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Health And Family

Are you OC? You’re in good company

CONSUMERLINE - Ching M. Alano - The Philippine Star
Are you OC? Youâre in good company

Dr. Carmina Bernardo: “Bipolar disorders require an evaluation by a mental health professional.”

Did you know that award-winning South African-American actress Charlize Theron with a celebrity net worth of $120 million once confessed to being OC (obsessive compulsive)? She was obsessed about cleaning messy cabinets (or making sure that everything in them is in impeccable order). She gets all messed up and couldn’t sleep thinking about messy cabinets (her own and those of other people).

Did you see Leonardo DiCaprio in the biopic The Aviator where he played the legendary aviator Howard Hughes? Looks like Leo may well have played himself, being an OC like Hughes. As a child, DiCaprio confesses that he would step on a crack on the sidewalk on the way to school and then walk back a block to step on the same crack again. No, he wasn’t a crackpot!

Good heavens! Did you know that Charlie’s Angel Cameron Diaz has a thing for doorknobs? She would open doors with her elbows just to avoid those dreaded germs on doorknobs. Cameron likes to keep her doorknobs at home immaculately clean so that their original finish has faded. She also admits washing her hands many times every day.

Did you know that soccer star David Beckham with a celebrity net worth of $450 million is obsessed about keeping his shirts in perfect order, lining them up according to color. Not only does Beckham like to “shirt the issue,” he also likes matching food in his refrigerator, everything comes in pairs (and everything has to be in a straight line). Which explains why he has three refrigerators. Cool guy, isn’t he?

Fact is, many A-list celebrities have admitted to having OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). So, if you’re OC, you’re in good company.

Mind over matter? According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, some 10 million Americans suffer from manic depression (now better known as bipolar disorder). Among them are famous celebrities who’ve battled deep, dark depression, like singer Demi Lovato, Hollywood un-couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, your favorite vampire Robert Pattinson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jean-Claude Van Damme, comedienne/TV host Ellen DeGeneres (particularly after she came out of the closet), comedian Jim Carrey (no kidding, he was popping Prozac!), Kirsten Dunst, Mandy Moore, and a lot more. Then there was legendary Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh who committed suicide one starry night, as well as literary greats English writer Virginia Woolf who drowned herself and American journalist — and a very heavy drinker and very depressed man — Ernest Hemingway who also committed suicide.

We asked Dr. Carmina G. Bernardo of Makati Medical Center’s Section of Psychiatry, Department of Neurological Sciences about OCD and other (often hidden) psychiatric disorders you may want to know more about.

PHILIPPINE STAR: How do you know you’re obsessive compulsive or you’re suffering from OCD?

DR. CARMINA G. BERNARDO: Every now and then, an individual may have occasional obsessions or compulsive behaviors.  But if a person experiences time-consuming obsessions, which are recurrent and persistent thoughts or urges or images, and/or compulsions, which are repetitive behaviors — for example, frequent hand washing, ordering, checking as well as mental acts that cause significant distress or that impair their ability to fulfill their daily activities — he/she needs to consult a mental health professional.  A doctor can make a formal diagnosis of OCD.

What are the signs that one is manic-depressive?  How can you manage it?

Bipolar disorders (aka manic depression) are a group of medical diagnoses that include bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder, and other related disorders under this group. Symptoms of bipolar disorders include prominent swings in mood, activity, and behavior.  These are not the usual ups and downs that many typically experience.  A person in a manic episode may be extremely irritable or euphoric with increased energy, sleeplessness, fast thoughts or speech, risk-taking or pleasure-seeking behaviors.   A depressive episode includes persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, changes in sleep, energy, appetite, activity level, and suicidal ideations. Management of bipolar disorders requires an evaluation by a mental health professional.  Once a diagnosis of bipolar disorder is established, treatment with mood-stabilizing agents combined with psychosocial interventions (psychotherapy, awareness or education and others) can help achieve mood stability and manage mood swings.

 How do you know if you’re having a panic attack? Is this a symptom of anxiety disorder?

Those who have been formally diagnosed with panic attacks commonly report sudden, overwhelming feelings of fearfulness or nervousness, as if coming out of the blue, accompanied by several physical sensations like chest heaviness, difficulty in breathing, pounding heart, dizziness or light-headedness, feeling sick in the stomach, heavy sweating, trembling or shaking.  These occur unexpectedly, even in sleep, and may last for several minutes.  Many experience panic attacks, as if having a heart attack, and fear losing control.  Panic disorder consists of repeated panic attacks, and is one of the anxiety disorders. 

How do we counter a panic attack?

The key step in dealing with panic attacks or panic disorder is to seek professional help.  Since symptoms of panic attacks mimic medical conditions (like heart attack, thyroid disorders, and others), it is essential to consult a physician who can establish if there is an existing physical disorder.  A mental health professional can guide you in learning coping skills, stress management, relaxation techniques as well as provide psychotherapy.  Additionally, medications acting on serotonin and benzodiazepines may be prescribed depending on target symptoms. 

Can children have panic attacks, too? Yes.

Would you advise tranquilizers to calm down people in the middle of a panic attack?

Use of medications is one of several strategies in managing panic disorder.  Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs and benzodiazepines may be prescribed if indicated.

How do you handle an extreme case of  panic attack?

If intolerable and severe, it is best to seek immediate medical evaluation to make certain that this is not a physical disorder.

How are OCD, manic depression, and panic attack treated? 

There are several well-studied treatment strategies for mental health problems. A combination of psychotherapy and appropriate medication has shown benefits. It is important to inquire about different treatment options, as every person is unique, and to ask about advantages, disadvantages, including side effects of treatment options.

If we may add to that, one writer, who confesses she’s battled the most depressing bouts of bipolar disorder, gives some precious tips: Look good so you always feel good. Learn to laugh at yourself. Form or join a support group. Open up to family or friends, it’ll probably make you feel not as weird as you think you are.

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For more information, contact MakatiMed On-Call at 888-8999, email, or visit

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