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The Blue Streak: Treating obsessive-compulsive disorders

February 25th, 2012 Posted in Arts and Life

LOGAN—When she organizes her craft room, Natashia Saurey makes sure that everything is in perfect order. Each item has to be arranged according to height, color and size.

If she fails to do any of this, Saurey suffers from a panic attack.

According to the International OCD Foundation, 2 million to 3 million U.S. adults suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder.

“It’s getting worse with my crafting, because I sell it,” Saurey said. “It has to be perfect and if it’s not, I redo it over and over and over even though I know it can’t be perfect.”

“OCD is going to affect the thing you care about the most,” said Dr. Michael Twohig, an assistant professor in the clinical psychology program at Utah State University. “One that is going to be common in the valley is religious-based OCD.”

John Dehlin, a graduate student in psychology, presented new findings on treatment of “scrupulosity,” a type of OCD centered around religion, on Tuesday in the Animal Science Building.

Dehlin also works with Twohig on OCD treatment research. Along with five other graduate students, Twohig is finding that it is possible to treat OCD  effectively without using exposure therapy. The team will be able to present its research during a student showcase on March 22.

Two common treatments for OCD are exposure therapy and acceptance-commitment therapy, according to the Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

Exposure therapy is a treatment that involves direct exposure to the situation or object that triggers the obsession. It has become an unpopular choice among patients and doctors. TV shows like “Hoaders” and “The OCD Project” offer an incorrect reality of compulsivity, Twohig said.

“It makes them look weirder than they are and it makes the treatment look so much more extreme than it really is,” Twohig said.

Twohig’s team will have the chance to present new findings and recruit researchers at the upcoming research conference. Psi Chi — the International Honor Society in Psychology — will help present new psychology research at “The Student Showcase,” March 22 at 5 p.m. in the Emma Eccles Jones Education building.

“It’s an awesome opportunity to network with professors and other students,” said Psi Chi President Jessica Christensen.

Twohig’s current project incorporates acceptance-commitment therapy and exposure therapy, he said.

“They’re still getting practice with encountering anxiety and dealing with it,” Twohig said, “but… instead of teaching it sort of the long way through experience, we teach through exercise and conversation in session.”

In the year that he has been conducting this research, Twohig has had a success rate of 65 percent, he said.

“My OCD is like getting my fingernails pulled out in the most annoying way possible,” said Ladd Sturgill, a 24-year-old suffering from OCD.

The Blue Streak Team: David Thomas, Brie Geller, Mackinzie Hamilton, Marissa Sheilds, Ashley Howell and Danielle Manley

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