OCD, Social Anxiety Disorder, and Treatment

by stuart miles freedigitalphotos.net

by stuart miles freedigitalphotos.net

I recently read this article on social anxiety, and it struck me how many of the examples listed reminded me of my son Dan when his OCD was severe.

Those with social anxiety disorder are typically terrified of how others will perceive them, and this often leads to, you guessed it, avoidance of various situations. While public speaking, or being the center of attention in any circumstance, might be obvious triggers, even something as mundane as having a cup of coffee with a friend might be anxiety-provoking enough for a sufferer to just not show up.

In this post I wrote over two years ago, I talked about Dan’s sense of hyper-responsibility, an inflated sense of responsibility. Because he felt his thoughts and actions might cause harm to his friends, he dealt with this by, you guessed it again, avoiding them. He isolated himself, and while his actions could easily have been mistaken for social anxiety disorder, in his case it was his OCD that caused him to behave this way.

Once again, I am reminded how OCD, social anxiety disorder, depression, generalized anxiety disorder – just to name a few, are just labels to describe specific symptoms, a way to try to to maintain some order and clarity over the messiness of mental illness. While these labels serve a purpose, I believe our main goal should always be striving to understand what is going on with the whole person.

So did Dan also have social anxiety disorder, in addition to his diagnoses of OCD, GAD (generalized anxiety disorder), and depression? Possibly. It certainly seems as if he fit the criteria. Thankfully, for Dan, it didn’t matter. Once his OCD was under control, his other diagnoses fell by the wayside.

Of course, getting the right diagnosis, as well as the right treatment, for OCD (and other disorders) doesn’t always go smoothly. While it is essential to have a good therapist, it is equally important for those who are suffering to be honest with their health care providers. As we know, those with OCD typically realize their obsessions and compulsions make no sense. This realization, unfortunately, might interfere with OCD sufferers being completely honest with their doctors; it’s just too embarrassing for them to admit their thoughts and actions (even though it’s likely the doctor has heard it all before). It’s understandable, and even ironic. We expect those with OCD, social anxiety disorder, etc., to be able to talk about these intimate details, when as I said before, having coffee with a friend might be too difficult a task!

But it must be done in order to recover.  For both OCD sufferers and those with social anxiety disorder, facing ones fears is the ticket to living the life you want. If you think you suffer from one or both of these disorders, I hope you’ll commit to facing your fears, and you can start by meeting with a competent therapist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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14 Responses to OCD, Social Anxiety Disorder, and Treatment

  1. Daniel Walks says:

    Sounds like this Dan, over here too! 😀
    The more general anxiety and social anxiety symptoms do deflate when i am on top of my OCD. I won’t mention the content of my current obsession, but it is constant OCD; you can imagine the relief when free.

  2. Pinned this. Think all and all parents would benefit from my http://emotionalfitnesstraining.com/eft-easy-exercises/ No miracles but still helpful.

  3. Luanne says:

    I’ve been an employer for a long time. One thing that I have noticed is that people with OCD can be very good employees because they try so hard to get it “just right.”

    • Hi Luanne, Thank you for sharing. I’m wondering if the employees you are talking about have actually been diagnosed with OCD. If they have, it’s likely their efforts to get it “just right” are causing them great distress, even if it’s not visible to you. I hope they are pursuing proper treatment. Thanks again for the comment.

    • That’s so interesting Luanne. I’m curious whether they talk openly to you, as their employer, about their OCD, as I know that’s a tricky issue a lot of OCD sufferers face. And yes, refusing treatment is another big issue, and so hard for those of us (at least me) without OCD to completely understand, though I’ve written a few posts on the subject.

  4. Melissa says:

    Very fitting. My son recently opened up about his social anxiety which we were aware of as his parents but it was interesting to hear him describe it. Right now given he is a senior he is feeling more anxious than usual and I can see my OCD habits have trickled down to him (sadly). He is open to talking to someone so I hope we can find the right fit for him.

    • Hi Melissa, Thank you so much for sharing. The fact that your son is open to getting help is a huge plus, as I’m sure you know, and I hope you can find a competent therapist. I wish you both all the best and hope to hear from you again!

  5. This resonated with me. I have such a mix of symptoms, too. And as you say, labels can be “a way to try to to maintain some order and clarity over the messiness of mental illness.” I am very shy, so I don’t know if social anxiety is mixed in there or not. But the important thing is to deal with what is making me avoid something that I really want to do. I’ve learned to manage as I’ve gotten older and had more experience “in the world.”

    As far as being too embarrassed to describe out symptoms–my psychiatrist told me recently that many people will say things like, “I know you’ll think this is weird, but . . . .” He reminds them what he does for a living! It doesn’t sound weird to him.

  6. Thanks for sharing, Tina. I find what your psychiatrist said very interesting. I think people feel as if they have to premise what they say with “I know you’ll think this is weird” as a way to let the doctor know they realize whatever they are about to say doesn’t make sense. If that makes any sense…:)

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