What is it like to live with OCD in times of a pandemic? Well, every person has their own answer to this question and I think it is time to share mine. The other day, I was reading through articles about OCD in the age of COVID-19 and one thing I noticed was that the […]Why Excessive Hand Washing Is Not My Main “OCD Problem” During The Pandemic — Overcoming OCD
I first came upon Mark Wester’s blog, Overcoming OCD while researching about OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, due to a revelation by my daughter. I had no prior knowledge about this issue.
Since then Mark and myself have been interacting through our comment section. Several days ago Mark sent me a message through email that he would like to be interviewed. So, I took several days to gather my thoughts about questions I would like to ask. I sent the questions to Mark. I mentioned to him to take his time in answering them. Today I received those answers. Below you will find my interview with Mark Wester of the blog “Overcoming OCD“.
Mark for the readers and myself tell us something about yourself that is not on your blog.
I have been telling a lot about myself on my blog so it’s actually pretty difficult to think of something that’s worth mentioning and that I have never talked about but let me try. I was raised in a very multicultural family – I am of Hungarian, Romanian, German and Jewish origin – and I think it’s because of my family background that I love learning foreign languages and I am addicted to traveling. I have been to most of European countries and my dream is to travel the whole world – obviously, only when the pandemic is over.
Why did you start your blog?
I started my blog last December when I was going through a pretty difficult period – I didn’t really know what I wanted from life and I had no motivation to do anything except working, spending money on useless things and going to pubs. Well, I know that the description I have just given you doesn’t really make it sound like a „difficult” period but believe me, it was. I was having a kind of existential crisis because I just didn’t know what I was going to do with my life and my drinking problem also started to go out of control
And then, one day I felt that I just had to write about the things that’d been going on in my mind. It was such an amazing feeling when I saw that my posts could actually help people so I decided that I would just carry on writing. And I would love to say a big thank you to all my readers for supporting me!
Where do you see your blog going?
I have never been much of a planner but what I know at the moment is that I will carry on writing about my OCD. And at the same time, I am planning to write more about other things that can affect our mental health – especially about LGBT+ rights or Learning & Development as these are the topics I feel very passionate about.
Furthermore, I would love to have more guest posts on my blog as we’re all different and the OCD management techniques that work for me may not work for all my readers. So I really think it would be important to have other people sharing their personal experiences on my blog.
Describe what is OCD, how it is diagnosed.
What is OCD?
Well, it’s difficult to give a short answer to this question as I could literary write tens of pages about it. But in a nutshell, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a disorder in which people have recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas or sensations (obsessions) that make them feel driven to do something repetitively (compulsions).
A common example I can give to describe what obsessions and compulsions feel like is checking if the door’s locked. And by saying that, I do not mean that double-checking the front door means that you have OCD because it’s more than that.
Let’s take me as an example, I need to check my door locks several times a day. When I leave home, I will always need to check it 15 times. So, my checking habit is my compulsion and my obsession is that I think that if I do not check it enough times, something terrible will happen. And this terrible thing isn’t necessarily a burglar breaking into my home but it can also be a horrifying accident that happens to one of my loved ones. So there isn’t always a rational link between the obsession and the compulsion.
And in addition to the obsessions and the compulsions, there’s also the feeling of doubt and guilt. In the 19th century, OCD was known as the „doubting” disease because it can really make you doubt the most fundamental things in your life.
How Is It Diagnosed?
Only trained therapists can diagnose OCD – and I am not one, so I do not think I would be the best person to talk about the diagnostic process. However, I have found an article that I think could help those who’re interested in it:
When was it when you received your diagnosis?
Almost 10 years ago, when I was a senior in high school.
Are there medications to help with OCD?
Yes, there are. The reason why I do not normally write about this topic on my blog is that I am not a certified therapist so I do not think I have enough knowledge to talk about different OCD medications. Also, every country has their own regulations when it comes to medications as well as their own brand name – and I am based out of Hungary while I have readers from all over the planet.
However, what I know is that the medications that are approved in the US to treat OCD include Prozac, Zoloft and Anafranil.
Do you also suffer with depression?
No, I do not. But I know depression is one of the comorbidities that can overlap with OCD.
Do you have support [i.e. Psychiatrist, Group Therapy, Friends, and Family]?
I am a very extroverted person and I do have a lot of support from the people around me.
I think I am very lucky because my family, friends and co-workers have always been very supportive. They’re always there when I need someone to talk to and it really means a lot to me. Honestly, I do not know what I would do without them.
Do the citizens where you live understand what OCD is?
Now, this is a complex question. First of all, I can only speak from my own personal experience and I was born and raised in the city centre of Budapest, in a district that’s well-known for being open-minded and liberal – some people even refer to it as “the bubble”.
And secondly, according to statistics, Hungary has one of the highest overall rate of mental illness in the world with over 10% of the population experiencing depressive symptoms and about 4% suffering from OCD. What’s more, I recently came across an article which said that 1 out of 10 Hungarians has drinking problems.
The reason why I am telling you all this is just to illustrate that mental health issues are often talked about in our society. Again, I am not sure what it is like in other parts of the country, but I can tell you that in the capital, I haven’t really experienced any stigma or discrimination due to my mental health problems.
However, when it comes to OCD, I think most people do not really understand what it is – unless they’re suffering from it or have a friend or family member who has OCD. The older generations tend to think that it’s a form of depression and younger people who’re more likely to watch American TV shows have pretty much the same stereotype that I guess many of you are familiar with: that OCD is just about cleaning and orderliness.
What myths would you like to squash here in this interview? Go ahead take as much time as you need. People need to know these things.
That’s a very good question! There are a lot of myths I would like to squash. Might actually just give you a list!
- OCD isn’t just about cleaning or the love for symmetry
It’s a mental disorder that can turn one’s life into living hell (unless it’s properly managed, of course). While there are OCD sufferers who spend a crazy amount of time keeping things neat and organized, people with OCD can have obsessions related to a much wider variety of things including fear of harming others, unwanted sexual thoughts, fear of losing control or blasphemous thoughts.
2. You cannot be a “little OCD”
First of all, OCD is not an adjective and the letter “D” in it stands for Disorder. So saying that “you’re a little bit OCD” would be the same as if you were saying that “you’re a little flu”.
And while many people have intrusive thoughts or even obsessions that doesn’t necessarily mean that they have OCD. So if you think you have OCD-like symptoms, seek professional help to find out what’s going on. And if you’re just using the word “OCD” to describe your love for cleaning, there are plenty of words you could replace it with!
3. You can see when someone has OCD
If you met me in person, I am sure you would never figure out I had OCD. I’m outgoing, loud and I hate cleaning. So I guess I do not match the stereotype!
What advice would you give to someone who just received their diagnosis of OCD?
It will get better. Receiving a diagnosis is the first step to recovery.
This is what one of my friends said a few years ago when I felt that my OCD was going out of control. At that time, I thought it was just so cliché – like a typical thing people would tell you. But that friend of mine has OCD and she’s 10 years older than me so she really knew what she was saying.
And she was completely right. It has gotten better. Of course, it hasn’t been easy and I had to work a lot in order to learn how to keep my OCD under control – and I’m still working on it and I’m still learning.
OCD is like an evil monster that wants to make you believe that you cannot control your own life. But believe me, you can! It will not go away on its own and it’s you who needs to fight it and you’re strong enough to do it!
Last question, Where do you see yourself in maybe ten years?
As I mentioned earlier, I have never been much of a planner. I work as a Learning & Development specialist and I’m happy with my career and I think I’m pretty good at my job. My biggest dream has always been to become an author and I’m currently working on a novel that I’d like to publish. It’s about a guy whose life is ruined by OCD and alcoholism and about his journey to get his life back.
So, I guess I see myself working in the education field or if my dreams come true, as an author – I’m happy with either.
I hope that all who read this interview will take a few minutes and visit Overcoming OCD.
I would like to say “Thank You” to Mark for this interview!
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