The D in OCD

by idea go

by idea go

This post first appeared on my blog in 2011:

Since we’ve been getting into semantics lately, let’s talk about the D in OCD.  As Dr. Jeff Szymanski, Executive Director of the International OCD Foundation points out in this post, the word disorder connotes an intensity or seriousness. Just think about it. Saying “I’m in a bad mood,” implies something much less severe than “I have a mood disorder.” Likewise, having eating issues or stomach aches is by no means the same as having an “eating disorder” or “digestive disorder.”

The same goes for OCD. Being obsessive, compulsive, or both is not the same as having obsessive compulsive disorder. I like Dr. Szymanksi’s comparison of himself, who he considers to be somewhat compulsive, with someone who has OCD:

When I park my car in the morning and walk away, sometimes the thought occurs to me, “Did I lock the doors?” Though I might feel a little anxious and I might even go back and check the car, I am not suddenly overcome by fears, doubts and catastrophic images. This, however, is the experience of someone with OCD. My doubts and anxiety were minimal to begin with. The thoughts and worries about my car actually go away without me doing anything. Talk with someone who has a diagnosis of OCD. No matter what they do, they are plagued for hours every day, day after day, with unrelenting, crushing anxiety.

This is what so many people fail to understand – how debilitating OCD actually can be.  When Dan was not able to eat, and essentially not able to function, I thought, “Okay, I know he has OCD, but what else is going on here?”  I had no idea that obsessive compulsive disorder could be so crippling.

If those around us don’t understand OCD, how can we expect them to offer the appropriate support? In my experience, most people want to understand, and they want to help. This is why it is so important to educate family, friends, teachers, peers, and co-workers. The D in OCD can be devastating, and the more people realize this, the better off we will all be.

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9 Responses to The D in OCD

  1. maria says:

    I have a friend that needs help. He has obsession, related to his vision, and he thinks that he is the only one and that’s why he can’t heal. How can i help him to understand that it doesn’t matter what is the focus of the obsession that it works as any other one? Do any of you have a sensorial obsession? he believes that when he wears glasses what he sees is not true and that paralizes him, and if he doesn’t wear glasses, he can’t see well… Anyone can tell of a similar case so he doesn’t believe he is the “only one”?

    • Hi Maria, Sensorimotor obsessions are not uncommon and I have written about them here: I’m not sure what your friend has is actually a sensorimotor obsession, however, and the best thing he can do for himself is to find a therapist who specializes in treating OCD. He can also look into online or in-person support groups to see that he is not the “only one,” though I’m not sure how much this knowledge will help him.The bottom line is that even if he is the “only one” (which I highly doubt), his OCD is still treatable. He has to be ready to accept help and then he can fight his OCD.

  2. maria says:

    Thanks so much Janet. I do believe he can heal, but after so many years mistreated (he even went through electroshock, besides the medication cocktails and times at the hospital), he has lost hope. I hope he reads this carefully and understands that this can be treated. We are living in Turkey and it is really difficult to find a cognitive therapist. I only know about his OCD (his compulsion is avoiding to do things, avoiding to wear glasses, look directly to anything, to wash his face afraid that that affects his eyes…), for this last year, and that is how i learned that CBT and exposure works for OCD, but the CTB therapist here that we’ve found this year, say that he is not ready for therapy and they keep giving only medications. 😦

    • Hi Maria, I am so sorry that your friend has been so mistreated and has lost hope. I would suggest checking out the IOCDF website and contacting them as well for some suggestions for help in Turkey. There are self-help books that can guide your friend through ERP therapy and also some therapists he might be able to connect with on the Internet. Of course he has to be willing to move forward in this way. I wish you all the best and am so sorry he has not been able to get the right help. Don’t lose hope!

      • maria says:

        Hello Janet, thanks so much for your kind reply. He was willing to go to the therapist, he actually has gone to 2 CBT therapist, he has an appointment with another one. But they keep medicating him saying that he is not ready… can i ask…. what does that mean? they say he is not ready but they don’t give any more information. When will he be ready? he also wonders.

        Also, he’s been taking anafranil for 6 months without any reduction in the obsession, why they keep giving the same medications? I really understand why he is feeling so bad, so angry, so devastated.
        Best regards,

      • Hi Maria, I think your questions are valid ones. I do not know why they are continuing with a medication that has not been helping. I would suggest he discuss a change in medication with the doctor and if the doctor isn’t receptive, try to find another health-care provider. I am so sorry he is having such a difficult time.
        As far as not being “ready” for ERP, that doesn’t make sense to me either. Some people need medication to help them get to a place where they can start ERP, and both therapies are used together (meds and ERP). ERP can also be eased into gradually. I have no idea why this is not being done with your friend. I’m not a professional but it seems to me he could get started on some ERP therapy, especially since he is willing!
        I wish you all the best as you continue to try to get him good help.

      • maria says:

        Thanks again Janet. Seems as he got in depression, a really dark one now, and he has lost all the hope. It is really frustrating. Now he can’t stop thinking on killing himself. I don’t know what else to do. Now he doesn’t want to see any doctor at all. 😦

        i will try to keep educating myself to educate his family and himself… but i am starting to think that it is too late.

        thanks again. Thanks for this page that can help so many people.

      • If you fear he might really try to hurt himself, please seek help from a doctor or hospital immediately. I’m so sorry things are so bad…..

  3. maria says:

    he is with his family now… completely blocked. I mean, he is exhausted because the obsessions and is not able to do anything 😦 . Hospitals here only give him medication to sedate him, but the fight keeps inside, he tells me. This is so sad. Thanks again,,,

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