OCD and Uncertainty…for Everyone

Posted by Phil Cardenas on Nov 01, 2012

by Janet Singer

“The doubting disease” and the ironic quest for control

As many of you might already know, obsessive-compulsive disorder is often referred to as “the doubting disease.”  This is because doubt and uncertainty fuel the fire for OCD, as sufferers feel the need to have total control over everything in their lives; to be certain that everyone and everything are okay. While it is human nature to seek answers, those with OCD take it too far. They are obsessed with being certain; certain that everything looks right, or is completely safe, or totally germ free. There is no room for doubt or uncertainty. The irony is this quest for control inevitably leads to just the opposite — loss of control over one’s life.

The truth of the matter is, certainty is unattainable, and so those suffering from OCD are seeking the impossible. In the course of our lifetimes, good things will happen and bad things will happen and we can never be sure, from one moment to the next, what awaits us. This is a fact of life. Whether we suffer from OCD or not, there are bound to be challenges and surprises for all of us, and we need to be able to deal with them.

OCD: Parents suffer too

But those with OCD are not the only ones who struggle to live with uncertainty. From my own experience, as well as from the many comments I’ve received on my blog, parents whose children suffer from OCD are often desperately searching for that elusive certainty. “Just tell me he will be okay,” or “If I just knew for sure she would get through this,” are common statements from parents whose child is debilitated by obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is how I felt when my son Dan’s OCD was severe, and surely how many parents feel when their child is dealing with any type of illness.

The lessons in OCD treatment

As I’ve learned more about OCD and its proper treatment, I’ve tried to apply some of these lessons to my own thoughts and behaviors. I realize that the only certainty in life is right now, in the moment. Everything else, even that which we really believe to be true, is uncertain. “I’m going to go home and have dinner with my husband tonight after work.” Well, really, that is my plan, but do I know for sure that will happen? No. A million things, some trivial, some major, could happen to change the course of those events. Instead of living in fear of what could happen, of uncertainty, I have chosen to embrace the unknown and be grateful for now. Am I always successful? No, but I am aware that when I stray into “what if” territory, it does nobody any good. I always try to bring myself back to the moment, and at this moment, I am thankful Dan is doing well and is in control of his OCD. What more can I ask for? The assurance that all will be well, all the time, cannot be given to anyone.

Finding hope in OCD therapies

What did get me through the tough times with Dan was not the certainty that he would get well, but the hope. Hope that we would connect with the right health-care professionals. Hope that Dan would have success with his therapy. Hope that I would get my son back. I had to make a conscious effort to trust in the universe, to see the world as a place of positive energy and hope, and not impending doom. I know this is easier said than done, particularly for those suffering from OCD, but I think it is so important for our good mental health. We need to support each other and continue to get the word out that OCD, no matter how severe, is treatable. And even though I know there is little we can really be certain of, I truly believe there is always hope for those who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder. For me, and hopefully for others, this hope makes it that much easier to live with uncertainty.

Beyond OCD is a wonderful resource for hope – for OCD sufferers, their families and other people who interact with those stricken with OCD. As I mentioned in this blog post, getting the word out on OCD -- that it is treatable, treatment options available, and the specific steps that can be taken for children, teens, adults, parents, clergy, medical professionals, educators and others with OCD of in contact with OCD sufferers – is where hope begins. Spread the word.   

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: www.ocdtalk.wordpress.com. Janet uses a pseudonym to protect her son’s privacy.


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