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Scary Thoughts as Costumes: The Illusion of Danger

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It’s nearly Halloween, and kids around the country are digging through dusty closets and plundering the aisles of local Halloween shops in search of the perfect costume. Halloween is the one night of the year when we give ourselves permission to be silly, scary, or fantastical. We can act a little weird, and nobody will disapprove. On Halloween, it’s normal to see the ghastly holding hands with the divine; fairy princesses walk amongst zombies, lions, and super heroes. There is something thrilling about handing over the reins to your imagination…even if it’s only for a single night. But what would happen if the masks got stuck? What if every goblin remained a goblin and every ghost remained a ghost? The children underneath the make-up would still be our children, but their appearance would remain altered. How would we feel...

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Postpartum OCD – Fear of Harming Your Baby

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Parents brace themselves for many changes when a new baby comes home. As new routines replace old, life quickly becomes a confusing jumble of cherished memories, bottles, and dirty diapers. Parenting can be joyful, but it can also be terrifying. Parenting comes with many important responsibilities, and it can be intimidating–if not downright frightening–to be responsible for protecting and caring for a vulnerable new life. What is Postpartum OCD (ppOCD)? For some parents (mothers and fathers alike), new parenthood may spark postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a surprisingly common anxiety disorder that is associated with violent and disturbing thoughts, images, or urges (Fairbrother & Abramowitz, 2007). Symptoms may begin suddenly after the new baby arrives home, or pre-existing OCD symptoms may be exacerbated by new parental responsibilities. Postpartum OCD symptoms can involve virtually any type of OCD symptom, but harm obsessions...

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HOCD: Homosexual OCD & Sexual Orientation OCD

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Fear of Being Gay (Homosexual OCD / HOCD) Emerging sexuality can be confusing for any teen or young adult, and gay teens face a variety of unique challenges over the course of adolescence. In addition to learning to understand their own sexuality, gay teens must navigate complex situations and pressures that may not be relevant for straight teens. They must also deal with opinionated parents, friends, and others who sometimes hold differing views about sexuality. Anxiety, distress, and confusion are often part of this process. This post is not about the anxiety associated with being gay or with “coming out” but instead discusses homosexual OCD (“HOCD”), an anxiety disorder that affects a small number of individuals. HOCD is not unique to teens but can occur at any age. What is HOCD? Homosexual OCD (“HOCD”) is a specific subtype of...

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Sexual Obsessions in OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)

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Sexual obsessions in OCD are recurrent unwanted sexual thoughts, such as the fear of being attracted to something unwanted, taboo, or morally “unacceptable” based on one’s particular worldview.  Although all forms of OCD can be debilitating, sexual obsessions can be especially confusing and disabling for sufferers because sexual obsessions target one’s fundamental identity as a social being. In addition to anxiety, which characterizes most obsessions, individuals with sexual obsessions often experience extreme guilt, shame, hopelessness, and depression.  Individuals with OCD with sexual symptoms often mistakenly consider themselves deviant, disgusting, or evil. Moreover, incorrect assumptions about the true causes of their unwanted sexual thoughts make them less likely to seek treatment or to share their symptoms with others.  In my Palm Beach County, South Florida psychological practice, I treat many individuals who have lived with sexual obsessions for many years...

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