Anxiety disorders can take over your life
Posted By MICHAEL PEELING MPEELING@STANDARD-FREEHOLDER.COM
Updated 1 day ago
Jason was an average kid until he was 14, when he became obsessive about nearly everything he does.
He believes the idea he has what would later be diagnosed as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) came to him one day in high school when he was putting his books in a locker, but something didn't feel right.
Jason repeated the process of storing his books numerous times.
"It wasn't feeling right to me," he told a documentary camera crew. "It needs to feel right."
But at some point, Jason stopped and asked himself a question: "Why do I have to this?"
That question started him on the path to diagnosis and treatment, a path he still walks today in his early 20s.
Jason's story was just one of three examples Angele D'Alessio, a mental health promoter for the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), used to prompt discussion among a room full of mental health professionals and support agencies for children during a presentation on youth anxiety disorders.
It's one of several events organized by the Cornwall Community Police Service this week for a symposium on youth issues in the area.
Participants were curious to know what would cause Jason's OCD, but D'Alessio said there is no straightforward answer.
"It could be genetic, environm e nt a l factors, a chemical imbalance or a collection of these things," she said.
When he was interviewed for the first time, Jason said he slept in his clothes because putting on clothes in the morning can be a time-consuming, exhausting process.
In explaining his obsessive approach to putting on clothes, one of Jason's chief coping mechanisms shined through: his sense of humour.
"I slept in my clothes because I knew you guys were coming this morning and I didn't want you to see me in my boxer shorts," Jason said. "You have to pay for that. If you did, then you'd only see me for my body."
Jason's humour quickly disappeared as he tried to get through a necessary part of his routine for getting out of bed.
He feels he must count a series of 300 images backwards in his head. If Jason forgets one image, he starts again until he gets the series right.
Even baking cookies with his mother is a source of extreme anxiety.
Jason doesn't see her wash her hands, although she does, before handling the dough, setting off his fear of contamination.
"Don't don't don't," he pleads as she rolls the cookies onto a sheet, unfazed.
"How do you expect us to make the cookies then?" she responds.
"I'll use a rolling pin," he explains. "I'll make one giant cookie without touching it."
Jason tells the documentarians he had the grades and plans to be a surgeon, but his OCD is "almost completely debilitating."
Unlike Jason, Marley and Alannah have had success getting treatment.
Marley, 11, started with extreme anxiety over being separated from her mother, but that was the just the first in a long list of worries that developed to include anxiety over tests, marks, clothing, her walk and many more.
She would begin crying in the morning as soon as she was told it was a school day.
"She didn't know when to shut it off," said Marley's mother. "The volume was too high. She needed help to shut it down."
Despite her fear of needing a doctor's help, Marley told her parents that's what she would need.
A doctor has since taught her coping mechanisms to deal with her feelings of anxiety.
Fifteen-year-old Alannah's fear of death would cause her to burst into tears at the sight and sound of an ambulance.
"I wouldn't let my family out of my sight," she said. "My dad wanted to go on a golf trip, but it didn't happen."
Alannah's worst fear was realized when her older brother, Chris, died from a brain tumour, but the coping mechanisms she was taught helped her deal with the grief.
"I woke up feeling like I couldn't breath and I started crying," she said. "When I stopped crying, I didn't cry again until the funeral, which is healthy."
Alannah was prescribed medication, but found the antidepressants and attention deficit disorder pills only made her feel worse.
"I wasn't suicidal until I took those meds," she said.
Alannah found simple exercises such as writing down five good things that happened in a day, every day.
She also has a technique called "Get Real" thinking that mirrors the idea of "thought-stopping" discussed by D'Allessio, a process which can involve a person yelling "Stop" to quell negative, anxious thoughts and consciously exchanging them for peaceful thoughts.
For more information about youth anxiety disorders, visit www.cmha-east.on.ca
Article ID# 2477927