What Makes It So Hard to Seek Help for OCD?

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20 Responses to What Makes It So Hard to Seek Help for OCD?

  1. grannyK says:

    And don’t forget the cost of treatment as a reason to not get help. We simply can’t afford to. I read everything I could read about OCD and did my best on my own.

    • April says:

      Very good point! Also, where I live is very isolated so access to trained professionals is a big problem. 😢

      • sethgillihan says:

        Excellent points, grannyK and April—deciding to seek help is only one part of the battle. Finding, and being able to afford, the right treatment deserves its own post—probably several! Self-directed treatment is one option, either with a book or an electronic resource (like an app). Video consultation with a specialist is also becoming more widespread. But the truth is that there continues to be a huge unmet need for widely accessible OCD treatment—and sadly OCD is not unique among the psychiatric diagnoses in this regard. Thanks for your comments.

      • notcalvin says:

        One of the best treatment resources online which helped me a lot:

        10 weeks course where you learn about ocd and techniques how to cope

        There is also an app around for ios. Unfortunately not for android:


        I asked for android release but no reply

      • sethgillihan says:

        notcalvin, thank you for those resources! And glad to hear you found the course so helpful.

  2. mshugsandkisses says:

    I took a very long time to seek treatment and when I first went to my GP she told me to go home and write a letter about how I was feeling. Obviously I didn’t.
    I didn’t have thoughts of my self harming children but would have “movies” play in my head of children being molested. I was never the one doing it but having these thoughts made me believe that this was something I must want to do because I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
    This obviously made me feel like the worst person in the world. This went on for 5 more years before I went back to my GP about it because I couldn’t go on my front porch without having a panic attack. So I couldn’t get to work.
    Finally when I got my diagnosis and went through CBT and Mindfulness therapy. Four years later, I finally have things under control. I can definitely understand why people don’t seek treatment. As well, I can now remember intrusive thoughts since at least the age of 10. I received my diagnosis when I was 35.

    • sethgillihan says:

      mshugsandkisses, thank you for being willing to share about your symptoms and experience. Such a shame that it was more than 2 decades between first symptoms and your diagnosis. I’m so glad to hear that you now have things under control. Your experience is all too common.

      • mshugsandkisses says:

        Obviously, my symptoms waxed and waned over the years. And my obsessive thoughts also changed over the years. I think I didn’t feel the other thoughts were as distressing. The worst thoughts were around for about 7 years before I was willing to say anything and it was because of research on the internet that I was able to put a name to it. I only got help because I was starting to think about having a family and was really concerned by the content of my thoughts.
        Thanks for responding.

  3. anxiouswriter says:

    Great article! I feel like OCD just thrives on being so taboo or weird that it can’t be talked about. I know that’s the case for me, especially as I have intrusive thoughts around harming myself that are way too easily misinterpreted. Thank you for helping to break the silence!

    • sethgillihan says:

      Thank you, anxiouswriter! Well said—OCD does thrive in the dark. One of the best things we can do is open the blinds and invite the light in. And yes, intrusive thoughts about self-harm are so easily misinterpreted, especially if we don’t recognize them as intrusive obsessions ourselves. How can we explain clearly that I don’t want to hurt myself but I’m scared that I might?

      • anxiouswriter says:

        Yes! Went through being reported to my guidance counselor that I had “suicidal thoughts” which ultimately was just really triggering for me. Sigh.

  4. notcalvin says:

    Concerning Stigma: don’t forget the deeply engraved embarrassment someone with OCD feels for doing stupid ridiculous behaviors in order to cope with fear, uneasiness, concerns and false believes which had built up over years and years… also it feels as if it belongs to the very own soul when you have it since your earliest childhood – it feels like part of your body..

  5. notcalvin says:

    Question for Dr. S.G.:

    Why is ocd considered only psychological disorder, as per icd-10/ dsm-5, when Stanford says:

    “Prevailing theories indicate that OCD is a biological disease.”



    • sethgillihan says:

      notcalvin, thanks for your comments and question. Yes, the deep embarrassment about behavior that we know doesn’t make sense but for some reason can’t stop doing certainly can make it hard to seek help—perhaps especially when these things have been with us for as long as we can remember.

      And about “psychological disorder,” it’s a great question that probably doesn’t have a terribly simple answer. First, there’s no clean distinction between what’s “psychological” and what’s “biological,” since everything we experience (as far as we know) has a physical manifestation. That is, it’s happening at the level of neurons, brain centers, etc.

      Researchers have identified fairly reliable links between certain brain areas and conditions like OCD. What they haven’t been able to do is identify a biological marker for OCD (or any other psychiatric condition) that would allow us to diagnose based on that marker.

      We still define OCD based on symptoms we observe and that a person reports, just as we do for conditions like anxiety and depression. Those symptoms are behaviors, thoughts, and emotions, which is what puts it in the “psychological” bin rather than the “biological” one where the symptoms might be things like elevated temperature or vomiting. But again, those distinctions break down at some level unless we’re dualists, believing our physical and mental selves are separate! Thanks again.

      • notcalvin says:

        Thanks so much Dr. Gillihan for being one of very few contact persons when it comes to OCD who is so close to his ‘audience’ and always takes time to explain and elaborate…

      • sethgillihan says:

        Thanks notcalvin!

  6. Thank you for this. Shared it on Facebook.

  7. Christy B says:

    So much good information here. Thank you!

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