Spring Into Action

Posted by Phil Cardenas on Apr 01, 2013

by Janet Singer

April brings the promise of spring, as the earth awakens and comes back to life. While it is a time of rebirth, many of those stuck in the vicious cycle of obsessive-compulsive disorder are so consumed by their illness that they can’t appreciate, or perhaps even notice, this beautiful time of year.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Unlike so many other illnesses, OCD is treatable. I will even go so far as to say those with obsessive-compulsive disorder are lucky, as they have successful treatment options to pursue. Even if you live in an area where there are no well-trained therapists, there are self-help books, programs, websites, and apps now available. Recovery might not be easy, but it is possible. Yes, Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) Therapy is, by its very nature, anxiety-provoking. But it works. Those who can push through their fears and commit themselves to the hard work necessary for recovery will likely be rewarded with the new beginning they so deserve.

Yet so many of those with OCD can’t seem to take those steps toward recovery. Why? I admit that it is often hard for me to understand why someone would choose to live with a debilitating disorder when there is effective treatment available. Then again, I don’t have OCD. But my son has the disorder and what I do know is that it is heartbreaking to stand by and watch a loved one suffer needlessly.

I believe fear is the main reason OCD sufferers avoid recovery. Of course ERP Therapy, where those with the disorder are asked to refrain from performing the very compulsions they believe keep their world “safe,” is an integral part of this fear. There is also the anxiety that comes along with the fear of getting well. Someone whose life has revolved around OCD for so long might wonder, “How will I feel safe without my OCD?” “Who will I be without OCD?” “How will I move forward with my life’s goals?” “What are my goals?”

We are fortunate that my son Dan, a passionate artist, had clearly set goals that he was determined to achieve. I think this was a major factor in his willingness to tackle ERP Therapy. Additionally, before severe OCD struck, Dan was a happy child with a lot of joy in his life. I think this knowledge of how wonderful life could be was also a strong incentive for him. He had a great life and he wanted it back. For OCD sufferers who do not have a clear sense of direction, or memories of happier times, recovery avoidance might take a stronger hold.

How can we help loved ones with OCD find the strength to work toward recovery? Certainly, expressing our concern and desire for them to get well can’t hurt. At the same time, however, it should be made clear that we will no longer enable their OCD. And while it is important to acknowledge the suffering of those with OCD, I believe it is equally important for loved ones to continue on with their lives in a positive way. Humor has always been a big part of my family’s life, and even during his darkest days, Dan could still laugh, and for a moment all would be well. Being around others who are living productive, happy lives, in addition to not enabling, might help our loved ones move closer to accepting help.

Of course, those with OCD cannot be forced into therapy. The desire to get well has to come from within, and must outweigh the fear of treatment. If you have OCD and you are searching for the strength and courage to fight it, I hope the beauty of spring will inspire you. Just as the flowers break through the earth, you too can break through your fear and experience a miraculous rebirth: a life not dictated by obsessive-compulsive disorder.

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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