Category Archives: Obsession & Compulsion

Safety Seeking Behaviour

(This is my 200th post!! Well done, Hui Bee!! It’s been 4 years writing here.)

There is a tribe who believe that to make the sun rise, they have to build a bonfire each night and dance around it till dawn. Because of this belief, the tribe spends most of their time collecting wood and preparing for the night (Wells, 1997). They are exhausted. This ritual has taken over their lives, but they can’t stop this as they are obliged to make sure the sun rise again for the world the next morning.

A safety seeking behaviour is something a person does to stop a feared catastrophe from happening. But safety behaviours actually make the fear stronger especially in long-term by preventing the person from discovering that the disaster is not going to happen anyway. Overcoming anxiety involves having the confidence to tolerate that anxiety whilst dropping these behaviours.

Some clinical cases

Little Alan believes that if he plays badminton, he will not sleep at night. So he has completely stopped playing badminton that he used to enjoy.

Ms Stephy has panic attacks and agoraphobia, so she shops online, and avoids shopping malls and crowded places at all cost. Now she barely gets too panic, but her life is so limited.

Mr Patrick has social anxiety. He avoids social interactions and social situations whenever possible. Even when he speaks to others, he avoids eye contacts and keeps the conversation minimal. People find him uninteresting, aloof and weird.


So, back to the tribe sunrise ceremony. How would they discover that whether or not the ritual really makes the sun rises?

How would Little Alan know whether playing badminton really lead to insomnia?

How would Ms Stephy know whether the crowds lead to her panic attacks? How can she live a more fulfilling life?

How would Mr Patrick knows whether avoiding social interaction and eye contact help with his problems?

(You might notice that they all pay huge cost in long-term in order to ease their anxiety in short term. “Short term gain, long term pain”)


It seems that this is part of us human, when we do things like “touch wood” or knocking the door before entering the hotel room. For many with OCD and anxiety disorders, it is highly important to identify their safety seeking behaviour, and do some psychoeducation around it to make them willing to drop them, or test dropping them (behavioural experiment).

More importantly, there are also times when we therapists teach them certain coping skills (e.g. abdominal breathing), and it ends up being used as safety seeking behaviour “as long as I focus on my breathing, I will not get panic attack and faint here in the mall.” So, the intention (beliefs) behind these behaviours is important. Why do you do this? Is it as a way to cope (coping strategies), so that you can continue shopping, or is it as a way to avoid a disaster you think might happen (safety seeking)?

Has OCD started as an Evolutionary Advantage?

It is kind of obvious that it is?

Checking is good, double-checking is good, tidying up is good, washing is good, trying to be perfect is good, counting is good, being attentive is good, thinking thoroughly is good, requiring precision is good, getting reassurance is good … …

From the evoluntionary perspective, are people who are attentive, careful, clean, thoughtful (etc) more likely to survive? Obviously, yes? It’s very much needed in ancient societies, as survival skills.

How if these careful people get married and have children? Do they produce even more “careful” children? And then next generation, and next, and next…

And it’s not just the genes from both lines of the “careful” ancestors, but also the upbringing environments provided by these attentive parents, they certainly continue to reinforce such behaviour… We were taught many of these acts as children, by our parents, older siblings and teachers in the school, weren’t we?

Then as the behaviour continues to be reinforced and developed and advanced… there you go, OCD? (This is just a hypothesis)

It’s just my random thought… But we are surely seeing more and more OCD clients in our clinic these days. Not just that, it’s got harder and harder to treat as well (the illness has got more stubborn and sticky).

Imagine that this theory is somewhat 70% true (another 30% of factors that’s beyond the knowledge of this psychologist in the modern days), OCD is going to get stronger and stronger, right? It can become a real big (detrimental) issue, especially in Asian culture…

What can we do? How do you bring up a child that strive to be better and better, but not aiming to be 100% certain for everything s/he does?

OCD – A Devised Theater Piece

Tap. One two three four five six seven eight nine ten.
Tap. One two three four five six seven eight nine ten.
Goodnight Papa. Papa goodnight. Papa goodnight. Goodnight Papa.
Papa goodnight. Goodnight Papa. Goodnight Papa. Papa goodnight.

No, no, no. Not right! Mama is going to die. Mama is going to die.
Again, Again, Again. From the start.

I went to see a performance on OCD last night. It was great, filled with tears and laughter, anxiety and tension, very much. I can’t help thinking about many OCD clients I have seen in my clinical work, especially those that I’m still seeing this week, and some earlier on. They are living in this every, single, day, and, night.

The actors have done very well, sharply and vividly demonstrated the intense emotion felt by OCD sufferers. I highly recommend anyone who doesn’t really understand OCD to see it, especially those who think “I’m just a bit OCD” to see it. Check if the tickets are available here.

Before I went, I even thought about inviting my clients to see it. Now I’m really wondering for those who have been suffering from it for more than 5-6 years, how they would feel when they see this…

A few things that I want to point out regarding OCD, which are nicely and clearly presented in this performance…

  • It is always about “making sure”. They can’t tolerate uncertainty. Yet in this world, there is no such thing as 100% sure.
  • It’s always about “feeling right”. The comfortable, right feeling is what they are seeking. They can’t tolerate discomfort, that leads to anxiety and fear, so much anxiety and fear that are unbearable.
  • Quite often the sufferers find their own thought (obsession) and behaviour (compulsion) are ridiculous too, but they still can’t help it. It’s not about reasoning on an intellectual level, but it’s the psychological and emotion impacts on them.
  • It can be highly disrupting to the sufferer’s life, and more, to their immediate family.

Things that I want to add…

  • The best psychological intervention is “Exposure Response Prevention” (it’s a very straightforward treatment, refer here)
  • But before the treatment begins, a lot of preparation has to be done, being motivated enough to tolerate the discomfort when one is not allowed to perform the rituals.
  • Seek help as soon as you can. Many patients that we see, came to us around 3-5 years after some initial signs showed. By the time they were here, the disorder is rather aggressive and disabling, and surely, difficult to treat.
  • If you can overcome your longstanding OCD, you can overcome anything. This is what I think. And I sincerely believe it.

Peeping Tom on social medias

No matter how much we study, learn, read, practice (see clients), we barely feel what we learnt is enough. As the world advances, as new technology becomes common, new psychological problems appear too.

They were married last year after being in courtship for 5 years. It all seems fine, their marriage, their relationships, their marriage, their families, their sex lives. Until half a year ago, she realised that her husband was peeping the lady living next door, a married woman with two children. The husband would use every opportunity to peek at her, apparently after understanding her routine, like when she’d be hanging clothes at the balcony, when she’d leave home for work etc. Sometimes they are having meals, the husband notices the timing that the neighbour is coming home, he’d go upstairs to peek. This is his current status.

Previously he has been peeping her on social medias. He searched for her and followed her online, few times a day, he would visit her page just to look at her posts and activities. She is not the only target, according to the wife, he also peeks at a few other women, all beautiful ladies, including the wife’s colleague, a lady that works in the same building with him, . He doesn’t chat with them, but only “watching” them online, few times a day.

Initially he denied it when the wife confronted him. But when all the evidence is showing up, he admitted that he has always had this fetish, for a long time, before they even met each other. But he said he loves her, he only peek at them, he doesn’t and wouldn’t do anything else. He promised to change, but was soon caught by wife to be doing it again, and again.

The wife is confused. What problem does he have? Personality problems? A hidden bad habit? Psychological disorders? OCD? Sexual disorder? She searched through the internet trying to figure it out. But there laid no answer.

Indeed, it surely is an unhealthy behaviour peeping into other’s lives (through social medias) few times a day, every day. So undeniably it’s a psychology disorder, one that’s appearing following technology advancement, as when facebook wasn’t available we can’t peep into one’s life the way we do now on facebook, instagram, twitter etc, right?

The closest I can get to, is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). There is certainly compulsive behaviour that he does, though we don’t know the obsessive thought underlying these behaviour/rituals based on the wife’s description. It also does seem that, like many other OCDs, that the problem is worsening.

How does this differ from “traditional” peeping tom / voyeurism? Are they under the same category? Does doing it digitally or online make it less severe and obstructive? Should the treatment differ? How about digital or porn addiction? Aren’t they similar in some ways too?

心理问题/精神疾病病友互助小组(吉隆坡/巴生)

在国外,不管是什么疾病,互助小组(support group)都是蛮常见的,比如抗癌勇士、强迫症患者等。过去也曾有好一些病人问过我,在马来西亚有这种小组吗… 所以在这里我提出一些意见,有兴趣或有其它看法的人,欢迎联络我…

互助小组类型:

  1. 抑郁症、情绪障碍
  2. 强迫症
  3. 焦虑与焦虑相关障碍
  4. 精神分裂,妄想、幻觉相关障碍
  5. 照护者、患者家属

什么是互助小组?做些什么?

  1. 每个月或每两个星期见一次面,大约一小时
  2. 认识和你面对一样或类似问题的人
  3. 轻松讨论一些主题(由我引导)
  4. 彼此分享、鼓励、支持、学习

语言

  1. 英语
  2. 中文/广东话

地点

  1. 吉隆坡欧阳专科医疗所(Jalan Pudu)
  2. 巴生Manipal Hospital Klang (Bukit Tinggi)
  3. 巴生河流域一代的咖啡馆

必要条件:

  1. 病人的意愿(不是被逼的;愿意出席、参与、讨论、分享、聆听)
  2. 至少三人才能进行
  3. 尊重其他人、尊重隐私权(不泄露其他人的隐私)
  4. 承担费用(行政、材料、场地等)(若有)

目前这只是初始阶段,如果你有什么意见和想法、或者有兴趣参与的话,请留下联络方式,也可以电邮 hello@huibee.com 或致电/whatsapp 017-2757813

英文版本:http://huibee.com/2017/08/support-groups-in-kl-klang/

Support Groups in KL / Klang

I’ve been asked about support groups quite a few times and been thinking how I can start this. It’s definitely something very common in western countries, I’m not sure how it will work here in Malaysia. Now I’m proposing the idea here, and for anyone who reads this and is interested in any of the support groups, please get in touch, let me know what you think and how we can start this and get it going!

Support groups for:

  1. Depression or mood related problems
  2. OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
  3. Anxiety or stress related problems
  4. Schizophrenia and psychotic related disorders
  5. Carers (immediate family etc)

What is it? How does it go? What do we do?

  1. Meet monthly or every fortnightly for an hour or so
  2. Getting to know people who share the same or similar problems
  3. Casual discussion following a theme that we set (led by me)
  4. Sharing, supporting and learning among/from each other

Languages:

  1. English
  2. Mandarin / Cantonese

Venues:

  1. Klinik Pakar Au Yong, Jln Pudu, KL
  2. Manipal Hospitals Klang
  3. Some cafes in Klang Valley?

Requirements:

  1. Patient’s willingness! (is not forced by others to join us; willingly attend, participate, share and listen to others)
  2. At least 3 to form a group
  3. To treat others with respect and maintain confidentiality
  4. To share the cost of a small administrations/materials/venue fees (if any)
  5. It’s mainly for people who are undergoing treatment (medical/psychological/other) and need some support along the way, NOT a platform to vent your emotional problems and personal frustrations. 

These are just some ideas for now, if you have some ideas or are interested, please do leave your contacts (email or contact numbers) below or get in touch by emailing hello@huibee.com or calling/whatsapp 017-2757813