Secretly Debilitated by OCD

by stuart miles

by stuart miles

A version of this post originally appeared on my blog in October 2012.

I’ve written before about the severity of my son Dan’s obsessive-compulsive disorder. How it was so bad he couldn’t eat. How he’d get stuck sitting in one particular chair, hunched over with his head in his hands for hours at a time. How he was tied to the clock for all activities of daily living. I’ve always found it amazing that even though things were this difficult for him the last few weeks of his freshman year in college, he still attended classes and managed to successfully complete the semester.

After connecting with many people who have OCD over the last few years, I’ve come to realize that Dan’s ability to continue on with his life is not that unusual. Of course, everyone’s circumstances are unique, but it seems to me that many people who suffer from severe OCD still get up in the morning and either go to school, work, or run a household. They are incredibly brave, doing this while often dealing with non-stop obsessions and hours and hours of compulsions. And while they may seem okay to the outside world, inside they are truly tormented.

Maybe this is one of the reasons why most people don’t realize how serious an illness OCD is. While inaccurate media portrayal definitely plays a role in this misunderstanding of OCD, the fact that so many of those with the disorder mask their suffering so well might also be a factor. Not surprisingly, many people believe if a person can get up and go to work, then their mental health can’t be “that bad.” However, this is a false assumption. The truth is that being able to function does not mean someone is not suffering from severe mental health issues. Even if someone with OCD has visible compulsions (a need for symmetry at work, for example), what is obvious is their “quirky behavior,” not the depth of their pain. That often remains hidden.

Whether in the workplace, school, or home, many people still believe OCD is “no big deal.”  This lack of understanding can be especially detrimental to those seeking accommodations, or at the very least, understanding. So we have yet another reason to continue advocating for OCD awareness: Things are not always what they seem. Those with OCD are often severely debilitated; you’d just never know by looking at them.

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12 Responses to Secretly Debilitated by OCD

  1. myocdvoice says:

    We are far too good at hiding it!

  2. This is so true. When I finally became more open about my OCD, it became apparent most of my friends and acquaintances had no idea that I had the condition!

  3. Christine walker says:

    My daughter has severe anxiety in the form of OCD. She is currently taking meds that seem to have it under control or at least much improved. When it wasn’t being treated because she stopped taking meds and then got pregnant , her OCD became completely debilitating. She could not get up for hours. She would ask for something to eat , but she had to wait til she could. We almost lost her and the baby due to her being dehydrated. We got her back with her dr and he put her back on meds that brought her back to “normal”. She has improved greatly over these 3 years , but she still cannot work because along with her OCD she has ADD. She cannot be on someone else’s schedule. I really cannot in this comment explain everything that she and her family have been through. Her illness and our trying to help. I agree there is not enough good help for OCD. I don’t understand how your son was able to continue school with the severity of his OCD. If he ever says how he managed, I hope to read about it.

    • Hi Christine, Thank you for sharing and I’m so sorry things have been so difficult for your daughter, and you. My son was able to continue on with his life because of exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy and you CAN read about it in my book, Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery. Check out the tabs on the top of my blog for more info. ERP therapy is the front line treatment for OCD and while meds sometimes help certain people in varying degrees, they are rarely a “cure all.” I’d also like to mention that my son was also diagnosed with ADD (also talked about in my book) but in his case, it was a misdiagnosis as many symptoms of OCD (such as being tied to the clock as you mention) can be mistaken for ADD. I’m not saying your daughter has been misdiagnosed; I’m just telling you our story so you can be aware that this is not unusual.
      I wish you and your daughter all the best and hope she can connect with a good ERP therapist. OCD is treatable… just need to find the right help!

  4. Susan says:


  5. Mr. Militant Negro says:

    Reblogged this on The Militant Negro™.

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