Young Adults Face OCD Challenges on BBC Documentary

Posted by Phil Cardenas on Nov 07, 2013

Five years ago Seattle therapist Pete Weiss developed Camp DCO in partnership with two other OCD specialists, psychologists Dr. Neil Kirkpatrick and Dr. Travis Osborne. Seeing the success his outdoor programs had with patients suffering from behavioral disorders, a production company approached Weiss and Osborne about making a 2-part documentary that would follow the experiences of six young adult OCD sufferers from England as they went through a week-long treatment course at Camp DCO.

The producers recruited the participants, aged 17-23 and all suffering from OCD in various manifestations, to be part of a group that would fly to Seattle to take part in the camp. They would be challenged to face their fears in an unfamiliar, outdoor setting devoid of any of the amenities and coping mechanisms they normally leaned on. They would hike into the mountains west of Seattle, camp out and challenge themselves with outdoor experiences including a high ropes course – a series of ladders, climbing walls, and cables set high in the trees – as well as more traditional camping activities like sleeping outdoors in tents, grilling S’mores around a campfire, and sharing their stories with one another.

As they gathered for dinner the night before leaving England, one of the first positive things to happen was learning that they were not alone in their suffering. The simple act of being with other young OCD sufferers was reassuring and enabling. One of the participants, Megan Morgan, described it this way: “It was really strange because we were getting along as if we’d known each other for years! I think that we had an instant bond because we all understood each other’s OCD and no one had ever properly understood us before.”

As the week went on, the campers were challenged to face their fears and, difficult as it was at the beginning, they all finished the week feeling that they had made significant progress in dealing with their afflictions. Interviewed by BBC after completing the course, college student Olivia Bamber said, “It seems odd to say that I enjoyed challenging my OCD, but when you’re surrounded by five friends who are going through the same thing coupled with fantastic therapists who are constantly supporting you, it makes the world of difference. I soon realized I loved the feeling of success when I completed a challenge; it felt good to kick OCD in the face.”

The camp staff works with OCD sufferers using two proven therapeutic techniques – Exposure and Response Prevention therapy (ERP), and Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). CBT is the treatment of choice for all forms of OCD. It incorporates Exposure and Response Prevention therapy (ERP) to gradually expose the patient to the thoughts that trigger their anxiety and compulsions to desensitize them to the triggers. Over the course of treatment, symptoms often become mild enough to ignore and may even disappear entirely.

Because CBT and ERP are relatively new in treatment of OCD, it is important to find a therapist who is trained in their application and current on the latest developments. The understanding and treatment of OCD is growing rapidly with evolving treatments such as Metacognitive Therapy (MCT), a therapy that focuses on changing perception and reaction to intrusive thoughts and behavior.  Preliminary studies are encouraging, but additional research must be conducted to support it as an effective treatment for OCD.

Beyond OCD is committed to offering OCD sufferers and their loved ones the latest information on the disorder and carefully chosen sources for treatment. To learn more about OCD and its treatment, visit our web site at BeyondOCD.org. As the DCO campers learned, you’re not alone and Beyond OCD exists to help you get the information you need to go beyond OCD.

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