Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Obsessive-compulsive behavior common during holiday season

TAMPA — Elizabeth Glass remembers staying up all night wrapping presents, trying to make the holidays picture-perfect to meet her own imagined expectations.

The next morning, her husband made a flip comment about one of the gifts. Certain she had failed, Glass threw the family Christmas tree out the patio door.

Glass, 49, suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Her 14-year-old son also suffers from OCD and experiences heightened symptoms during the holiday season, though less so in recent years thanks to treatment, Glass said.

She wants people with anxiety disorders to know there are ways to cope.

"There's help out there," Glass said. "Now I don't stay in the house. I don't wallow in my head. I get better every year."

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder affects about 2.2 million American adults annually, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Pressures associated with the holidays can worsen the condition and other anxiety disorders, as triggers become more intense and frequent, said Dr. Rahul Mehra, director of Mental Health Care, Inc. in Tampa.

"Even those of us not suffering from anxiety disorders put undue pressure on ourselves during the holidays," Mehra said. "Someone with OCD, a baseline anxiety condition, is likely going to be affected."

Mehra said symptoms of OCD include unwanted repetitive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. Examples include fear of contamination, fear of losing control, a desire for perfection, persistent negative thoughts, over-eating and under-eating.

Around the holidays, Mehra encourages patients to stay hydrated, avoid alcohol, get adequate sleep and have a full supply of medication prior to pharmacies closing for the holiday. He recommends OCD patients prepare themselves ahead of time for outings. For example, he suggests patients worried about contamination bring a disposable dish to a potluck.

"This time of year it's best to know what your triggers are and do what works best for you," Mehra said.

Christian Maurer, 25, was diagnosed with OCD in 2003 after he became obsessed with washing his hands. His triggers include germs and being around large groups of people. Maurer, of Brandon, said his symptoms can get worse near the holidays. He takes three anti-depressants daily and receives outpatient counseling through Mental Health Care, Inc. His fear of germs has lessened but he still experiences racing thoughts.

"With having family over, it's just too many people," he said. "Once in a while it's too much, and I go off by myself to calm down. I step out of the room for a little while."

Elizabeth Glass said loneliness used to be a trigger for her during the holidays.

She grew up in what she calls a dysfunctional home (her family history includes bipolar disorder) and since her divorce, her only family is her son. In the past, she turned to alcohol to stop herself from obsessing about negative thoughts. She battled a misconception that a less-than-ideal Christmas (the kind in television and movies) was unacceptable.

Now sober, she turns to Alcoholics Anonymous and counselors at the Panos Center, a mental health center near her home in eastern Hillsborough. She takes anxiety medication. To quiet her mind, she focuses on volunteering and meditating rather than shopping and sending cards to acquaintances.

Glass will attend Christmas Eve service at Unity Church in Tampa, then spend Christmas Day at home with her son and their pug, Charlie Bear.

"Getting out of isolation is important," Glass said.

Maurer and Glass said their advice to others is to seek counseling. Mental Health Care, Inc. has offices throughout Hillsborough County offering psychiatric support year-round. If this holiday is tough, the next one doesn't have to be, Glass said.

"Accept the gift of life, don't get caught up in the wrapping paper," she said.

Mental Health Care, Inc.

New Patient Access Center, 5802 N. 22nd St., Tampa (813) 744-8880

Main Center, outpatient, individual and family services, 5707 N. 22nd St., Tampa, (813) 272-2244

The Panos Center, counseling and medication management, 1403 W Reynolds St., Plant City, (813) 707-7044

>>Fast Facts

Mental Health Care, Inc.

New Patient Access Center, 5802 N. 22nd St., Tampa (813) 744-8880

Main Center, outpatient, individual and family services, 5707 N. 22nd St., Tampa, (813) 272-2244

The Panos Center, counseling and medication management, 1403 W Reynolds St., Plant City, (813) 707-7044

Obsessive-compulsive behavior common during holiday season 12/22/11 [Last modified: Thursday, December 22, 2011 11:22pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trigaux: For Class of 2016, college debt loads favor Florida graduates

    Banking

    Florida college graduates saddled with student debt: Take heart. The average debt Class of 2016 Florida grads must bear is less than students in most states.

    University of South Florida undergraduates gather at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa for last fall's commencement ceremony. A new survey finds their average student debt upon graduating was $22,276. Statewide, 2016 Florida grads ranked a relatively unencumbered 45th among states, averaging $24,461 in student debt. [Photo Luis Santana | Times]
  2. Romano: One person, one vote is not really accurate when it comes to Florida

    Politics

    Imagine this:

    Your mail-in ballot for the St. Petersburg mayoral election has just arrived. According to the fine print, if you live on the west side of the city, your ballot will count as one vote. Meanwhile, a ballot in St. Pete's northeast section counts for three votes.

    Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections worker Andrea West adds mail ballots to an inserter Sept. 22 at the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Service Center in Largo. (SCOTT KEELER   |   Times)
  3. St. Petersburg will hold first budget hearing tonight

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Sunshine City's new property tax rate looks exactly like its current rate. For the second year in a row, Mayor Rick Kriseman does not plan to ask City Council for a tax hike or a tax cut.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman talks about the state of the city on Tuesday, two days after Hiurricane Irma passed through the state. [EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  4. 'We were lucky': Zephyrhills, Dade City get back to normal after Irma

    Hurricanes

    Two weeks after Hurricane Irma struck Florida, residents and city officials in eastern Pasco — hit harder than other areas of the county — are moving forward to regain normalcy.

    Edward F. Wood, 70, tugs at a branch to unload a pile of debris he and his wife picked up in their neighborhood, Lakeview in the Hills in Dade City.
  5. After Hurricane Irma, many ask: How safe are shelters?

    News

    NAPLES — Residents of the Naples Estates mobile home park beamed and cheered when President Donald Trump and Gov. Rick Scott strolled amid piles of shredded aluminum three days after Hurricane Irma to buck up residents and hail the work of emergency responders. But almost nobody had anything good to say about …

    The Islamic Society of Tampa Bay Area opened its doors to anyone seeking temporary shelter during Hurricane Irma. Evacuees were housed in the Istaba multipurpose building and was quickly at capacity housing over 500 people. [Saturday, September 9, 2017] [Photo Luis Santana | Times]