Life for 20-year-old Manuel became nearly unbearable once he went off to college and was on his own.
Mounting obsessive-compulsive disorder made completing even the simplest tasks–like doing laundry or eating a meal in the school’s dining hall–a drawn-out ordeal. His problems were compounded when he developed scrupulosity (an obsession about being immoral and displeasing God) and fixations on numbers, particularly the number 13.
Due to many distractions, worries and rituals Manuel couldn’t keep up with his classes. “I was in a downward spiral,” he recalled.
He decided to take six months off from school to try to get his life in balance. Part of that process was doing neurofeedback training at Center for Brain.
A few months later, his mother Elizabeth said she “witnessed a miracle” in her son.
Manuel had been an anxious, hyperactive child growing up but noted that OCD thoughts and behaviors were not strong factors during his earlier years. He was a good student, though disorganized, but was abrasive toward other students. He was argumentative at home, especially toward his mother. He refused to pay attention to any kind of advice or instruction from either of his parents and thus had learned few life skills by the time he went to college.
OCD fully awakened in his brain with the stress of being away from home and having to do everything for himself. He described developing a “catastrophic view of life.”
“Obsessive thoughts flooded my mind all the time,” he recalled.
Manuel became preoccupied with being an obedient Catholic and persistently worried that he wasn’t a “good person.” He prayed constantly throughout the day, giving thanks for everyday acts as modest as eating a piece of candy.
“As time went on my thoughts became more and more irrational,” Manuel explained. “This made doing even the simplest things complicated and time-consuming.”
He’d sit at a desk to study but compulsively cleaned the desk, worried that some imagined grime might get his book dirty.
He’d check the washing machine door numerous times before starting a load of laundry to make sure it was closed properly.
If he spilled water on the dining hall floor, he scrubbed the spot over and over, fearful someone would slip and be injured.
Anything at all that included the number 13 distracted him and kept him from thinking about more important things, such as schoolwork.
Manuel rarely bathed and didn’t shave–actually he didn’t know how to shave properly because he had been resistant all of his teenage years to learning anything his parents tried to teach him.
His therapist recommended he go to Center for Brain for a brain map and neurofeedback training. The brain map clearly showed that parts of his brain were not functioning properly.
As he diligently trained three times a week Manuel began noticing that both his anxiety and OCD symptoms were diminishing. Life started feeling more normal.
His family noticed, too. Instead of aggressively monopolizing the conversation at the dinner table with his family, he engaged in normal conversation. Instead of arguing with his mother over small things like waking himself up and fixing his own breakfast, he began taking more personal responsibility. He learned to make himself an omelet for the first time in his life.
Manuel’s personal hygiene efforts needed to improve, so his father had yet another talk with him about bathing and shaving daily. To his parents’ surprise, Manuel didn’t balk. In fact, he asked his father to show him how to shave.
“This was the first time telling him to shave wasn’t a big deal,” said Elizabeth. “He told his father it was time he learned how to do it – and he did. I cried when I saw him do it.”
Manuel felt so much better that at one point he asked his mother if she had been secretly giving him some kind of medication. She hadn’t.
Manuel’s father had been against his son doing neurofeedback, unaware of the technology’s long history of evidence-based research. After seeing the remarkable improvements in his son, he changed his tune.
“My husband said to me one day, “I don’t know what’s going on, but he’s a completely different person,’” Elizabeth commented.
“Manuel has this beautiful personality–he’s very kind and smart–but it was always hidden by his anxiety and being in fight mode,” she added. “It was so frustrating to see his suffering and not know how to help him. Neurofeedback has made that special part of Manuel blossom. Now his wonderful qualities are showing.”
Elizabeth said that she is thrilled to have a good relationship with her son now and is very grateful to Center for Brain. “Everyone in the office is very warm and kind,” she said.
“I feel calmer, less aggressive and less compulsive now,” added Manuel, who has decided to switch majors and is taking online courses. “I feel much better equipped to return to college.”
And…he also now knows how to shave.