OCD about OCD

As I’ve mentioned before, Dan entered a residential treatment program for OCD in the summer so he would be well enough to return to college in the fall.

Nine weeks later, though he had made great strides, the staff recommended that Dan stay until his OCD was totally under control. Dan agreed. How could he go back to school and continue on with his life if he was still dealing with all of this anxiety?  Interestingly, Dan had successfully completed his previous semester at school while battling severe OCD. It was torturous but he insisted on not giving up. It’s almost as if he didn’t realize how bad off he was until he entered the residential program.

How much intensive therapy is enough?  Or too much? The staff at the residential program seemed to be OCD about OCD.  They felt that Dan should totally concentrate on his therapy, basically putting his life on hold until he could conquer his demons. Perhaps he needed to be a success story for the program; another client leaving with few, if any, symptoms of OCD.

In arguing his point Dan said to us, “If I go back to school, I won’t have enough time to concentrate on my OCD.”    Hmm. Isn’t that a good thing? To be engaged in your life and not obsessed with your obsessive compulsive disorder?   Of course I understood what Dan meant, but it seemed like flawed thinking.  That’s one of the problems with Dan’s residential program. It was truly, totally, all about the OCD……..and let’s face it, how healthy can that be?

We ended up insisting that  Dan leave the program and he did go back to school. A roller coaster of a year followed, and I often second-guessed our decision. Ultimately though,  I believe it was the right thing to do.  Dan needed to get back into the world and his life………..which includes  so much more than OCD.

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4 Responses to OCD about OCD

  1. Wow, thanks again for sharing your story. The more I read about OCD, the more I see how I need to spend more time focusing on my daughter’s strengths and helping her engage in the activities she likes because the OCD is not as intense when she is doing things she loves.
    So what you wrote made perfect sense to me. If you only work on your OCD and put your life on hold, isn’t that defeating the purpose? Sure, if you can’t function, you may need residential tx, but shouldn’t such a program have other activities as well for the participants. My background as an OT is in part what gives me this thinking. I know when my daughter was going thorugh the worst of things, I helped her get out of a rage by engaging her brain in another task, like Sudoku (she likes numbers and math) or a game, reading to her or crocheting. Now she plays a hand held Yatzee Game.
    It can be hard to get her engaged in what she enjoys, but once she does, there have been moments when it looks like the OCD isn’t there. She has even started eating without washing her hands (usually she washes for at least 3 minutes with more soap than you could imagine).

    • ocdtalk says:

      Thanks for the vote of confidence, and I am glad you found good strategies to help your daughter……I think we parents just need to trust our instincts as much as possible, and not always defer to the “experts”.

  2. bobbijaye says:

    I’m thankful that people have the courage to write about this. College with OCD CAN be absolutely miserable. You know, I have weeks when getting out my door is a challenge – let alone completing assignments. But it is so easy to become obsessed with your OCD. The more time and energy you put into it, the more it consumes you. And realizing that OCD is something you have and not something you are is hugely important.

    Most colleges will have decent Services for Students with Disabilities offices. They’re there to help students with special needs. I would also encourage anyone in college to see if they can’t find a professor in their major that they can trust. I know it won’t always be possible, but it’s worth it to have an ally in your department for those times that OCD just happens.

    Both of your children are lucky. My parents haven’t always been so understanding. 🙂

  3. ocdtalk says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head with the sentence “And realizing that OCD is something you have and not something you are is hugely important.” You are a very insightful young woman and I look forward to hearing about your semester…..and thanks for your great suggestions regarding college students with OCD.

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