(OCD) Sufferer’s Forum
This is the first installment of a ” Sufferer’s Forum,” which is a new feature intended to inform people about the course, nature and treatment of OCD. There is a good deal of misinformation out there, made worse by inaccurate portrayals of OCD in popular media. Often, people think that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is only present when an person washes their hands too much for fear of contamination or gets stuck checking things repeatedly.
While contamination and checking compulsively are OC issues, they, by no means, captures the true nature and breadth of the problem. OCD is essentially unlimited in the forms and content that it can take. If you can think it, it can be obsessed about. This column will shed some light on the lack of information and misunderstanding of this disabling disorder. If you find yourself or a loved one on the list below I hope these stories will be beneficial and further your understanding of OC and the benefits of an appropriate treatment. Here are some of the more recognizable forms of OCD.
Obsessions of Contamination, Obsessions of Harm to Self/Other, Obsessions of Aggression, Obsessions of Perfection, Sexual Obsessions, Religious Obsessions, Health and Body-Focused Obsessions, Neutral Obsessions, Magical Obsessions
Decontamination Compulsions, Perfectionistic Compulsions, Checking Compulsions, Undoing Compulsions, Mental Compulsions, Counting Compulsions, Touching or Movement Compulsions, Protective Compulsions, Body-Focused Compulsions, Hoarding Compulsions
Others’ stories can be one of the best ways to clarify the disorder and it’s remedies, so we will include autobiographical accounts when we can. In order to best insure confidentiality of the individuals sharing their stories all author’s will be asked to remain anonymous. You can ask questions of the author by using the title of the article and forwarding your question to firstname.lastname@example.org or by using the comment form at the bottom of this page. You may want to submit your own story if you believe that it will help another sufferer. Your story may help someone decide that there is hope.
The Story: Selling A Soul!
Imagine you are out shopping, which of course, is something you love to do, and you find that shirt or pair of pants that you absolutely love. You immediately start searching for your size, thinking “Please, please have it.” Then that ugly thought that you fear and try so desperately not to think of, comes into your mind: you’d sell your soul to the devil if they have your size and there it is. Now, of course, being a Christian, you know you would never actually do that, but as an OCD sufferer, you want that certainty that this will not happen. So you put it back on the rack and walk away. Your fear is relieved, for the short term, until it happens again.
It doesn’t end here, though. Next you have just had an interview for a new job that you really want and that thought comes up again that you’d sell your soul if you get the job offer. You immediately say to yourself that you didn’t mean to think that and of course you would never do that. However the real devil, your OCD, keeps making you think, “What if it happens because you thought it?” So you go back and forth obsessing over this. The job offer comes in and you decide to take it all the while trying to relieve your fear that you have just sold your soul by saying you didn’t mean to think that.
A few months go by in your new job and almost every day that thought pops into your head that you’ve sold your soul and now your life is over. Again, you try and relieve the fear by saying you didn’t mean it, but OCD just keeps coming at you causing you to say, “Well, what if you did?” Then the day before a business trip the OCD is acting up and you are out running errands and you see a sign with an arrow pointing down and that is it, that was the sign that you are definitely going to hell and you have sold your soul. So you immediately head home completely distraught that you are doomed to hell and life is over. You are in no shape to head out on the business trip, so you call your boss the night before and tell him you are sick and can’t go on the trip. Needless to say, this did not go over well, and you decide to just resign in order to save yourself from embarrassment.
Unfortunately, for an OCD sufferer, an obsession like this can pop up anytime and affect almost every aspect of your life. These are examples of only a few of the things I’ve lost to my OCD. It’s made me decide not to continue dating the incredibly handsome guy from Italy, who was an atheist, so of course, by dating him it would mean I would go to hell. Worst of all, it made me dread going to Church because I would try so hard not to think of the devil while going up for communion or saying a prayer. So it was easier to just not go to Church.
Now, those of you who don’t suffer from OCD may be thinking this sounds completely crazy and that the people in my life must think I’m completely nuts. However, what you don’t realize is that many of us who suffer from OCD don’t ever want anyone to know so they suffer in silence trying really hard to hide it. Trying really hard to sweep it under the rug and hope it goes away. Unfortunately, it doesn’t and will continue to rob your life of happiness; leaving you constantly stressed, depressed, and generally missing out on living the life you value.
If any of this sounds familiar to you, it could be that you too suffer from OCD and I want you to know that there is help out there. It took me 15 years to find the right help, but I eventually did in the form of Exposure Response Prevention therapy with a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in the treatment of anxiety disorders. The work is hard and causes you to face your greatest fears and learn to live with uncertainty. But what you gain from this work is living the life that you value and not being run by OCD. The OCD will always be there and will continually test you, but with the tools that you learn from the therapy, you will be well equipped to handle it and chose the life you want and not what your OCD demands.