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88: Overcoming OCD: A Therapist’s Perspective on Parenting with Michele Bernal

We are joined by our lead OCD therapist, Michele Bernal, to talk about overcoming OCD and the common mistakes parents make in treating OCD.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is one of the mental health disorders that significantly affects all aspects of an individual's life and infiltrates their thoughts, emotions, relationships, and daily routines. As such, it hampers their ability to function at their best.

For today’s episode, we are joined by our lead OCD therapist, Michele Bernal, to talk about overcoming OCD and the common mistakes parents make in treating OCD.

What is OCD?

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a fear-based behavior which parents often miss out on because the symptoms are not always behavioral changes but they could also be mental rituals. Sometimes, it starts with obsessive or compulsive thinking as intrusive thoughts.

These children have a ritual of avoiding some fears from happening. OCD thoughts can be scary and dark, especially for children dealing with such thoughts. And so, they don’t want to express their thoughts out loud.

Typically, the physical symptoms that we notice are constant hand washing or turning on and off a light. On the other hand, mental compulsions can be in the form of seeking constant reassurance, being avoidant, or needing things to be done in a certain way.

Misdiagnosis of OCD in children.

The sad truth is that OCD is often misdiagnosed. Anxiety, depression and ADHD are usually the top diagnoses declared by doctors instead of OCD because they’re seeing all these behaviors and don't understand what are the reasons behind them.

It must be noted, however, that OCD can occur at the same time with autism, ADHD, anxiety and others; it doesn’t necessarily have to be one or the other.

Because their intrusive thoughts overwhelm them, their brain gets in a distressed state. All thanks to QEEG brain maps, we’re able to see the brain activity and identify the areas which are over and under stimulated.

Many of our clients have told us that they’ve already gone to a lot of therapists and done a lot of treatments before coming to us for consultation and/or treatment. And what I've learned about people is that sometimes, people get stuck in the insanity of doing the thing that isn't working because they want to believe that it’s working or that it will work out.

And of course, if your child’s OCD is misdiagnosed, it also follows that the treatment is also not appropriate for your child. For example, although there are similarities between anxiety and OCD, the treatment for OCD may not work well with treating anxiety and the other way around.

Talking back to OCD.

We often teach people mindfulness based skills to regulate oneself and to stabilize your emotions because when you have OCD, you have to learn how to talk back to it. As parents, we should teach our kids how to not accommodate OCD because we’re just worsening the situation as it is if we continue doing that.

Kids can easily be upset or distressed and naturally, parents would feel trapped in participating in the rituals that their kids do resulting in the accommodation of OCD. We play into it because we're parents and we don't understand the importance of putting a stop in all of these.

If we don’t talk back to OCD, it’s going to take charge and hijack the whole family system. When people work with us, it's with the family, not just with the kid. In fact, we do exposure response prevention and we conduct this usually with siblings because they tend to get involved naturally.

How can we help people with OCD?

It’s so easy to accommodate OCD and most parents probably don’t know that they’re already doing that. For them, they’re just helping their kid deal with OCD or at least lessen the struggles of their kid. But in reality, they’re just reinforcing OCD.

And so, what we need to do is provide them with the necessary tools and resources. Help them understand the difference between their own brain and the OCD brain.

It also helps to create a window of tolerance or to provide a time limit for their rituals to gradually break the OCD cycle. It’s also important to address the underlying root causes and other infections and toxins at the same time.

As we’ve mentioned, we also do ERP and we practice with all these tools and resources to help parents build up their skills and to empower them to support their kids. It’s been very transformative for the children as they learn how to manage their thoughts and behaviors. That is why we encourage our clients to engage in ERP.

Like what we always say, the change that we want to achieve is not going to happen overnight. It’s going to take a lot of time, effort and commitment and that’s one of the most common mistakes that people have when it comes to OCD treatment. They immediately give up when they don’t immediately see any changes.

Calming the brain greatly helps people in overcoming OCD. In fact, we found out that people couldn’t do ERP with the same accessibility and success if they’re not calming their brain. What we do then is to bring down the inflammation and pair that with ERP. Although it is initially challenging, the progress and results we get are satisfying.

Having a great support system along the way makes the journey more bearable and so we encourage to have these treatments done as a family. Everybody has to be on board as the people who have the most success are all open and willing themselves to make a shift.

For those who are interested in joining our program, you can visit us through this link: https://drroseann.com/help

Links and Resources:

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147 Therapist-Endorsed

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147 therapist endorsed self-regulation strategies for children a practical guide for parents
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