Treating Hoarding Disorder with Compassion

This past weekend I attended the International OCD Foundation’s Online Hoarding Disorder Conference. I was truly inspired to advocate for those who have Hoarding Disorder (HD) and their families. I walked away with a deeper understanding of the people who struggle with hoarding and how to support them. People living with Hoarding Disorder tend to have trouble with discarding items that leads to an overabundance of possessions. Often the high volume of possessions causes significant impact in a person’s living arrangement and daily life.

Over the course of the conference, I noticed a recurring theme that often prevents folks from seeking appropriate treatment. Hoarding Disorder, like many other disorders, carries significant stigma. There is difficulty accessing services for HD due to shame and isolation. When we think about taking steps towards healing, we must be intentional and create a space where people feel understood. Psychoeducation about HD can assist folks and families to gain insight into the disorder.

We want to approach this work with curiosity and compassion. For example, when we observe the possessions of a person, we want to try to recognize the importance of the memories that the items represent. This highlights the value of connection for this person. Additionally, people keep items with the hope of creating projects which illustrates the imagination and dreams of a person. There are many misconceptions about people with HD and it is critical to remember that this is a complex experience that occurs due to a variety of vulnerabilities and causes. So for me, the emphasis on empathy and complexity of the disorder was a tremendous take away. When we can reframe our perspective and look through the lens of compassion, we can disrupt shame which allows people to seek help.

As an important reminder, we can never go wrong with incorporating compassion and a willingness to understand when working with others! I’m looking forward to continuing to support people with HD and their families. I highly recommend looking into resources through the IOCDF to learn more about Hoarding Disorder. ~Emily

Harm OCD and the Many Misconceptions About this Disorder

Harm OCD is a subtype of OCD that presents as thoughts or images that enter a person’s mind about harming themselves or others, some might call these thoughts intrusive. These unwanted thoughts cause significant distress to the individual. Harm OCD creates fear/worry that the content of these thoughts means something about who they are as a person. Often individuals who have this subtype of OCD are reluctant to seek treatment or disclose the nature of their obsessions due to guilt, shame, and fear of what others might do in response to the content of their thoughts. What we do know is that the content of the obsession does not mean anything about a person and that a person with Harm OCD is not actually dangerous. There are many misconceptions about OCD. We recently discussed this issue on our podcast about a NY Post article that provided inaccurate information about individuals with OCD. ~Shannon


How to Get Out of a Rut?

Recently I posted a YouTube video talking about ruts and routines. This post is a follow-up to that. Sometimes its hard to recognize when we are in a rut because maybe it used to be part of a routine we had. Let’s say we like to watch tv in the evening after work or before, but now all we do is watch tv in the evening, this starts to sound like a rut to me. I also like to think about values when I’m talking about routines and getting out of ruts. Take a few minutes and think about what’s really important to you, how do you want to be living your life. This exercise is part of Acceptance & Commitment Therapy or ACT. Write down at least 5 things that you value and think about how your routine in daily life are serving you. Are they getting you closer to these 5 values? I like to think about concert examples of ways to get closer to our values and write those down as well. For example, one of my values is creativity. If I’m watching tv all evening every evening I’m probably stuck in a bit of a rut and not living according to this value of creativity at all. So what I might do is think about ways to do that like spend time doodling/drawing before I watch television, take a pottery class, practice watercolor, or go to art supply store and look at art supplies to inspire me. This is just one way to get out of a rut. Hope this helps. ~Shannon

Lessons Learned in Therapy

Hi! It’s Emily! I’ve thought a lot about therapy and how it can elevate our lives. It has definitely helped me in my own life. Therapy can be used to work through specific events or disorders, but it can also shift our perspectives on life.

Part of being a human is experiencing the full spectrum of emotions in this life, even the painful ones. What tends to bring most people to therapy is the avoidance of some of our most uncomfortable feelings. We have all done it. The more we run, the more these feelings follow. Before we know it, we are on a never-ending rollercoaster ride that we did not sign up for. This can feel incredibly draining.

When we allow ourselves the space to feel it all, our experience is enriched. We can truly appreciate our joy when we’ve had to sit in our own darkness to find it. It can feel difficult and downright terrifying to feel all of our feelings, especially the distressing ones. But when we accept and allow what comes up, we change our lives for the better.

One of the most important components of therapy is the ability to acknowledge and welcome feelings. Whether we are applying Exposure Response Prevention Therapy or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, you will learn how to make space for all of your feelings and emotions. Although the journey to get to the point of acceptance can be hard, what lies beyond it is.

YouTube and Other Social Media

Hi! It’s Shannon! Making a YouTube channel has been a really challenging experience.  Let’s talk a minute about exposure…I have social anxiety and OCD, so putting myself out there online, public speaking or being around new groups of people is difficult. In the past I might’ve  shied away from a video or any type of recording due to the feelings of fear, shame, and  embarrassment I experience. I’ve been challenging myself with exposures in this area for quite  sometime now and honestly I haven’t noticed a huge change until recently. I think its because I’ve been able to really engage this fear by making YouTube videos. I’ve posted more  frequently and allow myself to make mistakes and feel whatever shows up with that. I still hate  watching or listening to myself. Every once in a while I’ll feel like that doesn’t sound too bad or  I’ll think I’m getting better at this. Never did I think that as a therapist I’d become a social  media expert or YouTube aficionado. I laugh as I say this because neither is true, but I’m  learning and becoming less self-conscious. Check out these YouTube videos on the channel at  The Anxiety & OCD Treatment of Central Pennsylvania and our podcast Finding the Thing on  Spotify.