It’s no secret that mental health lacks recognition worldwide and mental healthcare often lacks social or financial support. To change this trend, we need to openly discuss mental disorders in their unadulterated form. By publicly displaying my mental disorders, I hope to open discussions among others about various disorders and give people with mental health problems a sense of validation and common humanity.
In this cardinal article, I will list every disorder and major symptoms I’ve been diagnosed with and give a brief explanation of each. Perhaps more usefully, I will end by discussing how these disorders connect to each other. This article may be on the dry side, but is an important foundation for this blog as a whole.
The graphic above contains all my diagnoses and two major symptoms organized in the framework of how I interpret my disorders. That is to say, OCD and ADHD are my primary diagnoses and I view all my other diagnoses as a product of the intersection of OCD and ADHD. To help make sense of this graphic, let’s briefly discuss each of these acronyms. Note that I will not be going into depth here as future posts will explore individual disorders.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
OCD is defined by having intrusive thoughts — unwelcome involuntary thoughts — that the sufferer cannot stop thinking about and performs compulsions in an attempt to remove the often terrifying thoughts. It is important to note that OCD is not simply fixed by “not obsessing on intrusive thoughts” as OCD has a biochemical origin that is not fully understood, i.e. people with OCD have brains that function differently from the general population.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
ADHD is likely caused by impairments to how the brain processes dopamine. People commonly believe ADHD just means you have trouble paying attention and are hyper. However, people with ADHD tend to perseverate and have Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD) and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).
Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)
People with SPD have difficulty interpreting multiple stimuli simultaneously. Certain textures, sounds, or other stimuli can overwhelm someone with SPD and can induce anxiety or even anger responses. SPD symptoms can range from being unresponsive to a change in stimulus to vomiting at certain sensations.
Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
While having anxiety in social situations is quite normal, people with SAD have such an overwhelming fear of social situations and judgement that they often avoid interactions in general. SAD is often associated with a fear of authority and criticism as well.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD )
GAD is basically the belief that worry has function, i.e. that you must be worrying about something or you’re doing something wrong. Typically, people with GAD are worrying about money, schedules, or other items that are normal to worry about. However, people with GAD are worrying so much that they become dysfunctional and don’t actually complete tasks.
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD )
More commonly just called depression, MDD is defined as having a low mood for at least two weeks. People with MDD have low esteem and may be suicidal. There is a genetic component to MDD, but also a strong environmental influence. Low serotonin is pretty universal to people with depression.
Binge Eating Disorder (BED)
BED is an expressive disorder defined as consuming large quantities of food, especially when not hungry. As an expressive disorder, BED indicates a deeper psychological issue. Eating until uncomfortably full and eating rapidly while distressed are some of the key indicators of BED. While in a binge episode, the sufferer feels no control over their actions and feels disgusted with themselves afterward.
Literally meaning the “hatred of sound”, people with misophonia become angry at certain sounds and is caused by some unknown issue with how the brain processes sound data. There is a fair bit of debate about whether misophonia is a subset of SPD, but it’s interesting to note that misophonia is common in people with OCD and ADHD. A huge number of noises that trigger misophonia are centered around the mouth, e.g. slurping, popping gum, etc. It is important to recognize that people with misophonia aren’t just annoyed by these sounds, which many people might be, but your brain generates an anger or hatred response towards the noise.
Meaning “many thirsts”, people with polydipsia will drink large quantities and still feel thirsty. Sometimes people with polydipsia will drink hundreds of ounces of water a day and not feel sated. Polydispsia is common in people with OCD and may be related to higher levels of cortisol found in people with OCD. Consumption of water reduces the levels of several stress hormones and high stress may trigger high water consumption in response.
As aforementioned, I view OCD and ADHD to be the diagnoses responsible for all the other disorders. Let’s start with Social Anxiety Disorder. Due to my ADHD, I perseverate heavily during conversations. Whenever someone asks a question to which the group says “I don’t know” and moves on, I immediately leave the conversation until I’ve researched the answer. Then I’ll exclaim “I found it!” and tell everyone about the answer to the question no one cares about anymore. Let’s use an example to demonstrate this:
Group: I wonder where the phrase “butter someone up” came from?
Also group: Good question, I don’t know.
Me: I’ll look it up!
Group: conversation moves on to a discussion about virtually anything else
… five minutes later …
Me: I found it! Some claim it comes from an ancient Indian tradition of throwing balls of butter at statues of various gods to seek their favor. However, others claim it simply has to do with the visuals of the analogy and thus there’s no historical ties to the phrase.
Group: Oh…yeah…that’s cool Alex… returns to the conversation they were having before
While this example is fairly benign, it demonstrates how ADHD has led to some social skills deficit. OCD has also contributed to issues with socializing: I’ll often obsess over conversations and try to “fix” them mentally. Between social idiosyncrasies and obsessive thought patterns, I fear social situations and judgement. When entering a social situations, I almost immediately experience distress and began to over-analyze everything people are doing or saying around me. This last sentence is characteristic of Social Anxiety Disorder.
The obsessive thinking of OCD and poor working memory of ADHD have led to my Generalized Anxiety Disorder. People with ADHD are characteristically forgetful and oh boy am I included in that group. I’ve forgotten the glasses on my face (one time literally), lose objects half-a-dozen times a day, forget what my boss asked me to do five minutes ago, and forget to pay bills if they’re no on autopay. There will always be something important that I’ve forgotten. After remembering it, I will berate myself for forgetting — a very common behavior among people with OCD — and then compulsively check on what I’ve forgotten previously. For example, if I pay a bill late on month, I will check that bill’s due date daily for the next month. Conversely, I have so much anxiety about upcoming exams that I will sit and obsess over the exam itself rather than actually studying for it. Between forgetfulness and obsessive-compulsive behaviors, ADHD and OCD have caused GAD and/or GAD-like symptoms.
Finally, I believe contribution of ADHD and OCD to MDD is pretty cut-and-dry (a phrase originally referring to herbs between ready for sale, btw). If you’re constantly have anxiety, social skills deficits, unwanted obsessions, compulsive behaviors, and fear of others, you’re almost guaranteed to have depression. Instead, let’s move on to my Binge Eating Disorder as a result of depression. As aforementioned, BED is an expressive disorder. I only developed BED during a particularly low point in my life. As a response, I began to eat only once per day but eat upwards of 5,000 calories per meal. Needless to say, I gained weight rapidly. However, once I was out of that situation, I immediately stopped binge eating. Thus, I view BED as being expressive of my depression.
Summarily, my OCD and ADHD have led to numerous other disorders that themselves contribute to different disorders and major symptoms. Like physical health, mental health has wide-ranging impacts and the comorbidity of certain diagnoses is quite high. It is always important to take into account the whole of a person as one disorder may inform another. I hope this article gives a framework for discussing mental disorders and maybe you see a bit of yourself in this page. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me via the Contact tab above!
Have a great day and always practice self-compassion!A Fantastic Friend of Mine