OCD and The Holiday Season

Image result for happy holidays sign



This post first appeared November 2015…..

With the holiday season upon us, many of us are firmly entrenched in the excitement, anticipation, and busyness of this time of year. Maybe we will visit friends or relatives. Perhaps a small army of loved ones will descend upon us in our own homes, or maybe we will be part of smaller, more intimate gatherings.

Whatever our holiday plans involve, there are bound to be changes in our routines. While this can be unsettling for many people, those suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder might have a particularly tough time, especially when dealing with vacationing and traveling. It’s not hard to see why these situations might trigger all kinds of concerns for those with OCD. No matter what type of OCD they suffer from, there’s always lots to worry about when stepping out of their comfort zone. Some concerns might include:

Will I be able to use the public or hotel restroom?

What if I hit someone while driving on the highway?

What if I get sick while I’m away?

The questions are endless and will be different for each person with the disorder. As you can see, however, all these concerns revolve around one thing: the uncertainty of what will be. Those with obsessive-compulsive disorder have the need to know, for sure, that all will be okay.

Friends and family also are affected when traveling and vacationing with someone with OCD. Having to alter plans, not being able to be spontaneous, and dealing with high levels of anxiety are just some of the many examples of how OCD can impinge upon a vacation. Before actually leaving home, anticipatory anxiety with all of its “what ifs” and doubt can be particularly distressing. Interestingly, anticipatory anxiety is often worse than the actual event being agonized over. So what should those with OCD do when faced with all these holiday events fraught with doubt and uncertainty?

The answer is clear. They should push through their anxiety and embrace the doubt and uncertainty that is holding them hostage. Yes, there is uncertainty that comes with traveling or vacationing or entertaining. Indeed, there is uncertainty in every aspect of our lives, and we all need to learn to accept, not fear, it.

I know it’s not easy. But it is possible.

If you have obsessive-compulsive disorder, I propose that you give yourself a gift this holiday season and make the commitment to stand up to your OCD. Embrace exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy and reclaim your life. You deserve to enjoy the holidays, and every day, with your family and friends instead of being controlled by obsessions and compulsions. It will not only be a gift to yourself, but just might be the best gift you could ever give to those who love you.

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12 Responses to OCD and The Holiday Season

  1. Paul K says:

    My $0.02 Janet: Whenever I make an attempt to “upgrade” (work harder at) my ERP therapy, it usually begins with an INCREASE in anxiety (normal for many). If it were me, I would start that new commitment on 01/02/17. Between now and then I would make the most of the holidays by maximizing MANAGING my OCD at whatever intensity it is currently at. I.E. focus on things that I already know help my OCD. In my case, that would mean more meditation or relaxation exercises, getting plenty of sleep, eating well, and so on. I would focus on using the things in my OCD Toolbox that I ALREADY know are helpful. I’d make that ERP push just after the holidays, much like any other New Years resolution. I wouldn’t risk making making things worse for all involved before the holidays. Instead I would start the New Year with more motivation and a positive attitude about ERP therapy.

    This approach may not be right for some “OCD families”. But I think it would maximize the quality of the holidays in my particular case.

    Just food for thought! I am ALWAYS in support of making the most of ERP therapy!!

    Happy Holidays!!!

    Paul K.

    • I always appreciate your comments and insight, Paul, and I understand what you are saying. You have such a good understanding of what works for you and what steps you need to take to move forward. Of course each person’s situation is unique and my posts are typically “general.” I’m sure your comments resonate with many people so thank you for your always thoughtful responses to my posts. Happy Holidays to you and yours as well!

      • Paul K says:

        I know you’ve heard this many times Janet, but it is always worth repeating!

        You work VERY hard to help people (like me) with OCD.
        Your dedication and the amount of energy you put into this work is AMAZING!

        I suspect it’s basically impossible to quantify the POSITIVE IMPACT you have had (and continue to have) on people with OCD, their families and friends, and the people who treat this nasty disease. I would bet you are having an impact on the research to find a cure as well. It may be hard to measure, but I have no doubt that your hard work is having a HUGE POSITIVE IMPACT!!

        THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for all you do!!


      • Wow! Thank you so much Paul. I will read your comment (which is so appreciated) whenever I feel discouraged about how far we still have to go in advocating for OCD awareness. I’m overwhelmed by your kind words and don’t know what else to say so will just say, “You’re Welcome.” 🙂 I hope you have a happy holiday!

  2. Silence says:

    Hey, Silence here:) I am thinking about making a top 49 tips, for people that have OCD. I have already started, the link is here.


    It would be awesome if anybody who is reading this email me at tryingandfighting.100@gmail.com, a little paragraph, on your best tips for dealing with OCD

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