Archive for July 18, 2011

What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder effecting about 2% of men.  It’s characteristics are repeated and uncontrollable ‘obsessions’, which are intrusive thoughts that are not consistent with the man’s values, and ‘compulsions’, which are behaviours or thinking patterns that people use to neutralise the impact of the compulsive thought.

Examples of Obsessions include:

  • Thoughts that things are unclean or contaminated.
  • Thoughts of having sex with your mother or other inappropriate people.
  • Imagining your children being hurt by a stranger.
  • Thinking ‘gay thoughts’ even though you are straight.
  • Thinking you have knocked someone down in the car.

Examples of Compulsions include:

  • Repeated washing.
  • Repeated checking.
  • Doing things in even or odd multiples.
  • Performing rituals.
  • Excessive prayer.
  • Excessive hoarding.

Of course OCD is just an extreme form of what we all are capable of doing.  We are all familiar with the idea of setting off for the airport and getting anxious about whether we have locked the door or turned the gas off.  In OCD though, this feeling permeates all areas of the person’s life, and can be deeply disabling.  People can be in an anxiety state almost all the time.

We all tend to experience anxiety in different ways.  If you tend to experience anxiety with obsessions and/or compulsions, what can be done about it?

Well understanding your difficulty is a start.  You can get detailed information about OCD and hoarding at

Treatment from a psychotherapist involves understanding what triggers your obsessions and compulsions, and learning new patterns of behaviour which means you can tolerate intrusive thoughts more easily, and are therefore less likely to get caught up in them and indulge in neutralising compulsions.  Understanding your OCD is important because it will not go away on its own, and may well get worse.

Drug treatments are also available for OCD which may suit some people.  Drug treatment should be combined with psychotherapy to get the best results.

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Feckless Fathers … the Reality

I’ve watched with concern over the past year as a new phrase has emerged in the cultural zeitgeist … the “feckless father”. As a term, of course, it’s surely one of abuse. What man would welcome being described as “feckless”? But I detect a cultural double standard in the way it is used.

Of course we should all be concerned about children raised without a father. Such children are more likely to fail at school, engage in criminality, be the victims of sexual abuse, and even join gangs. There is a time bomb of fatherless children that is not only devastating for them, but also on the future of our society. Kids need their fathers.

By using the term “feckless fathers”, there is a very clear line being drawn. Fatherless children are created by the moral irresponsibility of men. Deciding to have and raise a child, however, is a decision of the woman. Feminism has long argued, correctly, for the “right to choose”: a woman’s right to control her own fertility. If a woman “chooses” to have eight children with eight different men, and discourage contact between the children and the father, is it not the woman who is being “feckless”?

Women can’t have it both ways. If they exercise the “right to choose”, and bring a child into either no relationship, or unstable one, they can’t then blame the man for not being there. My point is simple: the debate about “feckless fathers” focuses on the moral culpability of absent fathers, and does not pay sufficient attention to the moral culpability of single mothers.

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The National Lottery As a Psychological ‘Escape Route’.

When I was in my 20s I fell seriously ill. Suddenly and unexpectedly I was rendered bedbound for months and unable to work for considerably longer. My world had stopped turning up on its axis, and I was fearful I would lose my job and my home.

One of the ways I coped with these events was to play the National Lottery. I had a “magic number bowl”, from which I chose the numbers each week, and an elaborate list of spending plans should I win. I even traded with God to give a proportion of my winnings to charity should He intervene on my behalf!

Of course I was very ill and very vulnerable. I quickly realised, though, that playing the lottery was only compounding my difficulties. The spending of the millions in my imagination wasted my time, and I found the weekly disappointment more than I could bear at an already difficult time. I had, however, gained an insight into the National Lottery as an “escape route”.

In therapy, we often talk about three psychological “escape routes” people think about taking. The first is to go mad. The second is to kill someone. The third is to kill oneself. The thing that unites these three areas with the National Lottery is they all become an increasingly cumbersome fantasy about how, if we simply went mad/killed someone/killed myself/won the lottery … all our problems would go away. Life is never this straightforward. Besides, the fantasy itself often becomes the problem.

The person for whom I saw this most completely was a young man who was on benefits and worked as a male escort to significantly boost his income. He spent all the money he earned on the National Lottery, often hundreds of pounds a week. He did this despite living in a flat with no carpets, and little by way of furniture. For this man, the fantasy of the millionaire lifestyle had completely taken over his life. Instead of equipping himself to compete effectively in the real world, he spent his time selling sex and buying lottery tickets to support his fantasy world.

Of course we can all view the absurdity of this man’s choices. In extremis the National Lottery fantasy obscures and suffocates life, it doesn’t enhance it. However much time you invest in the National Lottery big win fantasy, my challenge to you is that it does the same to your life as it did to this man’s. It ultimately serves as a psychological escape route, and stops you from dealing with the reality of your life more effectively.

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