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I wonder if the true culprit is EOCD for many of us...?

786 Views 8 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  KittyKitten
Hi, all.

Many of you know my recent trip to a psychologist didn't exactly go well. I explained my symptoms to her and she actually suggested I had some sort of amnesia (for the DP/DR) and repressed anger (for the violent intrusive thoughts I tend to get). I left feeling defeated and pretty darn upset. She obviously knew nothing about...psychology, which baffled me.

Since then, I've been reading up on CBT as a way to help with intrusive thoughts. I couldn't see myself in the book I was reading other than the violent intrusive thoughts, so I thought "hey, I'm going to email the psychologist who wrote this book and tell him everything to see if his book could still help." So I did. I told him that I have thoughts that everything around me isn't real, my family isn't real, who am I anyway?, why do humans look the way they do, I find it strange our thoughts work the way they do, that time works the way it does, do we remember things, how do I know things actually happened?, that we're all just walking brains and it's freaking me out, and that I also get violent thoughts sometimes, a fear that I'll just lose control one day and hurt my loved ones or myself in a moment of impulse or insanity. I basically told him I feel confused about everything and have a fear I'm going crazy: why would I think so deeply about these things? Why would I question my own reality?

He emailed me back a few days ago and said I was exhibiting common symptoms of something known as existential OCD, or EOCD. It's lesser known than other forms of OCD but involves things such as:

-questioning reality, what makes reality true. the fear that everything around you isn't real, that everything around you is made up in your head.

-questioning how common things work; questioning why we look the way we do or how our bodies and minds work. why are we here anyway? what's the point of all this?

-questioning how time works, why the sky looks the way it does, why languages exist and how we communicate as humans, etc

-looking in the mirror and wondering why you look the way you do and what makes you, you.

-etc, etc, etc. basically philosophical and existential questions about why things or beings are the way they are and the inability to prove everything/anything.

He told me that the best way to combat EOCD is through cognitive behavioral therapy, CBT, as you would any other type of OCD.

After he sent me the email and then also reading (and rereading) a lot of posts on here, I wonder if many of us have EOCD with DP/DR just as a side effect of constant anxiety due to the OCD. Maybe some other people have already come to this realization, but I thought it was worth sharing!

This could mean that many of us who actually do have EOCD rather than "just" DP/DR could be treated with cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy. I've been reading a lot on here these past few days people afraid to leave the house "in this state", exposure response therapy and CBT might be the right option for them.

This in no way is saying that there aren't people who genuinely have DPD without OCD, but I truly am starting to think that some of us have OCD (EOCD to be exact) rather than JUST dp/dr. The DP/DR is simply an after effect of all the thinking (IE: I keep having thoughts that everything around me looks weird, off and not it actually DOES look off, weird and unreal). (everywhere I've read DP/DR happens in times of severe, constant anxiety...and as someone who has had pretty extreme OCD for the past two years...the anxiety can be debilitating) And CBT might help with this, which in turn will help with the tendency to dissociate.

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Thanks and good luck!

I've been implementing CBT to any and all weird/existential and even DP/DR related thoughts I'm getting. The thought could be about anything "why does language exist? oh my god, now words look weird to me and what if I lose the ability to understand language? now I don't want to look at words because the thought makes me too anxious" or "how can I be sure everything around me is 100% real and not a figment of my imagination?". I just stop, realize it's just one of "those" thoughts again. You know it's an intrusive thought because of the "woosh" of fear you get with it.

The problem with CBT is that it isn't an easy or overnight thing. It's not like a medication where you literally don't have to do anything and the medication just starts working after a few weeks. With CBT, it's a constant day and night process that you have to do constantly. It's the process of changing your reaction to thoughts, no matter how weird, scary or existential they may be. I know for me, my DP/DR is almost always accompanied by thoughts. Yes, it's a feeling too. It's an unreal dream-like feeling. But there are always thoughts along with the feelings, "omg, this is horrible, I can't handle can I be sure everything around me is real? It doesn't feel real. I'm going to go nuts over this. I don't feel connected to anything. How can I be sure I'm even a real person? I don't recognize myself or anyone around me, dear god, this is awful, please help." So, it's not necessarily just a feeling, it's always a series of thoughts going along with the DP/DR...which I think is what's perpetuating the cycle and tendency to dissociate.
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I totally agree with all of you. OCD doesn't necessarily have an exact name. For example, the psychologist I contacted said I was exhibiting signs of EOCD (existential OCD), but I also deal with harm-OCD and Pure-OCD along with the existential stuff. I think you're right: OCD is OCD. It's just an intrusive thought of any kind and it can come along with other "forms" of OCD. I just found it interesting that the existential questioning was a form of OCD. I never thought of it as a form of OCD...just deep thinking as a result of the DP/DR. It could very well be a result of the DP/DR (as in, everything around me feels unreal, so now I'm questioning why things look or act the way they do). However, I've noticed that sometimes, my intrusive thoughts trigger the DP/DR (as in, "the world is kinda weird...what's the point of all this anyway?" and then suddenly, I get that out of body weird feeling.)

CBT is not easy at all, and I agree with you, Phantasm! They say to "observe your thoughts as a curious outsider and to be nonjudgmental", and that's fine...but some of my thoughts scare the living crap out of me and go against everything I believe to be "right" how the hell do I look at those thoughts in a nonjudgmental way? For example, if I get a violent thought, I automatically start assuming I'm a dangerous person who needs to be put into a criminal mental asylum. So, most of the time, it's not just a thought, it comes along with a feeling like my entire world, personality and morality has changed and "oh my god" this is horrible, keep me away from people, I don't know myself anymore. It's not easy and it takes a lot of mental discipline, but I'm working through it.

Thanks for the tips, Phantasm!
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I wonder if having EOCD also makes you feel like you're in a dream since we keep questioning reality and existence. And I wonder if OCD medication can help.
From all the research I've done (and I've done a lot of it...unfortunately, lol), it seems that depersonalization/derealization come as a result of anxiety. It's the human body's automatic "freeze" response. What I think is happening to me and probably many others on this site is that our intrusive thoughts, constant questioning, fear of the "what if's?" keep us in this frozen state. I could be totally wrong, but it seems like the vast majority of people on this site don't just have DP/DR. They talk a lot about intrusive thoughts, existential fears and they have a deep fear of this "frozen state", which is what's perpetuating the cycle. I know for me, when I'm feeling especially "unreal", the intrusive thoughts start popping up:

oh my god, this is horrible. what if everything around me isn't real? how can i be for sure it's not just a figment of my imagination? What is the world anyway? I don't recognize people around me, maybe I'm going crazy?

From what I know about intrusive thoughts, they can come in all forms and varieties. Hell, there are even people who have pedophile intrusive thoughts (it's basically like harm-OCD, but the person has disturbing thoughts that scare them about harming children and a deep fear that they are a pedophile.) OCD also does not have to involve compulsions. I have a few compulsions. When I'm feeling especially unreal and detached, I count out to four on my fingers. Why? I'm not sure, I guess it's just a way to remind myself that I'm still me and in control. I also pull my hair almost constantly. But if you don't have compulsions, you could just have Pure-O, which means it's just purely obessive thinking.

OCD is often treated with CBT, exposure therapy and medication. They mostly give people with OCD SSRIs, which are antidepressants like Prozac, Paxil, etc. For me, the only thing that's helped me in the past with my OCD was inositol (which is a pseudovitamin). It's been shown to help more for OCD than many antidepressants. I was taking high doses of inositol (18 grams) for about 9 months before the effects wore off for one reason or another. I haven't taken it for 6 weeks now and I just started re-taking it again today to see if it helps with this existential crap and other intrusive thoughts I've been getting lately.

It might be something to look into for yourself? Inositol is also used to help with hormonal imbalances in women, anxiety, panic attacks and social anxiety. If not, CBT might be something to look into? CBT basically teaches you how to look at your thoughts as just that: thoughts. We are not our thoughts. It goes for people who think "nothing around me feels real". Just because you think everything around you isn't real doesn't make it a fact; it's just a thought that you're having and nothing more.
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