I’m SCARED of PANDAS

Here’s a funny new acronym — Screen for Child Anxiety-Related Emotional Disorders, also known as SCARED. I discovered it reading this interesting little article called “OCD in Adulthood Traced to Cues in Childhood.” It discusses the proposed idea that “rituals and sensory hypersensitivities in a child may be early warning signs of adult obsessive-compulsive disorder,” which is interesting to me because I have some odd sensory quirks and sensitivities that might not put me in the realm of diagnosis with anything, but are unusual to say the least. The article discusses primarily two studies which explore the (potential) link between OCD and sensory sensitivity.

“Consistent with the results of the first study, recollected childhood oral and tactile sensitivity was positively correlated with results of the OCI-R (r=0.41, P<0.001) in study two. When they controlled for anxiety, they continued to find that the sensitivity was correlated with obsessive-compulsive symptoms beyond their correlation with anxiety.”

What does this mean? For some, could rituals be a way of coping with sensory overload (or even under-stimulation)? This reminds me of tics, which often have physical or environmental triggers. Tic disorders seem to have a stronger established correlation with sensory processing problems than OCD does, but we also know that tic disorders and OCD are more related than we used to think.

The old rule “If it’s a response to a physical feeling, it’s a tic. If it’s a response to a thought or a fear, it’s a compulsion” is hard to apply in this situation. How could we truly connect OCD and sensory issues, when if there’s any sort of direct connection at all, any response to a physical feeling should rightfully be a tic, and not OCD-related (unless it’s Tourettic OCD)?

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Tourette’s and Sensory Issues

This article is geared toward teachers so they can better help students with TS in the classroom. I’m using it to bring up a discussion about the possible link between TS, OCD, and sensory issues. The article, entitled TS is More than Tics, highlights awareness of multiple aspects of TS which are easily overlooked. One of these is “Sensory Integration Issues.”  It hasn’t caused severe problems in my life, but I know of a few specific, obviously sensory issues that I’ve had. First is that as a small child, I went through a phase of being extremely sensitive to light. I couldn’t bear to look up without getting an extreme headache. This was shortly after an infection I had and the doctor thought it was a sinus issue. It didn’t last but a few days or weeks before going away, but I feel like it still comes back now and then. Once in a while I’ll have a day when I can’t bear to look up without that pain. However, it usually just lasts a few hours and not the whole day. But there’s one more bizarre thing about it — logic tells me it must be light-related. However, it doesn’t always feel that way. When I was a kid for instance, I distinctly remember that I could be looking up even in a dark room and it would happen. That means it must be psychological in some way, but doesn’t make it any less real.

Second, when I was a child and my mom took me to the park to swing on the swing-sets, I found that when I’d come home at night and try to be still and go to sleep, when I got into bed I’d suddenly start feeling like I was back in the swing. That feeling of swinging back and forth came back to me and was very real and disturbing. It kept me awake for a long time. It felt like something I couldn’t control. Thus I began to think swinging on the swings was a bad idea for me. It could be that I simply stayed on the swing-set too long; or it could be that this is a normal thing that happens to kids sometimes. I don’t know.

Third, I’ve always had a thing about certain textures, especially paper — and especially when my fingernails are short. If my fingernails are short and the tips of my fingers touch paper in a way that doesn’t “feel right”, I get the willies really bad and feel like shuddering. I get an urge immediately afterwards to clench my fingers together, to get rid of the “bad” feeling. I’ve been thinking about this and realized it has some characteristics of a tic, but all my life I’ve just thought of it as a sensory issue. It will be interesting to see what my therapist has to say about it, but I have so many problems it’s hard to cover them all. 🙂

Also if it is a tic, it’s a tic triggered by a specific, external stimulus; as opposed to my breathing tic, which is affected by external stimuli but happens on its own as well.

I wonder if there could be a link between OCD and sensory issues as well. I know a lot of people with OCD/OCPD seem to be very particular about the way they wear clothes, and the way clothes fit or “feel.” I know that my mom had symptoms of classic OCD, not tics, and yet she had this same sensory issue with paper because I heard her describe it and remembered identifying with it.