OCD: Irrational Disorder affecting Rational People

by seaskylab freedigitalphotos.net

by seaskylab freedigitalphotos.net

I am continuing to share some of my older posts as I work on completing my book. I hope to be back next week with something new!

When my son Dan was first suffering from severe OCD and we had no idea where to turn, we connected with a close friend of ours who is a clinical psychologist. One of the first questions Mark asked me was, “Does Dan realize how irrational his behavior is?”  When I asked Dan if he really believed someone he loved would be harmed if he moved from his chair before midnight, or if he had something to eat, he answered, “I know it makes no sense, but I just have to act this way.” Those with OCD typically know their thoughts and behaviors are illogical; they just can’t control them.

Since becoming an advocate for OCD awareness, I’ve often been told by sufferers that this is the worst part of having OCD.  You know you are thinking and acting in an irrational manner but are unable to stop the thoughts and/or the actions. “It would be better if I didn’t realize how illogical my thoughts and behaviors are,” one sufferer said. “I’d rather be oblivious than tormented.”

So what are the ramifications of this insightfulness? For one thing, because those with OCD don’t want to be perceived as “crazy” they often go to lengths to hide their disorder, even from those closest to them. They will also avoid or, at the very least, delay treatment because they feel shame and embarrassment. How can they willingly share things that they know are “ridiculous” with a therapist?  This awareness of how their thoughts and behaviors likely appear to others, indeed how they even appear to themselves, must be torturous.

For non-sufferers, I think it’s easy to understand why someone with OCD would try to hide their disorder. After all, whether we have OCD or not, we can all relate to not wanting to embarrass ourselves. What might be harder for a non-sufferer to understand is, if sufferers know their behavior makes no sense, why don’t they just stop? This question, of course, is a lot more complicated, and is what makes OCD a disorder to begin with.

We need to continue to educate and raise awareness of OCD and what it entails. I think this is just as important for sufferers as it is for non-sufferers.  Some of the most emotional interactions I’ve had with those with OCD have been when they talk about the moment they realized they were not alone: “I never imagined that there are other people out there – lots of them – who regularly turn their cars around to make sure they haven’t hit anyone.” Such a powerful revelation, to see one’s actions as symptoms of a real illness, and not just some random illogical behavior. Certainly no reason to feel shame or embarrassment.

Rational people with an irrational disorder.

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11 Responses to OCD: Irrational Disorder affecting Rational People

  1. justinegg says:

    Reblogged this on The Many Lives of Justine Marie and commented:
    A very true depiction of what is like to watch a family member struggle with OCD and a great explanation of both how the disorder affects the person who suffers and the challenge of open awareness of the disorder.

  2. steve wentworth says:

    Janet,
    Can u share some specifics of your son’s treatment. I too suffer hyperresponsibility OCD. e.g.,
    I will go to hell if I don’t witness to people about Jesus. and the acquaintance will too.

    Steve

    • Hi Steve, I have no specifics to share regarding my son’s treatment (I don’t know the specifics), but I will tell you exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy was a lifesaver for him, and it’s the front line treatment for OCD. It works for all types of OCD, including the hyper-responsibility you describe. I’d strongly advise you to find a therapist who specializes in treating OCD with this therapy. The IOCDF is a good resource to get you started. I wish you all the best!

    • 71 & Sunny says:

      Steve, it sounds to me like you might struggle with Scrupulosity. You may find some comfort in Ian Osborn’s book, “Can Christianity Cure Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?” I also agree with Janet. I strongly encourage you to seek out CBT/ERP from a legitimate specialist. Good luck!

  3. kidtap2 says:

    Very right on the subject. I just called it the most illogical logic!

  4. OCD is so strange, isn’t it? I knew my thinking and worries made no sense. People would think I was “crazy” if I revealed them, so I kept quiet. And delayed treatment. It helped so much to finally open up about the symptoms and get help. Years later, when i met others with OCD, it helped so much to know that others have experienced the irrational thoughts too.

    • Your comment is such a great illustration of why it’s so important for us to keep talking about OCD and sharing, Tina. What a relief it must have finally been to know you were not alone! And yes, no question about it, OCD is strange! Thanks for sharing.

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