Treating OCD is More Important than School or Outside Activities


family of three

stock images from

When obsessive-compulsive disorder makes its appearance in a family, it often brings about fear and confusion. For one thing, OCD manifests differently in everyone. Truly, there is no end to the ways it can present itself, in addition to the stereotypical hand-washing and tidying up compulsions. A few examples include eating issues, refusal to leave the house, irrational fears of certain people, places, or things, and the inability to complete previously easy homework assignments. You name it, it just might be OCD.

Which leads us to the next issue that faces parents of children with OCD – getting a proper diagnosis. Misdiagnosis is common, which of course leads to the wrong treatment. Even when OCD is properly diagnosed, the right therapy, exposure and response prevention (ERP), is often elusive. What’s a family to do?

For those lucky enough to receive a proper diagnosis and referral to good treatment, you’d think the children would be on their way to recovery. However, that is not always the case – I’m hearing from more people than ever who are in this situation. While various forms of intensive treatment (intensive outpatient, partial hospitalization programs, or residential treatment centers) are often recommended for their child, many parents are concerned that a commitment to intensive treatment will disrupt their child’s life. For example, “Kate” loves dance and she’ll miss some classes and the recital, “Jake” will miss a good chunk of fourth grade if he does a particular ERP program, and “Ashley” will miss a few social events and have to tell her friends what’s going on (or lie).

Obviously, the children discussed in the above paragraph are not totally debilitated by OCD. Not yet anyway. And it very well could be that they are balking at the idea of treatment. For children who can’t leave the house, or are not able to function to any extent in their daily lives, the decision to seek treatment is typically easier – they have already hit bottom. But many parents of children who are teetering on the edge don’t seem to want to take away the few things that still make their children happy, or “normal.”

As an advocate for OCD awareness and proper treatment for over ten years, I cannot stress the importance of getting the right help for obsessive-compulsive disorder sooner rather than later. OCD rarely gets better on its own, and once entrenched, is harder to treat. So, for all those out there who might be in this situation, please get your child the right help as soon as possible. Friends and activities will come and go. Even missing a significant amount of time in school can be made up. But a child who grows into a young adult with untreated OCD might very well be so disabled by the disorder that he or she can’t even hold down an entry-level job. Getting good treatment now will free your child from the grips of OCD and allow him or her to go on to have a wonderful life.







This entry was posted in Mental Health, OCD and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Treating OCD is More Important than School or Outside Activities

  1. nspalmquist says:

    I agree. But a there’s a big issue early in this piece… it took us a long time to find a doctor that knew about OCD. He helped with medication but finding ERP even somewhat close to us just wasn’t possible. As it was my child was 30 before we finally hauled off to Chicago (6 hours away) to live for the summer. Even then the ERP therapist was not a great fit.

    • Thanks for commenting and I could not agree with you more. I’ve always said one of the hardest parts of having OCD is getting the right help. I hope your son/daughter finally got good ERP and is doing well now.

  2. parentsfriend says:

    Shared on my Facebook page. Thank you. Also ranted just a tiny bit about everyday perfectionism, we need to be more of a Good Enough culture than Olympic seeking, Academy Award winning wannabee who feel like failures. Stay strong.

  3. parentsfriend says:

    Also, suggest if seeking any therapy seek someone who sets SMART goals and provides feedback at every session. I made my staff use a consumer progress note which contained a progress rating scale and satisfaction with therapy scale as well as the note for that session. Really showed when things were not going well. Helped the good staff prosper and the not so good staff move on. Here’s a blog post about rating therapy.

  4. Cee Symons says:

    Hello Janet, I find your blogs so helpful and usually so full of hope. Please can give you give me some hope following your last blog about getting treatment as a priority. Unfortunately we made the classic mistakes that you gave as examples. Our daughter was diagnosed at the age of 11 and had cbt with ERP. However, I would not say it was from the “right” therapist and, although she got a little better, she did not sustain the improvement. She and we went down the line of trying to live life as normally as possible. Since then, she has been putting off tackling OCD full on and now, at the age of 22, she is about to finish university and probably fail to hold down any job. Is there still hope that she can get better? What will we do if it has become so entrenched that no therapy will work? Please help! Cee Symons

    Sent from my iPad


    • Hi Cee, First of all, congratulations to your daughter on almost finishing university. That is a huge accomplishment especially if she is dealing with OCD! There is absolutely hope that she can get better! Many people who have hit “rock bottom” (and I mean barely functioning) have recovered from OCD. The most important things are a willingness to engage in ERP therapy, and of course a good therapist who specializes in treating OCD. Your daughter is still young and has already accomplished a lot – there is every reason to believe she can beat OCD and go on to have a wonderful life.

  5. Doris says:

    Hi – Agree. Just wanted to add a point on school – school district may mistakenly think that a therapeutic school is appropriate which usually means substandard education. Parents can and should challenge this with their psychiatrist recommendation, that ERT therapy (which is usually not at the therapeutic school) is required for OCD not a therapeutic school. – Doris

    • Thank you so much for commenting, Doris, and for bringing up such an important topic. This is just one of the many reasons why parents need to do their homework and learn everything they can about OCD – because so many others don’t know the right path to take when children are diagnosed with the disorder. I’ve written about needing to educate teachers: but you are so right. Parents need to advocate for their children to get proper treatment and help, and not be swayed by the “experts” who often don’t know about ERP therapy.

  6. Cm says:

    I agree but what if your loved one will not engage in CBT or EX RP? How do you motivate them?

  7. Great points, Janet. It is tough as a parent to make the decision to put treatment before other things. However, OCD left untreated can end up making other things next to impossible.

  8. Patty Johnson says:

    Thank you for this. I’ll have to share with my parents of clients with OCD. I’ve found that it’s easier for parents to focus on more “tangible” behaviors such as not doing homework or chores, and try to correct those with discipline, versus accepting that those things are not being completed due to OCD-related symptoms. And from what they observe, it’s hard to pull apart whether it’s OCD or misbehavior. So they have a tough job as well. I believe it will encourage them tremendously to know they’re not alone and that they are allowed to let go of societal pressures. Thanks!

  9. Davi Martins says:

    My name is Davi, I am from Brazil! I go through the sexual orientation ocd, I have to test myself, imagine, to see if I really fit into that. My obsessions revolve around being bisexual.If it is not clear, I am still practicing my English, maybe it will get better. Please contact me by email,! Thanks a lot!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s