Hormones and OCD
Abnormal hormone levels may play a role in triggering or worsening OCD. Women with OCD tend to experience worse symptoms during premenstrual periods, when estrogen levels are highest. Estrogen is known to promote anxiety and other feelings that may exacerbate OCD.
This week I have sought help from my doctors, again. I don’t like to feel stuck, and right now I am stuck. I am very proactive in my medical care and my brain works like an engineer trying to solve a problem. There must be a solution and I WILL find it!
Earworm of the day: It’s got what it takes / So tell me why can’t this be love? / Straight from my heart / Oh, tell me why can’t this be love? It’s got what it takes / So tell me why can’t this be love? / Straight from my heart / Oh, tell me why can’t this be love? “Why can’t this be love” by Van Halen.
I woke at 5am with those song lyrics already repeating in my head, relentlessly. As I lay there I ponder the possibilities – should I try deep breathing relaxation? Or perhaps reading? Maybe I will try to go back to sleep. I want to eat but I am gagging. These options left me feeling restless so I picked up the computer and here I sit, again.
When I write, I feel as though I am doing something constructive. I am not sure if writing about obsession is the right move. The OCD always leaves me second-guessing. I wonder writing will help get the thoughts out of my head, or just reinforce their hold on me? I am so tired of this shit.
I had a tiring week consisting of several doctor appointments. I talked with my therapist about intrusive thoughts that were causing extreme anxiety, in the hope that the anxiety would ease; it didn’t. He recommends mindfulness and sometimes we practice it together. I am also reading a book on OCD and Mindfulness. It says to just let the thoughts pass without assigning meaning or emotion. The book states that with practice it can be achieved. I do well with mindfulness when I am not PMSing, but OCD is a tricky bastard with catastrophic thinking tendencies to make sure you’re paying attention. Logically I know that I don’t have to give these thoughts my attention; it is their unrelenting insistence that forces them to the head of the line. I have Pure-O.
I talked with my therapist and we have basically figured out that my extreme obsessing is connected to hormone changes/shifts/unbalances. In my case I have perimenopause and a thyroid disorder which is creating havoc on my system. The OCD starts during pre-menses and then stops after menses starts. Two weeks of hell every single month. And don’t think you are off the hook if you are younger or a male; in adolescence, pregnancy, extreme stress, and any other form of hormone shift, can trigger OCD of new-onset or relapses.
These last episodes were triggered by changes in my Synthroid dose. I was feeling sluggish and gained weight so my doctor and I decided to raise the dose after a blood test. I have been eating better and exercising and nothing else seemed to be working.
Then I had an extreme anxiety event after several of the higher doses. So we lowered it again and switched from generic to the Synthroid brand. Since then (several months) I have been experiencing PMS/OCD episodes with increasing intensity. The confluence of events has sent me into a tailspin. With each episode I am unable to eat and I gag or vomit at the thought of eating. The intrusive thoughts produce feelings of fear that I might hurt myself; they are relentless and writing here is my only reprieve. Is that avoidance? I can’t seem to get a clear answer.
I spent the last week in bed unable to complete basic chores. My primary doctor suggested that I see an endocrinologist; I made an appointment but I cannot get in until March. Both my primary and my therapist suggested I talk with my OBGYN in the meantime about the PMS/OCD episodes and the coincidence with the start of perimenopause and thyroid issues.
My OBGYN treated me like a head-case and tried to pawn me off to a psychiatrist even though I brought charts detailing my cycles (occasionally OCD comes in handy!) and the episodes are clearly cyclical. They include acne, migraines, lack of appetite, and extreme anxiety/OCD.
If I am lucky I will eventually get a few days of migraines and then menses arrives and the OCD retreats. This month no menses appeared but the anxiety/OCD has slightly diminished after the due date passed. I am still waking up with full-blown anxiety and trying to accept my situation, but it is frustrating. I sometimes feel a bit of calmness after 4 p.m. and I try to eat something.
The OBGYN said that it is a normal transition (menopause) I just have to get through it. He said I should contact my psychiatrist and take an SSRI. What I want to know is, why is my hormone issue being treated as a mental illness? This is 2015 and women are still being treated as hysterics?! Just checkout your bookstore shelves and online support groups and you will find hundreds of thousands of women clamoring for help.
After much haggling and insistence, I asked my OBGYN for his best guess as a treatment. He prescribed a low-dose estrogen patch which I started last night. Tomorrow I am looking for an OBGYN that specializes in menopause/hormones.
The adolescent brain: Beyond raging hormones
Female reproductive cycle and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Menopause and Mood Disorders
Pregnancy and Mental Health