Arie Winograd, M.A., L.M.F.T. is the founder and director of the Los Angeles BDD & Body Image Clinic.
My OCD journey began when I was about 15 years old although I had already been struggling with an eating disorder for about two years. Before OCD, I traveled really often, had a lot of friends and had no issues in school.
One day during my junior year of high school, I walked into my first class of the day. The bell hadn’t rung yet so the classroom was mostly empty when I took my seat. A few minutes later, the bell rang and, as my peers started to walk in, I started to feel really anxious, and all these images of myself getting sick in front of the entire class began to flood my mind. I was shaking and I felt nauseous so I went to the bathroom and stayed in there for a few minutes until I calmed down. Once I thought I felt better I went back to class, but the moment I walked in all the same intense images came flooding back, so I grabbed my cellphone and walked outside to call my mom.
My mom took me home, and I spent the rest of the day in bed assuming that I’d feel better the next day. The next morning when I woke up for school the same images were replaying in my mind over and over. Assuming that I was still sick, I stayed home from school, because why else would I be thinking about throwing up? On the third day, I had my mom take me to school, but the moment I got out of the car I started to feel an overwhelming amount of fear, dizziness, nausea, and my thoughts were racing uncontrollably. I literally started running across the football field at school to get to my mom’s car before she got too far from the campus, and I asked her take me home but she decided to take me to the doctor instead.
They did an EKG as well as some other tests but found nothing medically wrong with me, so they sent me home without any answers. Things just continued to spiral from there. I spent weeks attempting to walk into my classes then immediately having to walk out or just having to skip school entirely. I was convinced that I was going to throw up and no one was going to tell me differently.
Within a month, these same thoughts and emotions began happening when I would hang out with friends. I just remember repeating this statement over and over, ” I don’t know what is happening to me but I don’t feel well.” These thoughts and feelings slowly started to attach to most public places as well as most social interactions, but things were still somewhat manageable at this point. I was still able to travel and have friends. Of course back then, I didn’t know that everything I was doing to make myself feel better were the very things that were making me worse.
My compulsions at that time included total avoidance of situations, having to sit nearest to the exit as possible so that I could leave quickly “if I got sick” as well as restricting my food intake even more because my OCD told me that if I didn’t have any food in my system, I was less likely to get sick. Between the years of 2006 and 2009, I saw so many different kinds of providers to try to figure out what was going on but not one person ever said the words anxiety or OCD to me, and I was continuing to isolate.
Between the years of 2009 and 2010, my OCD started to take a major turn in themes. I was still terrified of throwing up in public, and I had become very limited in what I could do or where I could go, but my OCD also started to focus on the fear that I would harm myself or someone else, known as “harm OCD.” These thoughts were so crippling that I became housebound for an entire year and, for the last few months of that year, I could not even be left alone in fear that I would act on these unwanted thoughts. My family and boyfriend at the time had to take shifts staying with me throughout the day and even had to prepare meals for me if it involved using a knife. At this time, I wasn’t telling anyone about the thoughts I was having because, like most people with harm OCD, I was terrified of them and I was even more terrified of what having them meant about me as a person. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t stop thinking these thoughts or why I couldn’t get these horrible images out of my head.
In the beginning of 2011, my mom happened to watch a show on TV that talked about OCD, and she immediately recognized the similarities between what the show was saying and what I had been expressing for years. I started treatment that same week. I cannot put into words how relieved I was when I was finally given a diagnosis, and when I discovered that millions of people struggle with the same thing I do. I knew that the treatment was going to be difficult, but I was ready to claim my life back. I started an intensive outpatient program and a few months later I started attending the weekly support groups at The Gateway Institute.
Once I had really tackled harm and intrusive thought OCD, I experienced a shift in my OCD once again but this time it was to relationship OCD. For me, that looks like worrying about “saying or doing the wrong thing and ruining relationships beyond repair.” Even though this was a new theme that I had to get familiar with, I already had the tools to address the OCD in the correct way by using Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). Almost six years later, I still attend the groups on a weekly basis because I value the accountability and the support in my ongoing recovery. Some of the closest friendships I have are with members of my support group, and I love being able to encourage them just as much as they encourage me.
Recently, I have returned to school to pursue my Master’s Degree in Psychology to specialize in OCD so that I can continue to use my story to promote hope to those who are still struggling. I am beyond grateful for my recovery because I am able to experience life on my terms rather than on OCD’s terms and because I was able to claim my life back. When you start treatment, you’re often asked to come up with a “why” which is your personal reason for wanting to get better. Your “why” is your source of motivation for when you’re in the thick of battling your OCD and, trust me, having one is really important because there comes a time (or ten) when you will question the treatment, we all do. My “why” was to be able to travel again. Even though I was no longer housebound a few months into treatment, it still took me a long time to get to the point where I could fly to a different country; I eventually did and have several times since. I wholeheartedly believed that I was never going to travel or have any kind of “normal” life again but I do and now I travel as often as I can to make up for all the time I lost. Going through treatment not only gave me my life back, it also taught me a lot about who I am as a person and that my OCD does not define what kind of person I am.
Being an advocate and sharing my story has become my passion. My hope is that after hearing my story you’ll realize that you can overcome OCD, too. It’s okay to be scared, we all were scared, but you’re not alone. If so many of us can do it, so can you, and we’re all here to help one another.
Dear OCD SoCal Community:
On behalf of the OCD SoCal Board of Directors, we extend our warmest holiday wishes to each of you and your families. As we look towards the new year, we are excited to share with you some highlights from OCD SoCal’s work in 2017.
In service of our mission to increase awareness of OCD and related disorders throughout Southern California, we have sponsored a number of educational events. Our 2nd Annual OCD Southern California conference was held in Irvine this past March and was attended by over 200 individuals with OCD, family members, and professionals! In June, OCD SoCal sponsored 1 Million Steps 4 OCD walks in San Diego, Los Angeles, and Orange County and raised over $3600 to support the important work being done by the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) and our local OCD SoCal affiliate. As part of OCD Awareness Week, in October we sponsored three screenings of “UNSTUCK: An OCD Kids Movie” and “Oh Crappy Day” along with OCD Q&A sessions with local professionals. Screenings were held in Los Angles, San Diego, and Irvine with approximately 300 people in attendance! We have also been exhibitors at local and international mental health conferences, including IOCDF’s Annual Conference in San Francisco this past July and at Recovery International’s local conference in San Diego this past November.
As many of you may know, there is a considerable need to increase the accessibility of treatment for OCD and related disorders across the Southern California region. To this aim, we are incredibly proud to share that OCD SoCal became the first ever IOCDF affiliate to sponsor a Behavior Therapy Training Institute (BTTI) event. The BTTI is an in-depth training program for mental health professionals in the treatment of individuals with OCD and related disorders. This event was held December 1-3 in Dana Point and was attended by 32 clinicians, including 11 from Southern California. This training was made possible only through the generosity of many local treatment centers and individual donors.
We want to recognize the treatment centers that provided the funding for the BTTI:
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy Center
- OCD & Anxiety Program of Southern California
- OCD Southern California Affiliate
- Psychological Care and Healing
- Renewed Freedom Center
- Westwood Institute
- University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
- Resilience Treatment Center
We have big goals for 2018. We plan to strengthen our annual programming events as well as to expand our services to our local communities. Committees have been formed for OCD in schools, pediatrics, and OB/GYN outreach and education.
We continue to be touched by the generosity of individuals with OCD, their family members, and professionals in supporting our work through their time, talent, and treasure. Please consider supporting OCD SoCal in your holiday giving this year (http://ocdsocal.org/get-
With gratitude and well wishes for a happy and healthy new year,
OCD SoCal Board of Directors
OCD Southern California 3rd Annual Conference
March 24, 2018
10:30 AM – 5:00 PM
Mariners Church, Irvine, CA
OCD SoCal is now accepting proposals for break out sessions for our third annual OCD Southern California Conference. This conference is an opportunity to learn more about obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and its treatment, provide support for individuals with OCD and their families, and gain practical knowledge about a variety of issues that may arise with OCD and related disorders.
Who attends this conference?
This event is particularly designed for individuals affected by OCD and related disorders as well as their families, however we encourage clinicians, researchers, and students interested in learning more about OCD to attend. Conference attendees often include individuals with a great deal of experience with OCD as well as individuals and family members who may just be learning about the disorder and its treatment.
How many attendees will be at the conference?
Last year we had over 200 attendees! We are aiming for five to six breakout sessions, so presenters should expect around 40 people will attend each breakout session.
Who should submit a proposal?
We are looking for presenters with a breadth of personal and professional experiences with OCD and related disorders. Last year our speakers included OCD therapists, psychiatrists, individuals affected by OCD and related disorders, as well as family members.
What topics are appropriate for break out sessions?
While we do not have specific requirements for the break out sessions, suggestions may include: overview of OCD, OCD and families, kid-friendly activities room, OCD related disorders, recovery from OCD, medications, ERP experiential workshop. You are also welcome to propose your own topic that you feel will be of interest to attendees.
Below are the titles of break out sessions from last year’s conference:
Ask the Psychiatrist: An Interactive Discussion on Medications for OCD
Children’s OCD Activities and Crafting
Exposure and Response Prevention Workshop
How We Did It: Tips and Tools For Successful OCD Treatment
Obsessive-Compulsive Related Disorders Didactic and Discussion
What is the format for break out sessions?
Break out sessions will be held in the afternoon following a keynote presentation and lunch. There will be two breakout sessions following lunch, each 50 minutes in length. If selected for a breakout session, you will be asked to repeat your session twice (i.e., during both of the break out time slots). Hence, attendees will have the opportunity to select two out of six breakout sessions.
When is the deadline to submit my proposal?
The deadline to submit a proposal is January 14, 2018.
When will I hear if my proposal was accepted?
Presenters will be notified regarding whether their proposal was accepted by January 31, 2018.
What submission materials are required?
- Abstract: Please submit a brief abstract describing your presentation as well as intended audience (maximum 150 words).
- Bio: Please submit a brief (2-3 sentences) biography describing your background and experience with OCD and/or OCD-Related disorders.
- CV* (professionals only)
How do I submit my proposal?
Proposals should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Subject line: OCD SoCal 2017 Conference Submission.
We look forward to receiving your submission! Please contact us at email@example.com with any questions regarding your submission. You can also visit our website (ocdsocal.org) or facebook page (facebook.com/ocdsocal) for more information about our organization.
Check out the sneak peak of our affiliate update for the quarterly IOCDF newsletter!
OCD Southern California would like to thank the members of the OCD community in our area for coming out and supporting our OCD Awareness Week functions. Our association screened two OCD themed films, “Oh Crappy Day” and “Unstuck: An OCD Kids Movie,” to attendees at events held in Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego. The events started with a community building mingle over breakfast, and after the films concluded, a panel of experts and individuals with OCD answered questions from the audience. Over 300 people with OCD, their loved ones, and professionals in the field attended and the OCD So Cal board is thankful to all who joined, making the events a success!
OCD So Cal is also very excited to announce that our organization will be the first ever International OCD Foundation affiliate to sponsor a Behavior Therapy Training Institute (BTTI) event! OCD SoCal, with the generous financial support of a number of Southern California OCD treatment centers, is proud to be directly addressing the need for trained ERP providers in our catchment area and will be sponsoring a BTTI in Dana Point, California being held December 1st through the 3rd.The BTTI is an in-depth three-day intensive training for mental health professionals who are treating individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and related disorders. Sponsoring the BTTI will further OCD Southern California’s mission to increase awareness and improve access to treatment of OCD and related disorders throughout Southern California.
The OCD Southern California board members have already begun planning our annual conference to be held in the spring of 2018. Last year’s conference included Dr. Jonathan Grayson and Ethan Smith as keynote speakers as well as break out sessions educating the attendees on the latest information on OCD and related disorders. We are looking forward to another successful conference this spring.
Our organization has also been expanding our services to our local communities. Committees have been formed for OCD in schools, pediatrics, and OB/GYN outreach and education. OCD Southern California was also an exhibitor at a mental health resource fair held by Recovery International, an association that uses a cognitive-behavioral, peer-to-peer, self-help training system to treat mental illness. To be informed on what events and resources OCD Southern California is providing, or if you are interested in becoming a volunteer, please contact us at info@OCDSoCal.org and visit our website at www.OCDSoCal.org.