Internet Celebrity with 40 Million Followers Opens Up About Having OCD
You might think that being a social media influencer with 40 million Instagram followers, as well as being a successful singer, actress, and model would mean your life is perfect. But not for superstar Lele Pons. She admitted in her new Youtube docuseries, “The Secret Life of Lele Pons,” that she has been battling mental health issues for most of her life.
OCD, which affects about 1 in 40 adults and 1 in 200 children, is a serious and debilitating disorder characterized by recurring thoughts known as obsessions and repetitive behaviors called compulsions. Pons explains it by saying, “My OCD is thoughts, very, very powerful thoughts, that make me do stuff that I don’t want to do.”
OCD Obsessions and Compulsions
Similar to what Pons describes, people with OCD are subjected to intrusive thoughts and mental images rooted in fears that cause anxiety. Some of the common obsessions seen in OCD include the fear of germs, contamination, forbidden sexuality, violence, being out of control, religion, and a need for perfection.
In an effort to suppress or control these thoughts and the anxiety they induce, people are driven to engage in compulsive behaviors. The most common compulsions include:
- Excessive washing and cleaning (such as hand-washing or household cleaning)
- Counting (including wanting to end on a “good” or “safe” number)
- Checking (such as checking the door is locked or the stove is turned off)
- Repeating (such as a name, phrase, or prayer)
- Touching (especially in a particular sequence)
- Arranging objects (ordering items in a precise or symmetrical way)
In the docuseries, Pons reveals that her obsessions trigger rituals, touching, and other compulsions. “When I was little, it got to a point that I could not move from my car, and I stayed an hour there doing some rituals and touching things, and my dad had to carry me out of the car,” she says. “If I didn’t touch everything, I thought my family was going to die, so I started touching everything.”
What Does OCD Look Like in the Brain?
- Basal ganglia: This area of the brain is involved in setting the body’s anxiety level and in forming habits. Overactivity in this region is associated with heightened anxiety and fear.
- Anterior cingulate gyrus (ACG): This region is known as the brain’s “gear shifter” and it helps people shift attention from subject to subject or to go from thought to thought. When the ACG is overactive, people tend to get “stuck” on the same thought or behavior.
Why OCD is Commonly Misdiagnosed
Unfortunately, most psychiatrists never look at the brain. They make diagnoses based solely on symptom clusters—the same way Abraham Lincoln was diagnosed with depression over 150 years ago. The problem with this is that the symptoms of OCD overlap with those seen in other mental health conditions, such as ADD/ADHD, anxiety, bipolar disorder, autism, PTSD, or even schizophrenia. This can lead to misdiagnoses. In fact, a 2015 study among primary care physicians found that half of OCD cases were misdiagnosed.
Getting an accurate diagnosis is a critical step in finding the most effective treatment. For superstar Pons, treatment has helped her overcome those times when she would get stuck. In her docuseries, her mother recounts episodes when Pons, as a little girl, would get stuck and couldn’t open a door or cross a room to get to her bed. That’s the kind of behavior that could ruin a career, Pons says. “Imagine [if]…on stage, I just get stuck.”
Superstar singers like Pons can’t afford to freeze on stage, but no one can afford to get stuck during a test at school, while making a presentation at the office, or on a date. Seeking help is key.
With the right treatment, people with OCD can get unstuck, learn to deal with the anxious and uncomfortable feelings that accompany obsessions, and put a halt to repetitive compulsive behaviors. You can get your life back.
At Amen Clinics, we take a comprehensive approach to diagnosing and treating our patients with OCD. Through our brain imaging, lab work, and extensive assessment of your personal history, we are able to identify biological, psychological, social, and spiritual factors that may be contributing to your symptoms.
If you want to join the tens of thousands of people who have already enhanced their brain health, overcome their symptoms, and improved their quality of life at Amen Clinics, speak to a specialist today at 888-288-9834. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk.