When my son Dan was first diagnosed (at age seventeen) with obsessive-compulsive disorder, I wanted to learn everything I could about the illness. I also wanted to figure out why Dan developed it. How did he “get” OCD? Is it genetic? Did something trigger its appearance? Was it my fault? Why him and not me?
I remember asking his various treatment providers at the time if a particular event could have triggered Dan’s OCD. Three different health-care providers responded with a resounding, “No.”
I wasn’t convinced. In my mind, OCD made its entrance shortly after a freak accident in which Dan’s friend got hurt. To me, the events were too closely linked to be a coincidence.
In the ten years since I questioned Dan’s treatment providers I have heard many OCD specialists acknowledge the fact that OCD can appear after a particularly traumatic or stressful event. I’m not sure if this is a revised way of thinking, or if Dan’s earlier health-care providers just didn’t know of the connection.
Even more convincing are the testimonies I’ve heard from those who either have OCD or are close to someone with the disorder:
“My son developed OCD right after the death of his beloved grandfather.”
“My best friend died in a car crash and by the next week, I had full-blown OCD.”
“My parents got divorced a few months before I started college far away from home. OCD quickly followed.”
I want to make it clear that I am in no way suggesting that these events caused any individual’s obsessive-compulsive disorder. Certainly many people experience events even more tragic than those mentioned above, and never develop OCD. The general consensus is that if a person has a predisposition to OCD, it is possible that its onset can be triggered by a particular event, usually one that is somewhat traumatic in nature. Of course, what is traumatic to one person isn’t necessarily traumatic to someone else. If you ask an expert about the origins of OCD, you will likely be told that it’s a “combination of genetics and environment.” Recent research supports this theory.
While there is currently no cure for OCD, the disorder is treatable. So does it really matter that there is still so much we don’t know about obsessive-compulsive disorder?
I do think it matters, and I’m thankful for all the researchers out there who work hard to uncover the mysteries of OCD. While genetic components have been identified, and we know OCD often runs in families, we are still far from fully understanding this strange and insidious diosrder. With knowledge and understanding come power, and my hope is that someday in the near future, we will know everything there is to know about OCD, and a cure will quickly follow.
My son, even at a few years of age, showed signs. I didn’t realize what they were at the time, but now I see them for what they were. He would breath funny and make faces. He would roll his eyes around until he cried. When things really started getting bad, though, was after his father and older brother died in an auto accident. He became so thin and had horrible circles under his eyes. He became so angry and would have fits and beat on me with his fists. Then, other symptoms appeared and school became almost impossible. I do believe that a traumatic event CAN make things much worse!
Thank you for sharing, grannyK. I know your family has been through so much and I totally agree with you. I hope you son is doing well now. You are an amazing family!
Thanks! He still is having trouble with working and we are sinking into the sunset financially, but hanging in there!
I’ll keep your family in my thoughts…….
I never had a traumatic event however I would interpret things ‘deeply’, this is what i think happened in my case. So it behaved in the same way as a traumatic event. Sorry i havn’t explained it very well.
You explained it fine, Daniel. I think many people with OCD (including my son) are sensitive, feel deeply, and take everything to heart. I used to say my son had the weight of the world on his shoulders. I hope things are going well for you now.
My son’s OCD started at age 17 when he decided to get braces on his teeth. The hand washing started because of the constant need to adjust rubber bands. This lead to a fear of germs, illness. It quickly grew to strange irrational fears causing him to quit a sport he excelled at and almost didn’t graduate from HS. He’s better now, most irrational fears are worked through and he is able to function.
Thanks so much for sharing Deb and I am so happy to hear your son is doing so well now. Did he go through ERP therapy? Wishing him and your family all the best!
It’s definitely interesting to think about where this disorder comes from as knowledge continues to evolve on the subject. I do hope, like you, that research continues to bring to light the secrets behind this insidious disorder and that we can one day find a cure.
Thanks for commenting, Laura, and a cure sure would be nice!