Speak Out

Posted by Phil Cardenas on Mar 01, 2013

by Janet Singer

Have you noticed that more celebrities than ever seem to be announcing they have obsessive-compulsive disorder?  While normally I would applaud their openness, I am concerned after reading details of some of these admissions, that they do not give an accurate portrayal of what OCD really is. While some of these stars undoubtedly suffer from the disorder, others admit to not having been officially diagnosed. It seems to me that OCD has become somewhat of a “trendy” disorder, and this misrepresentation of the illness can do more harm than good.

Unfortunately, OCD is one of the most misunderstood mental health disorders. Many people who are not affected by it directly think of it as a cute, quirky ailment, when in reality it is a devastating illness with the potential to destroy lives. Those with OCD, as well as their families, often keep it as hidden as possible.

Certainly obsessive-compulsive disorder is not the only disorder that has been misunderstood over the years. Take autism for example. I remember when autism was thought to be caused by mothers withholding love and affection, and those who suffered from the disorder were thought to be unfeeling. Neither of these assumptions is true, and now those who suffer from autism, as well as their families, have more resources and services available to them than ever before. What caused this shift?

People spoke up. How brave those pioneers were, especially when in many cases, they were being blamed for their children’s problems! Parents, families, loved ones, sufferers, and dedicated healthcare professionals, one by one, became educators and advocates. There is power in numbers, and eventually the stigma of having autism, or having a child with the disorder, dissipated. At that point, the real work of helping those with this illness truly began.

That’s what we need to do with OCD.

Those of us who understand what obsessive-compulsive disorder really is and is not need to make ourselves heard. We need to stop hiding behind the misguided shame of mental illness and talk about OCD as we would talk about asthma, or any other illness that holds no embarrassment. Only by speaking out will we be able to chisel away at the stigma and misunderstanding of this debilitating disorder that shatters the lives of so many people.

Those with OCD often feel so alone. I find this ironic as it is estimated that approximately 1 in 40 adults in the U.S. (about 2.3% of the population) and 1 in 100 children suffer from it. OCD sufferers, as well as their loved ones, feel alone because we don’t speak out enough. We are not talking to each other about OCD, and the intense suffering it often brings.

I propose that we all be brave, and speak up about OCD whenever we can. In my own experience, talking with others about OCD is usually worthwhile. Often, I find what happens is one of three things. People either feel more comfortable sharing their own issues with me, they genuinely want to learn more about OCD, or they admit to having a personal connection to someone with the disorder. These are all positive things, and think of how much progress we could make toward helping those with OCD if we all had these conversations. So let’s speak out, and talk to whomever will listen, as we cannot afford to remain quiet any more. Those with OCD need to be understood, taken seriously, and helped, and they deserve no less.

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.


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