I know quite a few people with obsessive-compulsive disorder, either through cyberspace, or “real life.” It seems to me that almost every one of them has some kind of story to tell about their early experiences reaching out for help. And they’re not positive stories. They are accounts of misdiagnosis, no diagnosis, or mistreatment. They are tales of being told by family they are fine, or they must be exaggerating. They are advised to just “suck it up” or at the very least relax. If they are lucky enough to receive a proper diagnosis early on, they are often either just given medication with no offer of additional therapy, or treated with the wrong kind of therapy.
As many OCD sufferers will attest, asking for help, especially that very first time, is a difficult and scary thing to do. In some cases, sufferers muster the courage to tell a loved one or a professional about their obsessions and compulsions. In other cases, it has just become too obvious to hide anymore. Either way, it can be terrifying to put yourself out there, especially when you are so frightened, confused and anxious. To finally admit you need help, and then be dealt with so poorly, can be devastating. These early negative experiences might make OCD sufferers leery of future treatment. They’d rather have no therapy at all than risk being mistreated again.
In my son Dan’s case, he correctly diagnosed himself with OCD, but then met with a therapist who, unbeknownst to us, didn’t know how to properly treat the disorder. Appropriate treatment was therefore delayed, and of course his OCD worsened. He also became disheartened. Why wasn’t the therapy working? Was his OCD not treatable? Thankfully, he eventually did receive Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy, but finding the right therapy and therapists was not easy.
How much smoother the journey back to good health would be if all therapists were able to properly diagnose and treat obsessive-compulsive disorder. We need to keep advocating for OCD awareness and education, so that these negative early treatment stories are replaced with positive ones. Getting the right help early on can substantially weaken the power of OCD. What better way to fight the disorder?
I’d love to hear about your early treatment experiences, positive or negative……..