Please Explain: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Friday, June 29, 2012

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterized by anxiety and unreasonable thoughts and fears that lead to repetitive behaviors. Trying to ignore or stop these thoughts often only increases distress and anxiety, and people who suffer from OCD  feel driven to perform compulsive acts to reduce or ease feelings of stress and anxiety. Dr. Helen Blair Simpson, Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center and the Director of the Anxiety Disorders Clinic at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, and Dr. Tamar Chansky, Founder and Director of the Children’s Center for OCD and Anxiety in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, join us to explain symptoms, treatment, and how to cope with the disorder. Dr. Chansky is the author of Freeing Your Child from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.


Dr. Tamar Chansky and Dr. Helen Blair Simpson

Comments [23]

Janet from Bergen County, NJ

I listened in wonderment to this show, as did my husband, and understood for the first time what is going on with my brain. I have OCD and have found ironing, housework, cooking and yard work soothing activities. A month ago, I described my worrying thoughts to my psychiatrist and he said I have "intrusive thoughts." Then I heard your broadcast and it all made sense. I believe I have a genetic predisposition for OCD (my brother had schizophrenia) and a traumatic early childhood triggered the symptoms. During my parents bitter breakup when I was 4, my father kidnapped me from in front of my mother's house to get back at her. In his teens, my brother had a psychotic break following a gun accident where he nearly died. He had severe schizophrenia for the rest of his life. I was a big drinker in my teens, 20s and 30s and stopped drinking at age 37. I thought I was coping well when I put down the drink, but tended to be plagued with worry and anxiety that could only be soothed by adhering to a strict housework schedule. I had a hard time having fun. After several stressful events in a row, I became clinically depressed last year, had no energy or interest in doing my soothing activities and developed suicidal thoughts which wouldn't go away. I was hospitalized 3 times last year and went through 2 outpatient programs before I received ECT inpatient which I continue to get once a month outpatient for the rest of the year. I also take 30 mgs of Paxil and feel great now. However, I am printing out the information on Leonard's website and giving it to all my behavioral health providers. I hope they listen too!!!

Jul. 04 2012 05:25 PM

The differences between OCD and OCPD are explained nicely here:

Jul. 02 2012 12:27 PM
jt from westchester

As mentioned by a few other listeners, I am surprised, confused and disappointed as to why such noted authorities did not differentiate between OCD and OCPD. What a disservice to the public at large. Please ask them back and have a separate show.

Jun. 30 2012 08:22 PM
Francisco from LA

Great insightful show. I've been personally dealing with anxiety for a long time and this was highly educational. Thank you.

Jun. 29 2012 02:36 PM
John A

something to read:

Jun. 29 2012 02:02 PM
The Truth from Becky

Really Leonard? Do you really want to cut off a person who has "intrusive thoughts while listening to music?"....brave....rude but brave.

Jun. 29 2012 01:58 PM
Elisabeth Waltuch


Jun. 29 2012 01:53 PM

Please mention PANDAS (pediatric auto-immune disorder associated with strep)

Jun. 29 2012 01:52 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Is OCD more common in some population groups than in others, & could this account for some cultural characteristics?

Jun. 29 2012 01:52 PM
John A

LOL that choice of Radio Commercial. "WNYC, you just can't turn it off." (parody)

Jun. 29 2012 01:51 PM
Allison from Princeton

My son is 20 years and suffers from OCD. This disorder is a monster and takes over your life. He has had the best treatment available, yet is not able to participate fully in school or family life or with friends. Fear rules his behavior, and the result is rituals, isolation and sadness.

Jun. 29 2012 01:51 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Is OCD at all a matter of degree? Some of the behavior & thought patterns could be useful at a "lower setting," like helping someone concentrate or develop good habits. For example, hand washing at more reasonable intervals is a good thing.

Jun. 29 2012 01:50 PM
Anonymous from New York, New York

I would be interested to hear what your guests thoughts are about the effectiveness of meditation and yoga in reducing symptoms--as long as these practices are combined with therapy or other treatments.

Jun. 29 2012 01:49 PM
Elisabeth Waltuch


Jun. 29 2012 01:47 PM

I have identical twin boys, ages 11, one recently developed symptoms of ocd, the other did not. we did not think this was in the family.

Jun. 29 2012 01:46 PM
Peter from Washington Heights

My husband has OCD and he's 50 years old. He can't shut his brain off at night to sleep and never sleeps well. He just keeps turning things over and over in his head.

Is there anyway to help him?

Jun. 29 2012 01:44 PM
Carole from Brooklyn

I began having compulsive thoughts after the birth of my daughter. Is there a connection between post-partum depression and OCD?

Jun. 29 2012 01:43 PM
Larry from Williamsburg

As a neuroscientist, I have to say that that was one of the best descriptions of genetic & environmental interaction for psychiatric disorders that I have ever heard on this show. Thanks also for stating that knowing what areas of the brain are involved does not explain cause.

Jun. 29 2012 01:39 PM
Gary from Port Washington

I know some people who have OCD and ADHD. Are these behaviors on a spectrum? What are the regions of the brains involved and what imbalances in brain chemicals are involved. They say the region that control fear are involved IN OCD and I have heard that the repetitive behavior occurs because the process of the action is not completed in the brain so they keep doing it. thanks.

Jun. 29 2012 01:37 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

I have two questions for your guests:

1> Does trauma at an early age contribute to OCD?

2> Have either of them seen the TV show "Monk," about an extremely obssessive "defective" detective? :)

Jun. 29 2012 01:37 PM

Leonard, please ask your guests how they respond to the notion that excessive drinking of alcohol is not a disease--though it can cause disease--but is rather a compulsive behavior.

Thank you

Jun. 29 2012 01:33 PM
foodaggro from Brooklyn

Would Dr. Chansky describe OCD-induced behavior as mostly self-destructive, or beneficial (in terms of say, double checking the locks at night)? Also, is there any way to "cure" OCD without the help of drugs?

Jun. 29 2012 01:29 PM
B from bushwick

I have heard that some small children exhibit symptoms, but that attempting to treat them can worsen the situation. Instead, I have heard it is better to allow the child to work it out on their own. Can you speak to this?

Jun. 29 2012 01:29 PM

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