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Obsessive compulsive disorder affects millions

November 22, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
For more than 2 million people in the U.S., having obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD, is a fact of life. Worse, it's a condition that can be triggered at any age.Stacking dishes is a 10-minute chore, but just 11 years ago it would've taken Ed Zyne all day. In the late 1990s, Ed spent three years alone in his basement, in hell, suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder.

"Walking to the bathroom, I might have been 5 feet across from downstairs where I used to live. That became a 7-and-a-half- to 10-hour trek just to do that," said Ed.

Ed's mother died from cancer in 1982, and an aunt and uncle followed a few years later.

"There's an interesting study that showed that the thoughts that people with OCD have are exactly the same as the thoughts that rest of us have," said Dr. Stephen P. Whiteside, Mayo Clinic.

The normal thoughts in Ed's brain grew too severe for him to control, common in patients with obsessive compulsive disorder. Ed dealt with hoarding, a mental disease in which he refused to throw out trash. But the quest for total control culminated by the way he used to move through the house, walking the same way backward as he did forward.

"I'd have to step back exactly, perfectly, fluidly, flowing the way my arms were held and hands were held, backwards, if I were to walk to the bathroom," said Ed.

Stressful life events are the top risk factor for OCD, along with genetics and, amazingly, pregnancy. Complications include depression, anxiety and inability to leave home, which Ed didn't.

"What it does is it takes away from how you feel as a human being inside, your worth, your value," said Ed.

Doctors gave Ed numerous medications and cognitive behavior therapy, but the only thing that helped cure him was his fear of dishonoring family and friends. So after three years, Ed simply faced his fears and left his basement. His doctors had never seen anything like it. After, he and his doctors helped write a book for others.

Ed got married and had a family.

"I understand logically you can't control things. Control is an illusion," said Ed.

Doctors say there is no surefire cure for obsessive compulsive disorder. Ed still falls back to old habits occasionally, counting and checking. Still, losing control of the need to control was a godsend for him.


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