn’t feel you were concentrating properly on the prayer or on the meaning of the prayer
  • Asking others if you are behaving correctly or if you “did the right thing”or analyzing your behavior throughout the day to be sure you are acting “appropriately”
  • Reading or studying religious writings, books, and texts excessively
  • Questioning your motives in numerous situations
  • Excessively apologizing to a deity (God, Allah, etc) and seeking forgiveness for your behavior

Treatment for Religious OCD

As with other forms of obsessive compulsive disorder, treatment for religious OCD involves cognitive behavior therapy. In some cases, medicines are combined with this type of exposure and response therapy. A patient will not be asked to give up his religion when undergoing therapy, instead he are given ways to face his triggers and live within his faith and religious traditions. Additionally, those patients who may not be able to travel to a therapists’office may be able to receive treatment over the phone or on a computer-based application such as Skype or FaceTime.

Have Questions? Need Help?

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

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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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