If you’re suffering from OCD, you’re not alone.
But, of course, it’s really easy to feel alone no matter what mental health issue it is you’re struggling with. I talk a lot about anxiety on here, but I wanted to make sure everyone was included. So I was so excited when my friend Alison (who I met through this blog, actually!) was willing to speak about her journey on LAAD.
Without further ado, here’s Alison!
Hey, Life As a Dare readers! My name is Alison, I’m 22 years old, and a year and a half ago, I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Until Becca approached me with the idea of writing this post, not many people have been privy to this detail of my life, but it’s time for me to come out with it and share it for the purpose of helping others. Life is too short and too challenging to pretend that our lives are perfect; being vulnerable is really the only way to help others in their trials, especially when it comes to mental health. So I’m stepping out in faith, praying for God to use this post as a way to reach others who are suffering from OCD or some other anxiety disorder.
First, the facts.
OCD is a term frequently thrown around, but it remains very misunderstood. It is often thought of as simply being organized, fearful of germs, or generally being a clean person. And while those absolutely can be symptoms of OCD, they do not fully encompass what OCD is.
OCD is made up of two parts: obsessions and compulsions (hence the name). The obsessions are also referred to intrusive thoughts; these are fear-inducing distressing thoughts that trigger anxiety or panic in an individual. The compulsions are actions the individual performs in order to relieve the anxiety. The most common example is contamination OCD. A person with OCD who fears falling ill or dying from a disease and is triggered by the intrusive thought (the obsession) that they have come into contact with said disease will then wash their hands frequently, disinfect their home thoroughly, or any number of other compulsions in order to ease the anxiety produced by the aforementioned intrusive thought.
While contamination OCD is a common form of the disorder, there are dozens of other forms OCD can take. Basically any fear a person can have can manifest itself into an obsession. As you can imagine, that is quite a daunting reality for people with this disorder. Some other forms would include but are not limited to: hoarding obsessions, sexual obsessions, religious obsessions, harm obsessions, superstitious/ritual obsessions, and checking obsessions.
OCD affects about 1 in every 200 adults, and nearly 3.3 million people in the United States alone. What many people do not know is that OCD is categorized as an anxiety disorder. The anxiety produced by OCD is crippling; it can affect the sufferer’s physical, emotional, social, and even spiritual wellbeing. Unfortunately, there is not a technical cure, the way there is with the flu or with a broken bone. However, in my experience and that of many others, there are elements to help manage and control it. I would like to share those with you today
Seeking out the help of a psychiatrist or a psychologist is elemental in treating your OCD. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is especially key. It may take some trial and error to seek out the right therapist for you, but stay patient. Once you have found a good fit, stick with it. Therapy is incredibly helpful in this process.
Working out has been proven to release serotonin and dopamine in the body, which in turn helps to lessen anxiety. I know that when panic hits, the last thing you feel like doing is going on a walk or a bike ride, but it truly does help you to feel better and move towards treating your disorder.
One of the most humbling aspects of OCD for me has been admitting the amount of sleep I need. The truth is that at this point in my life, I need more sleep per night than the average person. Anxiety produces so much adrenaline that sufferers become easily exhausted. And without adequate sleep, we are much more susceptible to anxiety attacks. Check this article out from Good Therapy.org for more information on how sleep aids in treating anxiety.
Medication is not something I take lightly, especially for minors. However, there is a time and a place where medication is needed. While SSRI’s are not a cure-all, they do aid in managing anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses. Sometimes OCD is simply severe enough that medication is a necessity. If you feel that you need that extra help, make an appointment with your doctor or a psychiatrist to see what medication might help you.
Note from Becca: A lot of the issue with medication is the stigma that comes with taking meds to help with a mental illness. I want to add that being ashamed or being scared of what others may think is NEVER a valid excuse for not getting treatment for yourself. First of all, most people don’t actually care when they hear someone’s taking medication. Instead, you usually get a pat on the back for taking care of yourself. Second, not getting treatment because you’re scared of others’ reactions just furthers the cycle that comes with mood and anxiety disorders. So please, take care of yourself!
However, medication is not an answer in and of itself. Medication for anxiety/mood disorders treats the symptoms so that you’re able to address the underlying issues. So medication is an amazing resource when coupled with therapies, such as CBT, like Ali pointed out earlier.
Ok, I’m done. Now back to Ali.
Prayer and Spiritual Support
I do not believe that mental illness is a spiritual issue such as lack of faith, but I do believe that seeking healing and support in our spiritual lives for any trial we face is beneficial. Trials and disorders come; it is a part of living in a broken world. But seeking out spiritual support from mentors, pastors, or other trusted people in the faith is so helpful in facing OCD and other mental illnesses.
What you need to know is this: OCD is most effectively managed when it is attacked from all sides. Treating yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually is so beneficial in reaching stability.
Alison is a 22-year-old, New York Institute of Photography graduate. She loves laughing, traveling, spending time with family and friends. Her favourite food is ice cream, and she has an affinity for dogs of all kinds! She blogs at Grade for this Day, so be sure to check it out!
Do you suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or another form of mental illness? If so, what actions have you found that help to manage your illness? Let’s talk about it in the comments below!
Note: The information included in this post is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her health care provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. Reading the information on this website does not create a physician-patient relationship.