By Alfredo Madrid
The various manners in which mental illnesses can develop and affect individuals are almost as diverse as the types of disorders that exist. Some are more serious than others. One particular individual, Aaron Harvey, partner at a successful digital marketing agency, broke his silence regarding a 20-year battle with an extreme form of obsessive compulsive disorder known as Pure O.
After realizing that there is a general lack of information available to the public on the disorder, he launched a website to humanize the experience of living with OCD named, Intrusive Thoughts.org. With videos and input from experts on meditation, diet, art and medicine, the site—which offers all of its content in Spanish as well—helps put sufferers on the path to treatment.
“It’s been life-threatening at times and humorous at other times,” said Harvey when describing his experience with OCD. “I’ve battled with it since I was a kid. I was even suicidal at times. It shaped my character. Twenty years I have battled with it. But the last few years have been very empowering.”
Such realizations and feelings of hopelessness led Harvey to want to create a site in which he could address others dealing with not just OCD, but mental disorders in general. He also touched upon why he feel sit is important to directly target the Latino population in this country.
“I wanted to humanize the symptoms,”said Harvey. “Instead of researching the side effects, I wanted to lead people to an understanding of what other people might be going through. Today’s audience is multicultural. It would be a missed opportunity to not offer it in Spanish. There is a mental health stigma in the U.S., and overseas there is even more stigma. People write to me from as far as Italy and Russia. I hope to reach Latin America as well.”
Harvey offers interesting advice for those afflicted with mental disorders. “My advice is to get as educated as you can about what you’re feeling,” said Harvey. “My stance is to practice mindfulness and meditation. It’s the idea that you witness your thoughts, but they don’t mean anything. Practice Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) which forces you to expose yourself to what you’re afraid of.”
At times throughout his life long struggle, Harvey questioned whether he could have healthy, long-standing relationships or even be around children without having negative thoughts of harming them. But Harvey remains optimistic, and his position could be inspiring to those still battling mental disorders on their own.
“Just talk about it,” said Harvey. “Don’t live in secrecy. Get as educated as you can. Empower yourself.”
THOSE LIVING WITH OCD
- Approximately 2.3% of the population between ages 18 – 54 suffers from OCD, which out-ranks mental disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and panic disorder.
- 1 in 200 adults has OCD, and 1 in 100 has had OCD at one point or another in their life.
- OCD is found in all ethnic groups,and both men and women are equally struck by the disorder.
- Between 1/3 to ½ of all sufferers will find that their OCD has its roots in childhood.
- Less than 10% of those suffering are currently in treatment.
- 4 out of 5 people experience intrusive thoughts.
- Up to 60% of sufferers of OCD will have no overt compulsions, known as “Pure O.”
- Approximately 78% of all people suffering from with OCD have intrusive images.