When Should You Seek Treatment for OCD?

Most experts agree that it is time to seek treatment for OCD when the disorder “interferes with your daily life.” While “interfering” can mean different things to different people, it is generally described as having obsessions and compulsions that take up more than an hour a day of your time.

While a lot has been written about recovery avoidance in OCD, what I’m talking about here are the cases of OCD that are not so severe. Many sufferers and their families will avoid even discussing treatment because it appears that the situation is just not “that bad.” Of course, because OCD sufferers can be so good at hiding their symptoms, they are often the only ones who know the real extent of their disorder.

To me, before things get “that bad” is a perfect time to seek treatment and get started on Exposure Response Prevention Therapy. The less entrenched OCD is, the easier therapy will be. OCD will not go away on its own, and the longer treatment is delayed, the more time OCD will have to latch on to its victim, making recovery even more difficult in the future. Remember that OCD is an insidious disorder that does whatever it can to undermine the sufferer’s desire to get well.

The decision to seek treatment for OCD is sometimes shrouded by fear, shame, and embarrassment, and it may just seem “easier” all around to ignore what is going on. I believe this is a huge mistake. If you suspect you have OCD, are concerned about a loved one, or aren’t really sure what’s going on, please make the effort to find a therapist who specializes in this disorder. The sooner the better, because it might not take long for “I can handle this” to turn into OCD calling all the shots.

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10 Responses to When Should You Seek Treatment for OCD?

  1. Lolly says:

    I first sought treatment after I noticed my OCD latching on for longer than it had before. My anxiety got worse also. It is very important to seek treatment in the early stages, I totally agree. Also, to anyone out there who is trying to decide on treatment or not, there should be no shame or embarrassment in seeking it, be proud of yourself… Believe me, you will feel so completely liberated!

  2. ocdtalk says:

    Thanks for your comment Lolly. OF COURSE you are right….seeking treatment should absolutely be a source of pride as it is a difficult, courageous step, but one that is so worthwhile!

  3. Lisa Douglas says:

    Thank you for your blog and this post, specifically. My daughter of 12 initially had PANDAS which began at age 3 but was not diagnosed until age 9. She has since outgrown the strep infections, thereby, eliminating the most of the horrific symptoms for which it is associated. However, what remained was and is an extreme case of OCD. I have taken her to more “specialist” beginning at age 4 than imaginable. All has been to no avail. She obviously hates therapist because of the discomfort, anxiety, which is created. Until she was 11 she was able to completely conceal her illness from the “experts.” Within the past year she was accepted into a CBET program at Duke. This would be her first time having appropriate testing to confirm the severity of her illness. I was informed after several months of weekly sessions with her MD/PhD psychiatrist that she simply didn’t want to be treated, she “wasn’t suffering enough” to force her to want to change. He then stated, he would continue prescribing her medication but treatment was futile. What is to be done when a child of 12 spends almost every waking moment with obsessions and compulsions and can’t seem to comply with the treatment standards?
    Lisa Douglas
    Raleigh, NC

  4. ocdtalk says:

    Hi Lisa,

    Wow. Sounds like you have been through a lot with your daughter. I have to admit that I don’t have much experience in that area as we were very fortunate that my son was always willing to engage in therapy (he was also seventeen when first diagnosed, so a little more mature). What I do have experience in is therapists/doctors telling us things that just were not true. Maybe I’m being naive but I have to believe that there are therapists/programs out there that could help your daughter. It sure sounds like she is “suffering enough.” There are excellent programs across the country, some specializing in treating OCD in children and teenagers….I would suggest contacting the IOCDF (see sidebar for information) for some recommendations. Just because one program didn’t work does not mean she can’t be treated. If we listened to all of the doctors/psychiatrists that treated our son Dan, he would probably still be in a hospital somewhere instead of living life to the fullest and now dealing with very mild OCD.
    Good Luck..please keep me posted!

    • Lisa Douglas says:

      Thank you so much for your kind and helpful words. I would like to share a brief poem I was inspired to write after receiving your reply:

      Oh, What Is A Mother To Do?

      Oh, What Is A Mother To Do?
      Take her to the doctor, I’m sure
      then she’ll suffer no more
      let them cure her from this dreadful disease
      cure her, cure her, please, oh, please

      Oh, What Is A Mother To Do?
      The doctors don’t have a clue
      they seem to want to blame someone so they blame you
      they become exasperated by their dismal results
      then say they cant help her
      and leave to go sulk

      Oh, What Is A Mother To Do?
      As her child’s OCD spirals out of control
      when with every moment of her precious life
      this monster is taking it’s toll
      The endless rituals, the endless pain
      why is there no answer as if her life is simply a game?

      Oh, What Is A Mother To Do?
      As her child scrubs herself raw
      using her nails in the shower like a claw
      to rid herself of this invisible foe
      what else do I do,
      Where else do I go,
      To rid her from all these woes?

      Oh, What Is A Mother To Do?

  5. ocdtalk says:

    Thank you for sharing. You capture the heartache and sense of helplessness we mothers go through when our children are suffering and we can’t make it “all better.”

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  7. lifeshardlessons1 says:

    I really appreciate this because I have OCD and I never even considered getting help because to me it was “not that bad”. I have compulsions that sometimes cause me to be irritable with my family and double/ triple check things like locked doors. I am the kind of person who rearranges the xmas tree after the kids decorate it because it isn’t uniform or constantly needs reassurance from my partner that everything is “ok.” I have always felt it was just insecurities but am slowly learning that maybe it is a problem bigger than me.

    • Thanks for sharing, and I’m glad the post resonated with you. I don’t know of anyone who ever thought they sought treatment “too early.” It’s always the opposite. I hope you will consider getting help. Even if it’s not “that bad,” it sounds as if things could be so much better for you! Wishing you all the best and I hope to hear from you again.

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