Of all the conditions that I help people with, OCD is one that often pulls at my heart.
It’s another area where the inexperienced can be unwittingly insensitive without any malice or intention. For example, relating their preference for orderliness and cleaning to be “a bit OCD.”
If you have experienced OCD or witnessed somebody experiencing their struggle with it and bravely trying to make sense of the world, then you will know that it impacts every single area of a person’s life. You can’t be “a bit OCD”.
The two significant aspects to OCD are obsessions (distorted thinking) and compulsions (or behaviours) which sufferers are usually driven to do because of their distorted thoughts. “I have to do this or X may happen.” And “X” is often a terrifying prospect.
The thoughts and fears themselves can seem profoundly shocking because even though they’re not voluntarily produced or created they can be almost unspeakable. Sufferers can be paralysed not only by what other people would think of them if they knew, but by their own disgust at themselves for thinking such things. But they had no choice, these thoughts are intrusive and unbidden. The truth is that people living with OCD are the least likely people to act upon such terrible thoughts instead they terrorise themselves.
How does this work?
For the clients I work with there are three focuses.
I encourage them to accept themselves and focus, focus, focus on their decency, resilience. and strengths. They are not their thoughts.
Secondly, we manage their anxiety and/or stress because these are known to worsen the condition.
Thirdly we address the rituals. Some of the more talked about rituals like cleaning, hand washing, or ordering are often associated with OCD but in truth the list can be long and spiralling for each sufferer. The one thing that all the rituals have is that they are totally debilitating.
As with so many mental health issues the earlier we can catch it the better and, in my experience, it’s incredibly important to always keep in the forefront of your mind the individual and not the condition.