As a clinical OCD case, I always have an eye out for articles on how OCD works and what the triggers are. I’m several years into managing my case, but you’re never past the point of learning new things.
First, the news that brings me to this post, courtesy of NBC affiliate WMGT-TV:
When Jason Dudinec suddenly started washing his hands and touching things ritually, his parents knew something wasn’t right.
The Obsessive Compulsive Disorder symptoms came on suddenly and seemed to worsen.
A neurologist diagnosed Jason with a condition called PANDAS, short for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections.
Jason’s strep infection affected a part of his brain that “turned on” OCD and other behavioral issues.
His mother, Jennifer, says when her son received penicillin for a sinus infection shortly after, the symptoms subsided.
When he received a steroid boost for his asthma they stopped all together.
Now they only reappear when he’s exposed to strep.
According to Dr. Max Wiznitzer, a pediatric neurologist at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, PANDAS can cause behaviors such as:
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
The catch is the symptoms come on suddenly and must be associated with a strep infection.
It affects children between 3 and 10 years old and in some cases may fade once they reach adulthood.
Dr. Wiznitzer says PANDAS is extremely rare, and while most people have been exposed to strep, few have the biology to contract PANDAS.
He adds, that while the National Institutes of Mental Health recognize PANDAS, not all scientists agree that it’s an actual condition.
I don’t doubt the science and reality behind this. It’s good information to have. But for those who are inclined to freak out over the possibility that their loved will “catch” OCD, consider this: If you have any hint of mental disorder within you, just about anything can be the trigger. You need to be aware of that, but you shouldn’t panic over it, either.
The following is my opinion, based on a life of experience and observation. It is not built on any scientific research, just so you read on with the proper perspective:
One consistent takeaway I get from everything I read: If you have a disorder buried inside you, just about anything will trigger it. Just like anything can trigger you if you have it in you to commit murder.
I’ve heard that Chron’s Disease can trigger OCD. That got my attention because I’ve suffered from that disease, too. I’ve heard that the drug Prednisone, which I took for the Chron’s, is connected to mental illness.
I think there are shards of truth in all of this. But I think the reasons are more simple than the things you might find under a microscope in the lab.
I think the biggest and most brutal triggers for any mental disorder go back to personal history.
I’ve written much about my own history. Some relatives aren’t happy about that, but I’ve done it for good reason: Everything I remember — whether things played out exactly as I remember or whether the years distorted some memories — affected how my OCD manifested itself.
For me, the childhood disease, loss of a sibling to asthma and best friend to suicide, the nasty divorce of my parents, etc., filled me with a worldview and fears that eventually hardened into my own brand of OCD.
I think it’s the same for someone who grows up to be a serial killer. Charles Manson‘s mother abandoned him repeatedly and was a bad seed herself, robbing banks and going through men like tissues. Ronald DeFeo was convicted of murdering his entire family in the case that inspired “The Amityville Horror,” and by many accounts his was a household of vicious abuse, particularly at the hands of his father.
History is the cause that triggers the effect. The action that triggers the reaction. And with the seeds planted, just about anything can bring it to the surface.
If you’re inclined to be an obsessive, paranoid person, catching strep will bring out all your germ-based fears and actions. The article that inspired this post is based on more chemical and biological factors, but it all fits into the larger puzzle.
If you grow up to be like Charles Manson, just about anything — in his case, The Beatles White Album — will compel you to do murderous things.
Music has often been blamed for inspiring murder. AC/DC and Ricardo “Richard” Muñoz Ramírez come to mind.
In the end, though, I don’t think you can blame the music. They had the evil in them and something was going to bring it out sooner or later.
I thank God that it was OCD embedded in me and not something more sinister. OCD makes me do things compulsively and causes worry that spins out of control. But it’s never compelled me to kill anyone. That’s never been in me.
The examples I’ve mentioned are extreme when stacked next to the article about strep and OCD. But these are the things the article made me think of all the same.
Call me crazy. But at least I’m harmless.