Getting Past OCD

Posted by Phil Cardenas on May 01, 2012

by Janet Singer

OCD and Transitions

May, a month of transition for many, is upon us. In my own family, we have two upcoming graduations: high school for my younger daughter, and college for my son Dan. While my husband and I are very proud of both of them, Dan’s graduation is especially poignant, as during his struggle with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder, his strong desire to complete his education at his dream college was a powerful motivator to get well. Now here he is, achieving the goal he set for himself. What a wonderful reason to celebrate!

OCD: The doubting disease

And celebrate we will. But I am also keenly aware that change, by its very nature, comes with stress, and for Dan, the changes will be huge. He won’t be in school anymore, living with his three best friends. His girlfriend will not be nearby. In fact, none of his friends will be around when he comes back home. He will have to make a lot of decisions; types of decisions he has never had to make before. Where will he live? What types of jobs will he apply for?  What are his short-term goals? His long-term goals? And to top it off, his long-time therapist will only be available to him occasionally via telephone. Dan will basically be building a new life for himself, and though that can be stressful for anyone, it is often even more so for those struggling with OCD, the “doubting disease.” So much uncertainty!

Heightened anxiety

So how can we help our loved ones (or ourselves) deal with the stress and heightened anxiety that comes along with transitions? Below are some ideas that I will recommend to Dan, and also put into practice myself.

  • Instead of trying to deal with everything at once, break the situation down into smaller parts. Perhaps make a list of what you think is most important to deal with first. In other words, take one thing at a time.
  • When making decisions, make sure you are considering what you really want, and not what your OCD is steering you towards, or what you think is “right”. Of course, depending on the severity of your OCD, this might be easier said than done, which brings us to my next suggestion.
  • Make sure you have a support system in place; your therapist, family and friends, should all be aware of the changes going on in your life. See your health care providers more frequently if need be. Ask for help when you need it, but if you’re a loved one of someone with OCD, remember there is often a fine line between helping and enabling.
  • Take care of yourself, physically and mentally. Eat well, exercise, and even consider meditation. While you have a lot to deal with and figure out, it is also important to carve out some time to do the things you enjoy, like playing sports or going to a movie.

Dan’s OCD first became severe when he was a freshman in college. This was also a time of major transition for him. Will it happen again when he graduates?  The answer, of course, is “I don’t know.” I do know he now has the insight, skills and tools to fight his OCD; all things he didn’t have back then. But still, the future is uncertain. I, and hopefully Dan, will choose to embrace this uncertainty instead of worrying about it, and live each day to the fullest, as he moves on to this next chapter of his life. I hope you’ll strive to do the same as you face your own transitions.

Beyond OCD is the recognized worldwide resource center for OCD sufferers, family and friends affected by the illness, educators, clergy, the media, and mental health professionals. Our web site is full of information about coping with OCD, treatment and therapy options available, the very latest scientific and therapeutic trends in OCD, and outreach programs. The non-profit organization’s commitment to combating the ravages of OCD is proof positive that there is life Beyond OCD.

Janet Singer, an advocate for OCD awareness, is published regularly on various mental health web sites. She explores all topics related to OCD and shares what helped and what hurt in her son Dan’s recovery from this devastating disorder.  While there were many lessons learned along the way, Janet feels the most powerful one of all is that there is always hope. She is committed to getting the word out that OCD, no matter how severe, is treatable. You can read more about Dan’s story and follow her personal blog at: Janet uses a pseudonym to protect her son’s privacy.


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