OCD: A Hidden Disorder

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that occurs when a person gets caught in a cycle of unwanted and intrusive thoughts. These thoughts trigger distressing feelings and cause the person to feel driven to engage in repetitive behavior, compulsions.

Read Jessica’s story below of how she struggled to find a diagnosis for her symptoms and how she is coping with her OCD.

I have struggled with symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder since childhood. Counting, coughing, locking doors and memorizing license plates and phone numbers became an obsession with safety. From there, I grew up and my symptoms were not recognized by my parents or teachers, anything that was going on with me was under the category of a learning disability. Needless to say, I was suffering from chaos and confusion in my mind day in and day out.

As I got older and attended high school, depression and anxiety were at its worst, but due to the lack of knowledge behind the treatment, I carried on with my struggle even after graduating.

In 2013, I was meeting with a therapist who told me I had OCD and thought it would be best to see a specialist. When I told my parents, the stigma was there, and they were in disbelief.

I had taken things into my own hands at that point, gathered information on my own about OCD. I had given this info to my parents because there hadn’t been any resources for them to find, not even knowing who to call. My thoughts were repetitive and intrusive, irrational fears became daily issues to function while I was trying so badly to get rid of the thoughts, feelings or emotions, which only made the OCD worse, but I did not know where to go or who to really turn to.

Researching OCD Symptoms

The need to further research and study about this topic is crucial. I had to suffer before I got better. There were not any known support groups when I searched for help, especially for parents of children with OCD. As a family, we didn’t know where to turn, until hospitalizations became a regular part of my life for a while. In 2014, the first time that I ever learned about any type of residential treatment for OCD, was when I entered McLean Hospital.

I then got properly diagnosed in 2015 with a neuropsychological evaluation. Still, the information, support or research was not easily available to me and my parents. I ended up back at residential treatment for OCD for the second year in a row. By this point, with the help of family therapy, some resources had started to pop up. I was finally headed in the right direction.

Within those two years, I was able to learn about exposure and response prevention, also known as ERP. Exposure therapy is the gold standard for treating OCD. Within those two years, I was also given an amazing opportunity to learn about dialectical behavior therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy.

This was all a great start.

Finding Treatment for OCD

I believe though, that more research, support groups, properly educated therapists and resources could be available as early as elementary school. Having information available for teachers and parents would significantly increase the way that young children may be able to get a diagnosis early on, furthermore help and treatment at a young age in order to not feel so alone, isolated, afraid or even guilty when having to struggle or ask for help.

While treatment and therapy are crucial, medication plays another huge role in being able to stabilize and function. Medication and treatment come hand in hand.

I have learned a lot because of my suffering early on, and am not able to speak openly about OCD while trying to reach others in a way that people may not have to go through what I went to in order to receive help.

Living with OCD has been a daily battle. Actually, it still is, but more manageable with specific resources out there. Not only has it benefited me while research has increased, but it would also be so beneficial to others especially at a young age, and with parents trying to get a better understanding of what is really going on.