You Are Not AlonePosted by Phil Cardenas on May 31, 2013
by Janet Singer
In so many ways, obsessive-compulsive disorder is a lonely disease. Fear of contamination or causing harm to others are just two examples of the many obsessions that might force OCD sufferers to withdraw from people, including those they care about. Compulsions also have the potential to encourage isolation as they might be so time-consuming that there is simply no time or energy left to interact with others. When OCD sufferers do attempt to socialize, they might spend most of that time trying to hide their compulsions and pretending everything is okay. It can be exhausting. Even if they appear to be fine at school or work, they very well might be feeling tormented and alone inside.
Another factor that might contribute to the loneliness of OCD is that OCD sufferers typically realize their disorder makes no sense. While this insight into OCD might be helpful in some ways (for example, during treatment), it can add to the embarrassment that many sufferers already feel. If they themselves know it is illogical to have to tap the wall ten times to keep something bad from happening, what will other people think? And because the stigma associated with having OCD is still very much alive and well, we can easily understand why those with this disorder might live in fear of being “found out.” It’s not surprising that many decide it is easier to stay in their own little “safe” world of rituals than fight their OCD. Unfortunately OCD is an insidious illness that gives sufferers an illusion of safety, when in reality the opposite is happenning. OCD destroys their lives.
While it’s easy to understand why those with OCD often feel isolated and lonely, the truth is they really are not alone. It is estimated that 1 in 40 adults and 1 in 100 children suffer from the disorder. That’s a lot of people who can relate to each other; a lot of people who can understand and validate each other in a way that non-sufferers can’t. While support groups offer all kinds of resources and assistance, I think what is most valuable about them is the opportunity to connect with others you can relate to. When I attend OCD conferences, I invariably overhear snippets of conversations: “Oh, you’re kidding me, I do that too,” and “I’ve never met anyone else who…” I can sense the relief, and even the excitement, these OCD sufferers feel when they realize for themselves that they are not alone. The same is true when family and other loved ones of OCD sufferers attend their own support groups. They go from feeling unsupported and alone to finding strength and hope, just by connecting with others.
Whether you have been dealing with OCD for days, weeks, or years, you are not alone, and you deserve to live your life to the fullest, not in the way that OCD dictates. Please check out support groups in your area and take this very important step toward recovery. Beyond OCD’s own free support group has helped so many people. If you are not in the Chicago area, contact us and we will steer you in the right direction.
So many OCD sufferers, my son included, have been through the dark days of loneliness and despair and have since triumphed. You can too. Yes, OCD can be a devastating disorder, but it is also a treatable one. Support is available. Don’t let OCD steal what’s most important to you for another minute. Commit yourself to reaching out, and you will find you are not alone. That’s a great first step toward recovery.
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.