OCD Interview

I was recently interviewed by a local university for an article about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). This Q&A explains the basics of OCD and the effective, non-medication treatment that works for OCD.

Question 1: What is the biggest misconception you’ve heard and/or seen about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

Misconception #1: Many people believe OCD has to include compulsive behaviors like hand-washing or excessive cleaning. Truth be told, I actually see more OCD in the form of obsessive and intrusive thoughts than I do with the classic compulsive behaviors.

Misconception #2: There’s a misconception that people must live with anxiety their whole lives, or that they must take medication for it for their whole lives. That is not true! [READ MORE HERE]. The neural pathways in the brain which create anxiety and obsessive thinking can be changed. Thus, the root cause of anxiety can be addressed and resolved.

The answer: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can provide long-term, preventative relief from anxiety/OCD (see Question 6 below).

Question 2: From your experience with treating OCD, what seems to be the biggest trigger for the people who suffer?

OCD can look very different for different people so it is difficult to generalize. People with OCD suffer from repetitive (and often disturbing) thoughts that they can’t seem to get out of their heads – these are Obsessions. These thoughts, and the inability to “let it go,” can cause a lot of anxiety.

Sometimes that anxiety creates an urge for people to repeatedly perform certain behaviors or routines – these are Compulsions. The urge to do the behaviors is an attempt to try to ease their anxiety.

Some people with OCD have obsessions only, while others have both obsessions and compulsive behaviors.

Most people who have OCD are aware that their obsessions and compulsions are irrational, yet they feel powerless to stop them which actually increases anxiety.

Common obsessive thoughts include:

• fear of a detrimental error by overlooking something
• worry about things being in proper order
• fear of harming someone
• feeling over-responsible for others
• worries about germs or illness

Common compulsive behaviors include:

• hand-washing
• counting
• arranging things
• cleaning
• checking and re-checking things (like did I forget anything?)

Question 3: OCD is often labeled a “mental illness.” Do you agree with this label?

I hate the label “mental illness” because some people attach a stigma to it…and that causes people to avoid getting treatment that could lead them to a happier life. At least 40 million American adults suffer from anxiety, but only about one-third of those seek help, even though anxiety is highly treatable without medication.

Like other types of anxiety, OCD involves what I call “a thinking problem” or “anxiety thinking.” There is a problem with the thinking process and in that respect it could be considered mental as opposed to physical illness.

The great news is that thinking problems can be corrected! Neuroscience research shows that the brain can reconfigure itself and learn new and more effective ways of thinking when trained to do so.

Question 4: Do you believe that people are born with OCD, or is it something that develops over time?

Research supports the understanding that OCD involves problems with the brain circuitry that causes anxiety thinking. No one knows for sure all the factors that could be involved in development of anxiety/OCD. Possible factors include perhaps genetic predisposition, perhaps learned behavior when kids grow up in a family where adults have anxiety, perhaps an illness, or even ordinary life stressors.

Question 5: How are patients diagnosed?

During an assessment, I look at whether a person has obsessions and/or compulsions, but the biggest factor in diagnosis is whether these thinking problems and behaviors cause a real problem in the person’s life.

I always say there’s not a problem unless there’s a problem. I’m looking to see whether the thoughts and/or behaviors are creating a problem with the person’s daily routine, job, school, relationships, social activities, or other activities the person values.

Question 6: What types of treatments are available to patients who suffer from OCD? Is there one particular treatment that seems to be more effective?

Extensive scientific research and my own clinical experience demonstrate that the most effective long-term solution for anxiety/OCD is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

CBT is a very specific sort of non-medication treatment that is focused on correcting the anxiety thinking that is underlying the obsessions and compulsions. It helps people learn different and more accurate, effective ways of thinking – this can significantly reduce or eliminate obsessions and compulsions.

CBT is very focused on teaching people new tools and techniques for changing old thinking patterns and old behavior patterns. To address the behaviors associated with OCD compulsions, exposure treatment is often included in CBT.

Exposure and response prevention (ERP) is a systematic way of gradually exposing people to the things/situations that cause anxiety while teaching them new ways to respond (eliminating the need for compulsive behavior).

Question 7: Do you think OCD can be cured?

The concept of a “cure” really means correcting the thinking problems and the anxiety thinking that are underlying the obsessions and compulsions. Yes! These thinking processes can be successfully changed with CBT.

Question 8: How did you become a therapist who specializes in anxiety disorders such as OCD?

I decided to specialize in holistic solutions for anxiety because so many people have been told they have to live with anxiety for their whole lives…or that they have to take medications for their whole lives. It is my mission to dispel this myth!

People don’t realize that is completely possible to get rid of all kinds of anxiety. They haven’t been education to understand that anxiety is caused by processes in the brain that they can learn how to change. They just need to learn the effective tools to use. I’ve seen so many people literally change their lives with CBT and holistic tools and techniques that treat anxiety.

Notice You’re Alright Right Now

This strategy was adapted from Rick Hanson, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist and author of the best-selling Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom.

Take a close look at this moment, right now. You are probably alright.

Anxiety is always about either:

a) the future (worries and “what if” thoughts), or

b) the past (dwelling on what happened, second-guessing, etc)

Reduce anxiety by intentionally dwelling on the NOW. In this one single moment, are you alright? It may not be perfect, or ideal. You may feel some pain in the now (physical or emotional). But are you safe and OK and basically alright just for this one moment of now?

You are probably alright. Right now. Use this strategy many times throughout your day to bring yourself back into the peace of the present moment.

10 MORE Great Ways to Love Yourself

Last February I wrote about Loving Yourself and it was so popular I decided to add 10 more ways to love yourself this year….

Gifts that Say I Love You to Yourself

1. Rest. My Vipassana meditation teacher from Burma says (in his Burmese accent): “Take Rest, Take Rest, Take Rest.” Whether it be sleep or a 2 minute break, rest is a gift to yourself so…Take it!

2. Self-compassion. Are you harder on yourself than you are on everybody else? Stop beating yourself up. Treat yourself with the same kindness, care, and support that you would offer to another person that you care about.

3. Schedule fun. Make a list of 20 things you think are fun. Then put them into your calendar and make your fun just as important (or even more important!) as all your other appointments.

4. Make a list and check it twice. Sit down and don’t get up until you’ve listed 10 things you love about yourself. If it’s very easy, then make it 20.

5. Let learning be enough. Forgive yourself for past mistakes or errors in judgment. Hindsight truly is 20/20 so take the lessons away from past mistakes and they will help you move forward. Self-forgiveness is the antidote to guilt, self-blame and self-criticism.

6. Stand up for yourself. Know that your needs and opinions matter. Be confident in asserting yourself and letting others know what is important to you. You’re worth it!

7. Practice being truly present. Learning how to be mindful adds more pleasure and meaning to life. Plus it reduces stress and anxiety. This is a continual practice. You don’t ever have to become an expert – you just need to keep practicing. Start with the intention to “be here now”… and practice.

8. Hang out with the best. Consciously choose to spend your precious time with people who lift you up, who treat you well, respect you, and accept you just the way you are.

9. Embrace this 4-letter word. H-E-L-P. Why do we think we are supposed to do everything on our own? Who made that rule? Asking for help is a sign of wisdom, not weakness. Help is what makes the world go around, and makes us feel connected. It is a gift knowing you don’t have to do it all alone.

10. Celebrate your successes. Acknowledge yourself for all accomplishments big and small. Writing them down in a success journal helps your brain to remember them and builds confidence. Read over your list regularly and see the proof in writing of how truly capable and amazing you are.

The 4 Minute Raisin

You’ve heard of mindfulness and research is clear that mindfulness helps reduce anxiety. But HOW can you be mindful?

Here is one simple way to experience and practice mindfulness: Eat one raisin…mindfully. Take 4 minutes to pick up, look at, eat, taste and mindfully experience that raisin.

Sound impossible or silly? Give it a try and get a taste of mindfulness – pun intended 😆 

Your Free Well-Being Toolkit

The Center For Healthy Minds in Madison, Wisconsin is a treasure with a national reputation.  The Center was founded by world renowned researcher  Dr. Richard J. Davidson.  We are blessed to have this leading edge research and resource in our local community. 

Their mission:  Cultivate well-being and relieve suffering through a scientific understanding of the mind.

Check out their many free online tools and meditations

Figuring Out What YOU Really Want

Anxiety treatment - Di Philippi, Brookfield, Milwaukee

In the midst of what can turn into a “crazy busy” season, the best way to have less stress is to put YOU smack dab on the top of your To Do List.

Think about what you really WANT this month…Not all the things you should do, not what others want you to do. Instead…ask yourself a few questions:

 

How would you like to feel during this holiday season?

What would you like to do just for YOU?

What would you like to NOT do?

Depending on your answers, I have a lot of creative ideas for you:

• If you want less pressure to have the “perfect” holiday, read THIS

• If you want to survive the holidays without sabotaging your healthy eating, check THIS out 

• To feel more gratitude during the season, read the 5 Ways to Practice Gratitude toward the end of this ARTICLE 

• For more peaceful feelings, try THIS

• If you want to smile more and experience FUN amidst the busy season, here are 6 Easy Tools 

• To escape commercialism, find more meaning, and get a warm-hearted feeling inside, try tip #4 or tip #6 HERE 

• To give yourself permission to slow down and relieve holiday pressures, read THIS 

• If you want to escape the craziness, then relax with THIS 5-minute Tool 

• To feel more connected with your loved ones, try THIS

• Want to give yourself the most meaningful and important gift for the New Year? Here’s HOW

Anxiety Treatment in Brookfied,Milwaukee

 

Wishing you all that you want this holiday season!

 

 

Do A Cost-Benefit Analysis

Many of the holistic anxiety-reduction techniques that I recommend are really pretty easy to learn and easy to do. But people often tell me they don’t have the time for it. Time becomes the barrier. I get that. We are living in a “crazy busy” time and we all have plenty to do.

Time is a cost, just as money is a cost. Even the time we spend earning money is a cost.

If you can layout both the costs and benefits of taking action (and then see how the benefits outweigh the costs), then you will be motivated to prioritize time and tasks differently. For example, I have one client who chose to make time for Mindful Belly Breathing Meditation – 2 times a day for 15 minutes each as I had recommended. That 30 minutes per day was a big cost. Today, she’s receiving so much benefit from it that she asked if it is OK to do it 3 times a day!

Comparing your costs to the benefits might be the motivation you need to take positive action… and start reaping the benefits.

Dalai Lama’s Prescription for Anxiety

I want to share with you what I am learning right now from the Dalai Lama.

anxiety treatment of Dalai Lama - Mental Immunity via CBT wtih Di Philippi

 

I love neuroscience and I often talk about the human brain. It’s so fascinating how our brains generate anxiety, and I teach many neuroscience-based techniques for eliminating anxiety.

Neuroscience is a very new discipline (since about the 1990’s), growing exponentially along with technology advances.

So it was quite ironic to me to discover the very non-scientific and very ancient perspective of the Dalai Lama (in “The Book of Joy” by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa.)

 

Prevent Suffering from Anxiety

According to the Dalai Lama: “[Just] as a healthy immune system and healthy constitution protects your body again potentially hazardous viruses and bacteria, mental immunity creates a healthy disposition of the mind so that it will be less susceptible to negative thoughts and feelings.”

Our own negative thoughts and feelings are what cause our suffering.

The Sanskrit word for these negative thoughts and feelings in the Buddha’s time was “Dukkha,” which can be translated as “stress” or “anxiety.” Buddha identified Dukkha as the core of much of our unnecessary suffering.

On the flip side of that, when people call me to inquire about anxiety treatment, what do you think is the one thing they consistently tell me they want (besides getting rid of anxiety)? Happiness. The Sanskrit word for this is “Sukha.”

How to find Sukha and eliminate and even prevent Dukkha? The Dalai Lama says mental immunity is the answer:

Developing Mental Immunity

1. Meditation.  As a Buddhist monk, one of the main ways the Dalai Lama builds mental immunity is through his daily meditation practice.

The Dalai Lama meditates for 5 hours a day! But you don’t have to! There are hundreds of different types of meditation so you can find a technique that works for you. Here’s an easy way to start with 3 minutes a day: Metta Meditation.

Meditation is proven by both monks and neuroscience research as a way to calm the mind and effectively reduce anxiety. But mental immunity can be built in other ways as well.

 

2. Mindfulness can be a meditation technique but it is also so much more. It is a way of being. It is a way of doing anything at all, in a mindful way, which is achieved mentally by training your brain to remain present and focused in the present moment.

Anxiety is most often about the future – even if it is the future just 5 minutes from now. Five seconds from now, or 5 minutes or 5 days or 5 years, are all in the future.

Developing your mental ability for mindfulness helps you stay in this moment of now, which reduces anxiety.

 

3. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps you develop mental immunity by literally training the neural pathways in your brain to actually think differently. What is CBT?  Click HERE to find out. It works to create mental immunity by changing the way your brain thinks and responds to anxiety-provoking situations. Click HERE to learn more about how it works for anxiety.

CBT also helps you eliminate “stinking thinking”/”anxiety thinking” which also creates mental immunity.

The Dalai Lama on the need for mental immunity:

 

Stop Watching The News

I see a correlation between worry and watching the news on TV. I stopped watching the evening news years ago. The only news show I watch is CBS Sunday Morning. It focuses on positive, uplifting and interesting news features, while spending a very short time noting top news from the week.

The evening news is the worst to watch. The mostly negative and fear-based news increases anxiety (and adrenaline and cortisol production!) at the time when you really need your brain and body to calm down for bedtime.

If you are a worrier who worries about current events and associated negative “what if” thoughts, then you have even more reason to stop watching the news.

What Are You Looking Forward To About Fall?

What are you looking forward to about Fall? (And what does that have to do with anxiety?)

I’m sitting outdoors right now on my patio writing this on the 3rd official day of Fall. And it is over 90 degrees here in Wisconsin! I’m doing my best to “carpe diem” and make the most of what are probably the last hot days of the year.

I love summer…my favorite season. So when the question above was posed to me, it threw me for a little loop. Looking forward to Fall? I feel more like I have been struggling to hold onto this gift of Indian Summer, and postpone my mourning of the end of summer.

Today I heard the question on the “CBS Sunday Morning” show: What are you looking forward to about Fall? According to their survey, people are looking forward to things like Halloween, leaves changing, Thanksgiving, and football.

I had to think long and hard about what I could look forward to about Fall. And why I should!

Why Should I? (And why should you too?)

Focusing on the future is one of the things that can often increase anxiety. Anxiety is always about either the future (worry) or the past (regrets or second-guessing).

The uncertainty of the future can trigger worry. “What if” worries/thoughts about the future are common. Add that to the human brain’s negativity bias, which exaggerates negative thinking, and you’ve got a recipe for anxiety.

But the whole idea of “looking forward to” something is different. It helps distract your mind from worry and negative thoughts, by pairing the future with a positive thought.

The distraction, and the positive pairing, gives your mind something else to focus on. Learning how to redirect or restructure negative thinking is a critical component of CBT, the most effective anxiety treatment.

So the concept of “looking forward to” is actually is a good tool for reducing anxiety, and helps boost your mood at the same time. So why not join me in trying it this Fall?

Here’s My List

1. Pumpkin Chai Tea
2. Pumpkin Spice anything
3. Organic Honeycrisp Apples

I just realized these are all about food. I’m not thrilled about that, but it’s a start. On a beautiful, warm day like today it is just too much of a stretch for my brain to fully embrace Fall. Today, my brain still wants to resist it. But we have to start somewhere. I can truly feel positive about those 3 things – and then I can build on MORE positive things to look forward to about Fall later.

Where can YOU start? What can YOU look forward to about Fall?