“Living With OCD” Podcast — The Perfect Cap to #OCDcon Weekend

This year’s 22nd Annual OCD Conference was special in many ways, from record-breaking attendance numbers to the excitement of getting to host this year’s Conference in the IOCDF’s hometown of Boston. Also unique to this year’s event was the introduction of the first-ever post-Conference event, a live taping of the Living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (LWOCD) podcast onsite at the Conference.

In the episode taped on the Sunday of the Conference, podcast hosts Julie and Andy Burnfield talk about the background of the show, how it came to be and discuss Julie’s OCD. They also interview Dr. Shana Doronn, a therapist and OCD expert who attended the Conference, and the IOCDF’s Dr. Jeff Szymanski, executive director of the Foundation and a practicing clinical psychologist. Members of the audience were also given the opportunity to reflect on the Conference experience and ask questions at the end of the taping. This was such a special episode for LWOCD hosts Julie and Andy and Drs. Doronn and Szymanski.

The LWOCD episode from the Conference can be downloaded at the following links:

OCD Conference: Going Home

It’s the last day of the Conference: Prepare to be sad when you leave, and maybe sadder when you get home. I said to someone yesterday, “Can’t we just live here?”

“Boston?” she asked. “Or the hotel?”

“The hotel,” I said, “but what I mean is, ‘Can’t we just live with people with OCD and not have to go back to the real world?'”

The answer is no, of course (but let me know if you have any large plots of land we can build an OCD commune on). We live in a world with people who don’t always understand OCD, and after several days of being surrounded by others with OCD as well as caring family members and therapists, it will be a bit of an adjustment to go home.

First of all, take some time to decompress. Relax and reflect on the memorable experiences. Then follow these tips to make the wonderful feelings of community last longer:

  • Keep in touch with the new friends and connections you’ve made here. Did you get an email address or a phone number? Use it! Find friends on Facebook or Twitter, and follow people’s blogs or websites. If you met people from your town or city, make plans to meet for coffee or dinner.
  • If you learned a lot, share it with others. You don’t have to hold a mini conference to do it; just tell a parent or friend about some of the most interesting tidbits. If you’re up to it, you can write a blog post or do a podcast. Spread the word! You’ll feel great talking about it and educating others. It’s the best way to help reduce stigma, and if you have OCD and don’t feel comfortable talking about it, doing so will be therapeutic.
  • Get involved in OCD events. Maybe your area has a local affiliate of the International OCD Foundation. Volunteer with them, or attend meetings. Look for support groups in your area. Start planning an OCD Awareness Week event in October.
  • Look ahead to next year! Consider going to the Chicago Conference, and think about how you might be involved. Maybe you’ll be an attendee again, or maybe you’ll hold a presentation or volunteer for the organization.

It was great meeting you all! I know I didn’t meet every single person because that would be impossible with more than 1,700 attendees — we broke records, folks. Take care. See you next year in Chicago?

OCD Conference: Saturday, Saturday, Saturday!

Wow! What a packed day! I don’t know about you, but my schedule was packed back to back — the only moments of downtime I had were before my presentation with Lee Baer when I went to my hotel room to quietly freak out a little bit and plan what I was going to say. [Editor’s note: Alison’s talk went amazingly well! It was very well attended, and she received many compliments afterwards from attendees. Thank you to Alison and Lee Baer for their presentation!]

This morning I attended the keynote address delivered by legendary NHL goalie Clint Malarchuk and his wife, Joanie. It was an emotional experience for everyone there — Joanie cried as she shared the intimate details of Clint’s struggle with OCD and addiction, and as she described her unwavering love for a man who wasn’t always easy to live with. Clint got choked up at the end when he thanked his fellow OCD sufferers, and we all cried at different points throughout the presentation. Clint’s lucky to be alive for a couple reasons, and he’s now dedicated to living a life of service to others. He’s a truly incredible man, as sweet as can be.

After I recovered a bit from the keynote, I made a beeline to a session on skin picking and hair pulling. Actually, I made a beeline to the wrong room and sat in the front row, anxiously awaiting the arrival of my old psychiatrist, who was on the skin picking and hair pulling panel, until I realized I was in the wrong Ballroom B. There are too many ballrooms in this fancy hotel, I tell ya! After I realized my mistake, I rushed over to the correct Ballroom B and basically made my former doctor hug me. I seriously love that man — how could I not be eternally grateful to the person who diagnosed me and got me on the right path toward recovery? Even though I don’t have issues with skin picking or hair pulling myself, I stayed for his session and learned a few things.

If you suffer from either of these conditions, here are some key takeaways: Use smaller mirrors with less light. Consider covering your bathroom mirror with plastic wrap so you can’t see every tiny detail you want to pick or pull at. Instead of picking at your skin or pulling out your hair, occupy your hands with something else, whether it be origami or a squishy stress ball. If your skin tends to get dry toward the end of the day, use lotion to make it less tempting to pick at. Perhaps most important, ditch the idea that you need to be perfect. If you are picking or pulling less, that’s a victory! Learn to be okay with being good enough and being pleased with any amount of progress you’ve made and to not beat yourself up if you backslide a little.

After that I had lunch with Dr. Baer (who insisted I call him Lee, which is going to take a while to adjust t0) and a wonderful woman I’ve been in touch with since last year’s Conference. The three of us have been brainstorming ways to connect on a peer-to-peer level with others suffering from intrusive thoughts. If you’re interested in chatting with someone who really gets what you’re going through, go to ocdandfamilies.org, hover over the Peer Support tab, and click on “I’m interested in one-on-one peer support for unacceptable intrusive obsessions.” Dr. Baer will hook you up.

Insert some moments of panic and uncertainty here, where I questioned my decision to tell a huge room full of people that my biggest fear used to be that I was a pedophile. What was I thinking?! It actually turned out so much better than I could have expected. I cried, which I figured would happen, because that’s what I do. But I powered through and met so many wonderful people afterward who approached me and told me it was exactly what they needed to hear. I made the right decision after all. I suppose I knew that all along, but nerves can take over sometimes. Thank you, thank you, thank you to Lee Baer and everyone who attended. It meant the world to me.

I’m taking a break from the social right now. If you’re here and reading this, head downstairs to dance!

I ran into communications director Carly Bourne today and she said, “You know, I was thinking of how you mentioned in one of your blogs last year how you had just ran into Lee Baer in the lobby and now a year later you’re presenting with him.”

Hey, yeah! That’s right, that was a mere year ago. It’s worth every ounce of awkwardness and anxiety to approach people in the lobby, in the hallway, after sessions — whatever. You could be making some very meaningful connections, and if not, at least you faced a fear.

Case in point: I saw Clint Malarchuk and his wife walking through the lobby yesterday, and I recognized him immediately. So I waved. Joanie so sweetly said, “Have we met?” No, I told her, I’m just kind of weird. I sometimes have a hard time approaching people in a normal, professional way, but I figure whatever works is good enough. We chatted for a while, and it turns out Joanie lived in the Twin Cities area for many years. I explained when one says, “Uff da!” in Minnesota, so I guess you could say I taught him as much in a few minutes in the lobby as he did during his presentation this morning. Only kidding, of course!

Have you met anyone you admire here? Did you have the courage to approach them? Tell us about it!

OCD Conference: Boston edition

How is day one winding down already? I’ve been looking forward to this since last year’s Conference, and we’re cruising through this year’s already. As with last year, I’m wearing many hats: an affiliate representative (OCD Twin Cities president), a speaker (check out my session with Lee Baer tomorrow afternoon, from 4 to 5:30!), and an IOCDF volunteer (writing these blog posts). It makes for a fun varied experience.

Last night after my plane landed—which included some scary turbulence, exactly what a person with an anxiety disorder wants—I quickly prepared to catch up with old friends and meet some new ones. The entire evening was like a summer camp reunion, running into people I’d met last year, with a little bit of squealing and a lot of hugging involved. That’s one of the best parts about attending this Conference. Another is meeting new people and connecting almost immediately. Wherever you turn, there is someone who understands OCD and is willing to chat. It feels like home—in a really nice hotel.

This morning I attended a panel session about how to deal with the stigma of having a mental illness, led by Chrissie Hodges, Ro Vitale, and Carol Thomas, a teenager with OCD who’s beginning to share her journey with others who need help. Audience members shared advice on how to push past stigma and pat themselves on the back for the progress they’ve made toward recovery, even if others aren’t as supportive as they’d like. I love how interactive the sessions can become. You may initially attend a talk for the speakers, but you end up learning from audience members as well. We’re a true community, always willing to offer advice to others and to learn from each other.

I won’t bore you with the details of my brainstorm with my co-presenter or the affiliate meeting I attended, but you should definitely look into affiliates in your area and see how you can get involved. Tonight I’m meeting up with a Facebook support group for dinner, and I’m excited to meet these wonderful people in person. We’ve lifted each other up and gone to each other for advice and now we get to chat in real life, another reason I wholeheartedly recommend the Conference: You will make and solidify relationships you’ll cherish for a lifetime. OCD is a beast, but with support and understanding we can tame it. Think your obsession is the weirdest? Just tell someone here about it, and you’ll feel “normal” and be accepted with open arms. Really, just try it.

Looking forward to tomorrow! How about you?


The 2015 Annual OCD Conference is here!

Welcome to Boston! We’re so glad a record-breaking number of attendees were able to join us for the 22nd Annual OCD Conference. This year is particularly special, as we’re able to host so many of you in our hometown of Boston. We’re sure you have questions as you start to get settled and begin planning your weekend, so we’re here to help! Read on for some important information you’ll need to know to make the most of the weekend. 

I’ve arrived — now what?

First things first, make sure you check in, if you registered for the Conference ahead of time, or register onsite if you haven’t registered to attend yet. The registration desk is open from noon–8pm on Thursday. Attendees will also be able to check in and pick up badges beginning at 7am on the mornings of Friday, July 31 and Saturday, August 1. 

What can I do tonight?

We’ve got some great ice breakers planned to help connect Conference attendees from the get-go! New this year is the “Louder than OCD” Cabaret and Open Mic event taking place from 6:30-9pm in Grand Ballroom A. Join IOCDF Spokeswoman Ro Vitale, as well as the co-writers of the upcoming musical, Three Times Fast, a show about the writers’ experiences with OCD. There will also be an opportunity for attendees to showcase their own musical skills during an open mic portion.

We’ve also got some old favorites in the mix to ensure there’s something for everyone. Younger attendees can check out fun events such as OCD: The Game Show for Kids and OCD Storytelling for Kids and Parents. There’s also an Adult Storytime taking place that night, as well as the always-popular OCD Pub Trivia ice breaker. We’ve also got a wide range of support groups taking place in the evening as well.

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 2.35.23 PMHow do I know what’s going on and where talks are?

There are three easy ways to check each day’s schedule and figure out when and where you should be in order to make it to all talks, presentations, support groups, and evening activities you might want to attend.

First, each day’s schedule is laid out in the Program Guide. Everyone will receive a physical copy of the guide when they check in or register onsite at the Conference.

You can also view the schedule online. You can sort the online version of the schedule by tracks, days, and search for individual speakers to make finding the right talk super simple!

Finally, we also recommend you download our Conference smartphone app if you prefer to look up each day’s events via your phone or tablet.

image (5)I’d love to see Boston while I’m here. Got any tips on where I should go?

We love the city of Boston! Monday’s blog featured a list of staff recommendations and nearby attractions in the city in case you’re interested in exploring while you’re in town. Many of these attractions are also offering special discounts and deals for Conference attendees. Make sure you check out the discounts page for more information.

Many of these attractions are also close to the Conference hotel. Within a 15 minute walk from the Westin is the Institute of Contemporary Art, which is offering free admission all day on Friday; Laugh Boston, a comedy club located in the Westin itself is offering up to 25 percent off their shows on Thursday and Friday; and the Lawn on D, a gorgeous green space literally in the Westin’s backyard has fun events going on all weekend.

Ambassador ButtonI still have questions — where can I go or who should I talk to with other questions?

There’s a whole crew of people waiting to help you make the most of your Conference experience. A good place to start is by chatting with a Conference Ambassador. All ambassadors will have a big blue and orange button, making them easy to spot. Ambassadors are a mix of people who have been to many OCD Conferences, and who are happy to help you make the most of your conference experience.

If you have specific questions about the IOCDF, membership, or our programs, we encourage you to visit our membership coordinator, Tiia Groden, at the IOCDF Info Table in the Exhibit Hall (Booth #8). Tiia will be joined by several special guests throughout the Conference as well, including two furry therapy dog friends set to hold “Pawffice Hours” throughout the Conference, and all four IOCDF spokespeople. Specific hours when everyone will be at the IOCDF table in the Exhibit Hall are listed on page 21 of this year’s Program Guide. Everyone at the table will be happy to chat with you as well!

And finally, don’t forget to share your Conference experience with us! Tag us in any posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and use the hashtag #OCDcon to share your Conference highlights. Most importantly, have an incredible weekend, and do everything you can take advantage of the amazing opportunity that is the Annual OCD Conference!

7 Boston Attractions You Won’t Want to Miss!

It’s not every year that we get to host the OCD Conference in our hometown! As we finalize all Conference details and you finalize your travel plans, the IOCDF staff pulled together a list of some of our favorite local attractions, as well as a list of discounted and free things to do in and around Boston, to help make your visit to Boston even more fun. Here are just a few of our favorite sights and destinations to see during your stay in Boston. Make sure to check out the full lists for even more fun ideas!

Laugh BostonJudahFriedlander1

Conference attendees looking for some evening entertainment won’t have to go any further than the Westin hotel lobby, home of Laugh Boston, a comedy club with some great discounts for Conference attendees. Laugh Boston is offering discounts of 20-25% off for the stand-up comedy shows on Thursday, July 30th and Friday, July 31st, featuring Screen Actors Guild Award winning actor and comedian, Judah Friedlander. Judah may be most recognizable as his character Frank Rossitano on NBC’s long-running, hit comedy 30 Rock. In addition, Judah is set to star in the highly anticipated Netflix series, Wet Hot American Summer. Judah has made multiple hilarious appearances on many late night shows, including Conan, The Late Show With David Letterman, Conan, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and The Daily Show. Click here for discount details. Discount and ticket availability is on a first come, first serve basis.

The “Hahvahd” Tour

Current current Harvard undergraduate students, graduate students and Harvard alumni lead this entertaining, theatrical tour in and around many of Harvard’s iconic buildings and nearby hangouts. Tours focus on the history and culture of Harvard, as well as some of the more famous Ivy Leaguers who have called Cambridge their home over the years.

Use promo code IOCDF when booking online for 50% off tickets. When booking, select the tour date of your choice, then submit the promo code in the “coupons” field.

cruiseBoston Harbor Cruises

According to Jeff Smith, the IOCDF’s director of development, there’s no better way to see the city than from the water.

“The view of the city from the water is amazing!” he says. “There are so many different types of cruises, from whale watching to touring the Boston Harbor Islands. When you’re back on land, it’s always fun to go to Legal Seafood on Boston Harbor Wharf for quintessential Boston Clam Chowdah!”

OCD Conference attendees can use customer ID# 7134 over the phone (617-227-4321 x9) to receive a discount off of ticket purchases. (Note: Reservations must be made in advance by calling and paying with a credit card. Guests that arrive at the ticket office without a reservation will not be eligible for the discount and will also run the risk of not getting a ticket, which frequently sell out on weekends).

Boston Common and Public Garden

This gorgeous green space is a favorite of IOCDF Assistant Program Director Stephanie Cogen. Stephanie says the Common and the Garden, located near downtown Boston, are great places to enjoy a nice walk, stop for a rest or a picnic in the grass, while away the hours watching (or riding!) the iconic Swan Boats, and pose for pictures with famous statues like the “Make Way for Ducklings” statue located in the Public Garden.

The Boston Common is also the first stop of the Freedom Trail, a 2.5 mile trail that leads walkers past 16 of Boston’s most influential historic sites, many of which played significant roles in the Revolutionary War. Maps and guides of the Freedom Trail are available here. 

Institute of Contemporary Art

Less than a 15 minute walk from the Conference hotel, the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) is home to some of the most significant national and international works of contemporary art, including visual art exhibitions, music, film, video and performance. A list and descriptions of current exhibitions is available here, as well as information about hours and admission.

The ICA is offering FREE admission on Friday, July 31 to all visitors. Activities for the whole family—including art making, performances, conversations on art, and more—will take place throughout the day.

AfricanPenguinNEAqNew England Aquarium

Another IOCDF staff favorite, and a great indoor attraction to check out on a rainy, hot, or humid day. Pam Lowy, the IOCDF’s director of operations, lists octopi, jellyfish, penguins, and seals as just some of the creatures that call the Aquarium their home. A new exhibit opened recently highlights the Aquarium’s expertise in saving endangered sea turtles, and provides visitors with a hands-on experience with diagnosing, treating and rehabilitating sea turtles. Hours and admissions information is available here.

Lawn on D

Located right in the Conference hotel’s backyard is the Lawn on D, a unique event space designed to encourage public engagement and foster creativity. Aside from the coolest swings you’ll ever see, the space also hosts art installations, music, games, food & beverage vendors, and other fun programming, most of which is free! Find out what’s happening during the Conference weekend by visiting the Lawn’s homepage.

Click here to see more discounted and free attractions in and around the OCD Conference location.


Advanced Online Registration is Now Sold Out*

Online registration is now closed. Onsite registration will still be available at the Conference Hotel beginning at noon on Thursday, July 30th. And starting at 7am on Friday and Saturday mornings.

If you have any questions, please email conference@iocdf.org.

See you in Boston!

*Don’t worry! There will still be onsite registrations available for the Pre-Conference Training Sessions, 1-day Registrations for Friday and Saturday, and Full Conference Badges.

3rd Annual Hoarding Meeting Offers Resources, Support in Boston This Summer

Hoarding disorder (HD) presents a unique challenge because of how it impacts such a wide variety of individuals, agencies, and groups. As such, our goal at the IOCDF has been to continue to design and develop comprehensive resources that help support individuals with hoarding disorder while also addressing the family, community, and public impacts of HD. Continue reading

The Annual OCD Conference – Fun for All Ages!

With just three weeks to go, the IOCDF staff is more excited than ever for the 22nd Annual OCD Conference later this month. We can’t wait to welcome you all to our hometown of Boston, MA, including the youngest members of our OCD community — kids and teens. You may be wondering what, if anything, children or teens can possibly get out of attending the Annual OCD Conference. Whether someone is 4 years old or 18 years old, there is something fun for everyone! Read on to get a sense of what kids and teens can expect from their time at the Conference. Continue reading

3 Reasons To Be Boston Bound This Summer

It’s about that time again! The International OCD Foundation’s Annual OCD Conference is upon us in less than a month and this year, it’s in the IOCDF’s hometown of Boston, Massachusetts. This can only mean one thing…LOTS OF CLAM CHOWDER!!! Research has shown that consuming delicious clam chowder has absolutely no effect on OCD. However, attending the Conference does. If you’re on the fence about going, here are my top 3 reasons to get on a plane, train, bus, or car and join us this summer. Continue reading