“I’m so OCD.”
I’m sure you’ve heard someone say it or have read the statement on social media. Maybe you’ve even said something similar yourself. Such statements are typically accompanied by a picture of a color-coded or impeccably organized closet, off-kilter lines & patterns, or, like the one I most recently saw at #ocd, M&Ms categorized by color. [What I’m talking about are the kind of situations depicted in this video. They get a pass because 1. The song’s catchy & 2. They acknowledge in the video description & in another video that this is not what true OCD looks like.]
I’m sure you already know what I’m going to say, but I’ll say it anyway: these things are not OCD.
Now, I’m a rational person. I understand that our culture tends to morph words into slang. In the case of OCD, most people are likely able to tell the difference between slang & a crippling mental condition, but I honestly think that OCD is so misunderstood that using the term this way perpetuates the misconceptions.
Misunderstanding of OCD doesn’t exist solely in the general public. There are still medical professionals who have no idea that OCD takes many forms. I once had a psychiatrist tell me that I don’t have OCD because I don’t wash my hands or flip light switches. This is something I might expect from a conventional PCP, but not someone supposedly trained in mental health [conventional or not]. Luckily for me, I already knew that I had OCD, mostly from my own research, but also from a previous diagnosis. [Actually, to be fair, the whole reason I was diagnosed in the first place was because I brought my own research to my psychiatrist’s attention, so who knows what would have happened if I hadn’t looked into it myself.] The unfortunate thing is that there are people out there suffering with OCD & their doctor or psychiatrist is unable to recognize it for what it is.
So, if OCD isn’t about being quirkily tidy, then what is it?
It turns out that that’s not such an easy question to answer.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is characterized by obsessions that cause anxiety & compulsions that temporarily relieve it. Obsessions typically start out as intrusive thoughts, which are unwanted, involuntary thoughts or images. Everyone has intrusive thoughts from time to time, but the majority of the population will brush them off as strange & forget about them. When intrusive thoughts cause anxiety, people with OCD will try to neutralize them in order to get rid of the anxiety. This attempted neutralization is what becomes a compulsion. The compulsion in turn feeds the obsession, & a vicious cycle begins. At a basic level, attempting to neutralize an intrusive thought sort of traps it in the person’s mind.
Compulsions are often physical acts. For example, people who have obsessions about contamination might have the compulsion to repeatedly wash their hands. This goes beyond general cleanliness; people with this type of OCD can wash their hands to the point where they are raw & bleeding.
Compulsions can also be mental. Here’s an example: Despite never having romantic feelings for another woman, I have dealt with obsessions about my sexuality before. I would play out scenes in my mind: living as a lesbian, having sex with another woman, imagining bringing another woman home to Thanksgiving dinner. I would then access my feelings regarding these scenarios [this is a type of compulsion that is referred to as “checking”]. If the way I reacted wasn’t how I wanted to react, I’d play the scenes out again. Over & over & over, from the moment I woke up until I went to sleep. This kind of OCD is less well-known, but has been termed as “Pure-O,” or “Pure Obsessional,” OCD since both the obsessions & compulsions occur in the mind. The term “Pure-O” isn’t exactly accurate; the compulsions are still compulsions, they just aren’t visible.
What is it that makes us latch on to an intrusive thought?
That’s not an easy question to answer, either. OCD can & will latch on to thoughts that threaten the things most important to us. Unfortunately, OCD feeds off of uncertainty, which makes the person with OCD really hate grey areas. When an intrusive thought comes along & we latch onto it, we often will think, “Is that true?” only to find that we can’t answer the question with 100% certainty, often because there isn’t a tangible, measureable answer. Even if we can be 99.99% sure of our answer, that .01% will continue to bother us until we are able to stop engaging with the thought.
Everyone has intrusive thoughts.
Have you ever been driving along on the freeway & imagined yourself driving into the other lane? Or maybe you’re merging onto the freeway & have to go over a bridge to get there. Have you ever imagined driving off the bridge? Most people will have a thought like this, maybe get a bit of a chill, then shake it off & forget about it. A person with OCD might ask herself whether she actually wants to drive into oncoming traffic, & when she can’t answer that question with 100% certainty, she begins to think she’s suicidal. But I don’t want to die! Are you sure? Are you really sure? To be really sure, she might test out a scenario in her head to gauge her reaction. If she isn’t properly horrified by what she’s imagined, she might think she really is suicidal. & the vicious cycle has begun. No matter how much she thinks she really doesn’t want to die, her brain will keep telling her she does.
Confusing, isn’t it? Reading that might be confusing, but not very scary. Once you live it, you find it’s both confusing & terrifying.
What kinds of things do people obsess about?
The possibilities are kind of endless, really. One of the best known obsessions is about cleanliness. This is often how OCD is portrayed in the media: a nervous-ish person compulsively washing his hands. However, like I said above, it can get to the point where the person’s hands are bleeding from all the washing. Contamination fears tie into this as well; a person who fears contracting AIDs might have an anxiety spike in a public restroom & have to compulsively wash his hands to quiet the anxiety. Religious people might have scrupulosity fears. Many obsessions are about taboo topics, like sexuality, so a person with these kinds of obsessions might suffer for years without getting help. People can have obsessions about orderliness too; the key difference between someone who likes order & someone who has OCD about order is that it interferes substantially with the OCD person’s life.
There are separate conditions related to OCD.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder [BDD] & Hoarding Disorder are on the OCD spectrum. BDD deals with obsessions regarding one’s body while hoarders compulsively collect, possibly because throwing things away causes extreme anxiety. There are other related disorders, such as trichotillomania [hair-pulling] & dermatillomania [skin-picking]. I believe I may have the latter because I have compulsively chewed the skin around my fingernails, sometimes to the point of bleeding, from a very young age. I’ve tried to stop doing it, but not doing it causes anxiety. In recent years, I’ve switched to compulsively clipping the skin with nail clippers, so at least the cuts aren’t so jagged. & yes, of course I realize this is kind of gross.
OCD attacks what’s most important to you.
The worst intrusive thought I’ve ever faced in my life is the thought that I don’t truly love my husband. Let me be upfront & say that this is not easy to share, because it isn’t just about me & my OCD; it’s about him, too. Let me preface this by saying that he has remained steadfast throughout our relationship, no matter how much OCD has threatened to take over my life. He has always been by my side, even after I told him what my thoughts were saying about him. If that isn’t true love, I’m not sure what is, & it’s one of the many reasons I fought so hard to stay with him instead of giving in & running away.
Our culture can be a bit obsessed [pardon the pun] with the idea of a soulmate & fairytale endings. It’s arguable that the divorce rate is so high because people either 1. Marry for infatuation instead of love or 2. Don’t understand what love is truly about [or a combination of the two]. Love isn’t about feelings, so when I had the thought one day that I didn’t love him, I believed it at first because I couldn’t conjure up the feeling of love.
I am not my OCD.
There are things I don’t want to say about what OCD did to me during the two separate times I obsessed over loving my husband [once after our relationship became serious, once while we were engaged & bought our first house together]. I don’t want to say them because I don’t want to hurt him. But here’s what’s really important: I am not my OCD. Intrusive thoughts aren’t truly my thoughts. They might be in my brain, but they don’t belong to me, & if I want people to truly understand what OCD can do to a person, then I have to tell the truth.
OCD made me feel like I didn’t love my husband. There was a period of time where it made me feel like I hated him. Remember how I said that OCD will latch on to thoughts that threaten the things most important to us? Well, my husband is the closest person to me. He is the one I give the most for. He is one of the most important things to me. OCD knew how important he was to me, so it attacked him. With this type of obsession [colloquially referred to as ROCD, or Relationship OCD], it seems that the deeper & stronger the love, the harder OCD hits.
OCD can’t be ignored.
Something the general public probably isn’t aware of is that those of us with OCD can’t just turn it off. I’ve gone through ebbs & flows with OCD; for a while, I would have what I call an “episode” every three years. These episodes, what I now think of as flares [for reasons I’ll explain in a bit], lasted around six months each time. During those six month intervals, the only time I was without OCD was when I was asleep. I spent my waking hours consumed by it. During my first flare, I quit my job because I couldn’t focus on the tasks at hand. During my most recent flare, quitting wasn’t an option, so I had to invoke FMLA so that I wouldn’t lose my job for calling out so much.
Not being able to turn OCD off means a life that is consumed by obsessions & compulsions. It means that every waking moment is spent in fear of our own minds. One anxiety-provoking thought after another, sometimes overlapping, until we feel like we want to rip our brains from our skulls. There’s literally no time for anything else. During my most recent flare, I was so nauseated from the anxiety that I could barely eat. I was scared to see my husband because I was scared of the thoughts I’d have about him or what my reaction to his presence would be. I had so much anxiety that there were days I was scared to even get up & walk into another room.
OCD can’t be ignored, but we can face it head-on.
When I was at my worst, it was agony to be around my husband. Most people would think of this as an unhealthy situation; the few people who knew what was happening even suggested that I leave our house for awhile until I got better. I refused, & it wasn’t just because I loved my husband & didn’t want to hurt him by leaving. By staying, I was practicing Exposure & Response Prevention [ERP].
What is ERP?
ERP is the conventional non-drug treatment for OCD. It involves refraining from completing compulsions, which is profoundly difficult. Compulsions are aptly named; those of us with OCD are compelled to carry them out, so much so that we do them almost without thought. In order to practice ERP, we have to really focus on not performing a compulsion, & when we don’t perform the compulsion, the anxiety gets so bad that many times we will give in. ERP takes practice, & it becomes easier as time goes on. The problem is that when we don’t perform a compulsion, we feel that whatever it is we’re obsessing about will be true, no matter how irrational it is.
Sitting with an anxiety-inducing intrusive thought is arguably one of the worst tortures imaginable. [The only thing worse, arguably, is being stuck in an endless cycle of obsessions & compulsions.] I think this is mostly because you can’t run from your own mind; you have to live with it. It’s also because, as I said above, sitting with the thought instead of trying to neutralize it with a compulsion makes the thought feel real. People with contamination fears feel like they’ve actually contracted AIDs. A woman who loves working with children but fears she is a pedophile believes it. Someone with scrupulosity fears believes he is going to Hell & there’s nothing he can do to stop it. Me? I believed I didn’t love my husband.
My OCD metaphor
I just realized something that’s kind of hitting me like a ton of bricks & might help others understand OCD better. I’ve mentioned before that Lord of the Rings is one of my most favorite things in the whole world. What does this have to do with OCD? Well, take Smeagol. Having OCD is kind of like having a Gollum inside you, only without the psychotic bits. We constantly go back & forth with ourselves in a circle that can’t be broken unless we actively seek to stop it with ERP.
Why does ERP help?
On a basic level, we’re conditioning the mind to stop reacting to intrusive thoughts. It’s a lot harder than it sounds, because once an OCD mind has an intrusive thought, it holds onto it with a death grip. This is how an intrusive thought becomes an obsession. Our knee-jerk reaction to obsessions is to perform compulsions in order to reduce the anxiety. The key with ERP is to not perform the compulsion, which takes a lot of effort.
ERP may be difficult at first, but it does get easier as time passes. As we continue to expose ourselves to the anxiety-producing obsession, it becomes less scary. Eventually, we may reach a period of numbness where we don’t particularly care about the obsession but it still feels real. If we aren’t careful, we might be dragged back into obsession by questioning why the obsession no longer upsets us. For example, there came a time when I was still having the thought of not loving my husband, but I was so numb to it that it felt like I just didn’t care. There were many times where I thought that not caring meant that my obsession was true. If I hadn’t pressed on believing I’d get better, I could have started obsessing again.
What about medication?
Admittedly, ERP was not the only thing that helped to drag me out of my obsessive-compulsive cycle. I also went on a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor [SSRI], which helped me to calm down enough so that I could effectively practice ERP. Here’s the thing though: I want off of it.
I’ve been on & off [mostly on] psychiatric drugs for nearly nine years now, &, while they’ve allowed me to come down to a place where my life isn’t consumed by my obsessions & compulsions, they are certainly not allowing me to live my best life. I may not be in my own head all the time, but I sometimes feel as if I’ve been lobotomized. I don’t know how to have fun anymore. My emotions are either a flatline most of the time or slanted towards the negative. I sometimes feel like I’m living my life on autopilot, & that isn’t what I want.
There is mounting evidence that these drugs do more harm than good in the long run, along with the possibility of permanent damage to the brain’s neurotransmitter systems. I won’t go into this here, but if you’re interested in learning more, Robert Whitaker discusses this topic at great length in his book, Anatomy of an Epidemic.
If I stop taking my medication, won’t my OCD just return with a vengeance? Well, that’s what I want to talk about next.
Part of the reason OCD is so misunderstood is because its origins & causes are mostly unknown. I have always found this maddening, because there has to be a reason for the brain to develop something as serious as this. That word though, brain, might just be the very reason that the conventional medical & psychiatric communities have not figured OCD out yet. They’re only looking at the brain.
You might be thinking, “But, Ashley, OCD is a psychiatric illness! Why wouldn’t they be looking at the brain?” I’m not saying that the brain isn’t involved, but the conventional medical community has broken the body into separate entities as if they have nothing to do with each other. Do you have depression, anxiety, or another mental health issue like OCD? You see a psychiatrist. Thyroid problem? See an endocrinologist. MS? See a neurologist. GI symptoms? Off the the gastroenterologist you go. There’s a deep-rooted problem with this model: The doctors treat the symptoms, but not the root cause of the problem.
OCD is a symptom of something bigger.
What if I told you that many of these medical conditions arise from a common problem? What if I told you that everything in our bodies is all connected? There is, specifically, an intimate connection between the brain & the gastrointestinal system [what I will refer to as the gut], so much so that the medical community is beginning to recognize the gut as “the second brain.” Have you ever been so nervous that you had to run to the bathroom? That is a simple example of the gut-brain connection.
Why would the gut have anything to do with the brain?
Well, that’s a loaded question. Hippocrates said that “All disease begins in the gut,” & it turns out he wasn’t that far off. On a basic level, our intestines are a barrier between our bodies & the outside world. This is why the majority of the immune system lies just outside our intestinal wall. The health of our intestines has an effect on literally every other system in our bodies. Our modern diets & lifestyles are not so conducive to intestinal health, however.
Our diets have become centered around processed grain products, factory farmed meat, soy, processed “vegetable” oils, & sugar [if you’re not so sure about those last three, check out a nutrition label in your pantry; it’s highly likely that there is some form of soy, sugar, vegetable oil, or all three listed there]. Our environment is teeming with toxicants [pesticides in our food, harmful compounds in our personal care products, etc]. In addition to poor diet & toxin consumption, we are also perpetually stressed out. These factors have consequences on our health, arguably through two avenues: inflammation & overgrowths of bacteria &/or fungus in our intestines. Inflammation & overgrowths are very much connected; one can lead to the other & vice versa.
What’s a leaky gut & what causes it?
When we consume foods our bodies aren’t made to digest [think processed foods & gluten], it causes our guts to become permeable & inflamed. If the food itself doesn’t cause permeability, an overgrowth of bacteria & fungus likely will. Bacteria & Candida, the fungus living in our intestines, love carbohydrates, especially the kinds of refined carbohydrates & sugar the Standard American Diet is built upon. Candida, when overgrown, can grow hyphae into the lining of our intestines. Over time, this causes gaps in the tight junctions between epithelial cells. Gluten has much the same effect by activating zonulin.
Zonulin is a human protein that controls gut permeability. It is used in the small intestine to regulate the opening & closing of the epithelial barrier, which is important for the absorption of nutrients from our food. When we eat gluten, however, it activates zonulin, causing increased intestinal permeability. When this happens, the epithelial barrier is opening when it isn’t supposed to, which can lead to food particles escaping into our bloodstream. The majority of our immune system lies right outside of the intestinal wall for this reason: to attack foreign invaders. The immune system views these escaped food particles as foreign invaders, attacks them, & catalogs them for future reference. This is how a food sensitivity is created; every time you eat that food & it escapes through the epithelial barrier, the immune system will attack it. With the immune system constantly on the alert, inflammation develops.
What is inflammation & why is it such a big deal?
Inflammation is a natural, necessary process. It’s the reason a cut will become painful & red as it begins to heal. Systemic inflammation, however, is quite harmful to our bodies. Systemic inflammation is perpetuated as our gut remains leaky & we continue to eat foods that irritate us. This kind of inflammation can present in a number of ways, including [but not limited to] allergies, migraines, anxiety, & more serious conditions like depression, cancer, diabetes, autoimmunity, &, arguably, OCD. In fact, inflammation appears to be the common denominator for most modern diseases.
Gluten: Inflammatory Superstar
Gluten is infamous for its effect on those with celiac disease, an autoimmune condition that attacks the small intestine when the body is exposed to gluten. However, gluten’s effects on zonulin & the fact that humans lack necessary enzymes to digest gluten mean that this protein is likely harmful to most, if not all, people. Some people, however, exhibit a higher sensitivity to gluten than others.
In his book, Grain Brain, Dr. David Perlmutter talks about how gluten sensitivity “can involve any organ in the body, even if the small intestine is completely spared. So while a person may not have celiac disease by definition, the rest of the body–including the brain–is at great risk if that individual is gluten sensitive.” Dr. Alessio Fasano, an expert on celiac & non-celiac gluten sensitivity, similarly writes, “Immune cells armed by the exposure to gluten can leave the intestine & target specific organs or areas, such as the brain…which leads to local inflammation. This mechanism can create conditions that explain the almost bewildering array of clinical symptoms caused by gluten.”
What else causes inflammation?
Of course, gluten isn’t the only protein that can cause inflammation. Gluten is unique in that it activates zonulin; however, once the intestines are permeable, one can become sensitive to any number of foods, & continuing to eat those foods will perpetuate inflammation. Foods that are unnatural to the human body, like most processed foods & oils today, also perpetuate the inflammatory response. Dr. Perlmutter explains, “Once you have a leaky gut, you’re highly susceptible to additional food sensitivities in the future….[Inflammation]can be initiated when the immune system reacts to a substance in a person’s body. When antibodies of the immune system come into contact with a protein or antigen to which a person is allergic [or sensitive], the inflammatory cascade is provoked, releasing a whole host of damaging chemicals known as cytokines.”
Cytokines are harmful to the brain, “damaging tissue & leaving the brain vulnerable to dysfunction & disease.” Elevated cytokines are seen in multiple diseases & conditions, including “Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, & even autism. (Research has even shown that some people who are wrongly diagnosed with ALS…simply have a sensitivity to gluten, & eliminating it from the diet resolves the symptoms.)”
Inflammation is multifactorial.
There are also causes of inflammation that are unrelated to food. Any form of stress can provoke an inflammatory response. For example, negative thoughts have been shown to increase inflammation! Our modern lives are filled to the brim with stress as we work 40+ hours a week & are always on the go. Environmental toxins can contribute to inflammation, & the average person unknowingly overloads her body with toxins every single day. They’re found in personal care products, makeup, conventional meats, household cleaners, & many other products we expose ourselves to every day. Overexercising & undereating can cause stress & lead to inflammation as well. The worst part is that once we are inflamed, it is extremely self-perpetuating. We have to put in the effort to bring inflammation down.
Healthy intestinal flora makes for a healthy brain.
As I’ve mentioned, another inflammatory factor is bacterial & fungal overgrowths in the intestines. Our microbiome, the ecosystem of microorganisms that resides in our guts, is essential to our health. In fact, we have more microbial cells than we do human ones. The problem these days is that our intestinal flora now have less species diversity. In addition, standard Western diets, stress levels, & practices–such as the overuse of antibiotics–cause us to develop dysbiosis. This is when, in the absence of enough good bacteria, pathogenic bacteria & fungus may overgrow.
How can gut bacteria affect mental health?
The list of factors that can influence the microbiome is a long one which includes our mother’s own microbiome, whether we were born vaginally, whether we were breastfed & for how long, how stressed we are, the kinds of foods we eat [& don’t eat!], & antibiotic use. As it turns out, the microbiome is a key player in the health of our brains. [This is a convoluted topic, & one I can’t fully explain here; I recommend Dr. Perlmutter’s book on the subject, Brain Maker.] One of the ways our microbiome affects our brain health is through lipopolysaccharide [LPS].
Psychiatrist Dr. Kelly Brogan explains that lipopolysaccharide is a “combination of lipids (fat) & sugars, & is found on the outer membrane of certain bacteria that are naturally found in the gut….LPS is not supposed to travel beyond the interior of the gut,…but it can if the gut lining is somehow compromised,” as it is in the case of leaky gut. [Remember, too, that overgrowths of bacteria & fungus can perpetuate leaky gut.] When LPS enters the bloodstream, it triggers a violent inflammatory response. As we’ve seen, inflammation can affect all systems in the body, including the brain. LPS itself has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, triggering an inflammatory response in the brain.
The state of our guts & our inner ecosystem undoubtedly plays a role in the health of our brains. It is so profound that fecal transplants from healthy donors have been shown to greatly reduce symptoms of autism in the patient who receives the transplant! The connection between gut health & brain health is the primary reason I am not planning on tapering from my SSRI medication until my bacterial & fungal overgrowths are under control. I want to give myself the cleanest slate possible before I begin the long, arduous journey of tapering from an SSRI.
What about autoimmunity?
It’s worth mentioning that autoimmunity may play a role in the development & perpetuation of OCD. Anecdotally, I find it no coincidence that my first intense OCD flare occurred within a few short weeks of receiving my breast implants. In my opinion, the foreign body reaction, an inflammatory response by nature, might have caused inflammation in my brain. It’s also quite possible that the foreign body reaction triggered my autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which could very well have caused OCD by an inflammatory response or by a transient state of hyperthyroidism.
It is already recognized that there can be an autoimmune component to OCD, particularly in children. Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Strep [PANDAS] & Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndromes [PANS] are characterized by acute-onset OCD symptoms in children. PANDAS & PANS develop when infections or environmental factors trigger an immune response.
Is there an autoimmune component to adult-onset OCD?
Anecdotally, people with celiac disease have reported experiencing OCD symptoms when they are exposed to gluten. This is not surprising considering the connection between the gut & the brain. Of course, one can be sensitive to gluten without presenting as celiac. This is referred to as non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Notably, “neurologic and psychiatric complications seen in gluten sensitive patients may be the prime presentation in patients suffering from this disease.” This means that it’s quite possible that a gluten-sensitive person may present only with psychiatric symptoms.
The cyclical nature I have experienced with my OCD leads me to believe that it may be connected to my autoimmunity. Autoimmunity is known to “flare,” & my OCD has flared severely three times in my life after receiving breast implants, which, in my opinion, were the trigger of my autoimmunity to begin with. As I have mentioned, I have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition that causes the immune system to attack & destroy the thyroid gland. Based on symptoms alone, I believe I may also have celiac disease; however, because I have been gluten-free for quite some time, I can no longer be tested for it.
Am I saying that if you change your diet & heal your gut that you will never have issues with mental health again? No, not necessarily.
There are so many factors that contribute to mental health that I can’t possibly cover them all in one blog post [I think of something new every time I try to close out this post!]. Healing from OCD & other mental illnesses takes work. In my opinion, that work includes nutritional therapy, gut healing, mental work, & eliminating toxins from your life as much as possible. I have done a lot of mental & emotional work, including ERP & digging deep to get to the root of false beliefs, & in my experience these have been harder than anything I’ve done nutritionally. However, having a good nutritional foundation & good physical health has been essential to my progress. To me, all this work is worth it, especially because my own experience has allowed me to share what I’ve learned with others & hopefully help them.
Good nutrition is essential to all aspects of our health.
We’ve found that nutrition has a powerful impact on autoimmunity [diseases like Hashimoto’s, Rheumatoid Arthritis, & ALS, to name a few], metabolic dysfunction [diabetes & obesity], & brain disorders like epilepsy & Alzheimer’s. Why should mental health be any different? Good mental health requires that we get plenty of nutrients–B12, for example–& plenty of healthy fats to support the health of the brain, & that we reject foods that do not serve our mental health, such as processed foods & gluten.
I now firmly believe that mental health is intimately connected to the health of the rest of the body. Everything is connected; we can’t just separate the body into parts & treat the symptoms of said individual parts. That might appear to work in the short-term, but what’s most effective long-term is to treat the body as a whole, in a functional way. A healthy body makes for a healthy mind [& vice versa!]. A holistic approach is helping me get my life back. Are you ready to get yours back, too?
Need help or want to learn more?
For anyone struggling with ROCD or anxiety about your relationship, Conscious Transitions helped me a lot. Sheryl Paul, the creator of the site, writes about & teaches what love truly is. Her advice is also very helpful for intrusive thoughts in general. I suggest visiting the site & taking a look around.
If you want to learn more about the connection between the gut & the brain, I highly recommend Dr. Perlmutter’s books, Grain Brain & Brain Maker. I will say that he is a big proponent of a ketogenic diet, which can be very therapeutic, but I’m not convinced that ketosis is necessary for everyone to heal. Nevertheless, these are great reads that thoroughly explain the gut-brain connection. I also recommend Dr. Kelly Brogan’s book, A Mind of Your Own, which is about the connection between the gut, inflammation, our mental health & what we can do to heal mental illness naturally. For information on the anti-inflammatory Paleo diet, start here.
Brogan, K. (2016). A Mind of Your Own: The Truth About Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies to Reclaim Their Lives. New York: Harper Wave.
Perlmutter, D. (2016). Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain–for Life. New York: Little, Brown.
Perlmutter, D. (2015). Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers. New York: Little Brown.
Wentz, Izabella, and Marta Nowosadzka. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: Lifestyle Interventions for Finding and Treating the Root Cause. United States, Izabella Wentz, 2015.