hasnít circled back around the block to check that the door was
locked or that the curling iron was turned off?
But checking and
rechecking a dozen times? A hundred times? Thatís the stuff of
obsessive-compulsive disorder, a behavioral health problem that
severely affects peopleís relationships and work lives.
Some people are
overly afraid of dirt, germs and contamination ó thatís the
obsession. If they have to borrow someoneís pen or use a public
restroom, they might go home and wash their hands over and over until
they bleed ó thatís the compulsion.
36, is among the 40 percent of people with OCD whose anxiety centers
on issues of cleanliness. Her symptoms began when she was about 9
years old and became more noticeable around the age of 15.
school, I remember not being able to get out of the shower at times
because I felt like I could not get the soap off me, and yet at the
same time I felt like I was still contaminated," she recalls.
Young, who lives
in North Carolina, has been unable to work since 2010, when her work
environment became too anxiety-producing. Her job involved working in
different cubicles; every day for seven years there, she would spend
as much as an hour disinfecting her workspace each time she moved to a
She holds a peer
support license and would like to help others who have OCD.
An estimated one
in 40 adults has OCD, oftentimes starting at about age 20 when
college, work or family responsibilities create more stress.
People with OCD
donít want to think all the time about their obsessions, but they
cannot let go of their thoughts. Itís like that old line "Donít
think about elephants" run amok.
too much about their thinking, and put too much importance on every
thought that crosses their mind," says Brad Riemann, director of
the OCD Center at Rogers Memorial Hospital in Oconomowoc.
treatment last year at Rogers after a difficult, 10-year journey to
At age 25, Young
began taking antidepressants for her OCD and searching for a
residential program that was covered by her insurance plan.
she arrived at Rogers from Ohio, where she lived at the time, she knew
within an hour that she was not ready to enter treatment. The next
time she tried to get started at Rogers, she lasted about 24 hours. A
third time, she was at Rogers for a week. Eventually, she was able to
handle three weeks at another facility and learned some coping skills.
returned to Rogers for three weeks in March 2013 and another 6-Ĺweeks
starting that June. She continues to work with a therapist in North
experience illustrates the seriousness of OCD. Some people have
obsessive thoughts centered on the fear of harm or danger, sin or
religious guilt, or the need for symmetry and perfection. Or, people
can become hoarders if they fear the loss of something of value.
"There is absolutely nothing about OCD that is funny," says
Riemann. "People with OCD say, ĎHelp me stop.í"
What Causes OCD?
no question itís a brain disorder. Most experts believe thereís
some kind of neuro-biological problem at its root," says Riemann.
"Obsessions are part of the human condition. We all have those.
But why somebody gets so many and it creates interference (in daily
life), thatís the million-dollar question."
a full continuum of outpatient and inpatient services, including a
28-bed residential program at a new facility in the village of Summit.
Its child and adolescent residential programs are the only ones of
their type in the United States. Yes, kids can have OCD, too ó an
estimated one in 200 children are afflicted.
are designed to help people bring their symptoms under control.
Generally speaking, the word "cure" isnít used in regard
to mental health issues.
that lack behavioral health care, OCD patients usually are prescribed
antidepressants by their primary physician and enjoy partial relief
from their symptoms.
successful approach begins with exposure and ritual prevention
therapy, Riemann says, before adding medications.
In ERP, patients
use a 0-to-7 scale to rate their anxiety in very specific situations.
For instance, touching a doorknob in the therapistís office likely
would rank as less stressful than touching one in a high-traffic
building like Miller Park. Exercises are developed to reduce the
is for people to do the 3s over and over and over again, successfully,
and those 3s become zeros," explains Riemann. "Everything
kind of shifts down the list. Itís challenging the manageable stuff
along the way."
Rogers, Young says her OCD "has become more manageable, but it is
not gone." Every day, she has to use the strategies she learned
in ERP and other therapy to maintain her recovery.
On a typical
day, 80 to 90 people on Rogersí campus are receiving care for OCD.
Thatís about twice the number of any other center in the world.
Rogers plans to open 10 regional treatment centers nationwide during
the next five years, starting in Tampa, Fla. (Overall, Rogers treats
10,000 patients a year with a variety of behavioral health issues.)
got to do something about getting treatment to people across the
country," says Riemann. "Not everyone can come to