Overcoming OCD —The College Student’s Guide
You’re not alone. Approximately 1 in 40 U.S. adults has OCD. With Cognitive Behavior Therapy, relief can be just a couple of months away.
This site is for you if you:
- Have been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Worry that you might have OCD
- Think you might be going crazy because of confusing fears and worries that won’t go away.
- Have strange intrusive thoughts you don’t understand and feel compelled to perform certain actions in response to these thoughts
You’re not alone, and there is an effective treatment for OCD — so you can look forward to relief from OCD and getting your life back.
You’re Not Crazy
It’s normal to be concerned about your symptoms and maybe even a little afraid of what is happening to you. But you’re not “crazy” or any other label that makes you feel worse. OCD is a fairly common disorder that is neurobiological in nature. Researchers have found that certain areas of the brain work differently in individuals who have OCD compared to those who don't. There is absolutely no reason to be ashamed of having this disorder, but it’s important that you understand it and learn how to control it. With effective treatment, you should be able to do whatever you want in life and be whatever you want to be.
What Exactly IS OCD?
OCD is an anxiety disorder which, like all anxiety disorders, is neurobiological in nature. It interferes with how the brain functions, and its effects can actually be seen on brain scans. With OCD, a person has two specific symptoms:
Obsessions — disturbing, recurring thoughts, fears, doubts or urges that won't go away. It's as if your brain got stuck in the "worry" position and can't restart.
Compulsions — repetitive actions, or “rituals,” that you feel compelled to do to feel better. These actions can be done overtly, like washing your hands, or covertly, like saying mental prayers. Unfortunately, you feel better only temporarily. The more you perform the compulsions, the stronger and more frequent the obsessions become.
You’re Not Alone
When you consider that one in 40 adults and one in 100 children has OCD, it's obvious that you are certainly not alone. This is a fairly common disorder and it is treatable. OCD sufferers come from every age group, race, ethnicity and socioeconomic background.
Why Haven’t I Heard of OCD Before Now?
OCD isn’t a new disorder, but it was not well understood — and little was published about its symptoms and treatment — until the past few decades. Even today, not all physiciians, psychologists, educators or campus administrators recognize OCD when they see it.
What is the Treatment for OCD? How Fast Does It Work?
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), sometimes accompanied by medication, is the gold standard treatment for OCD. It is recommended by nationally- recognized institutions such as the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Medical School. Some studies show that more than 85% of people who complete a course of CBT experience significant relief from OCD symptoms. Relief can be just a couple of months away.
In some ways, OCD is like other health conditions such as asthma, allergies or diabetes. When properly treated, these chronic conditions are manageable, and are actually managed by millions of people around you. Like these other conditions, OCD requires a commitment to treatment. While there is currently no cure for OCD, CBT can help you get better and teach you how to keep your OCD under control.
What About Medication? Can’t I Just Take Some Pills?
Today’s easy answer for just about everything seems to be to take a pill. But for OCD, medication alone isn’t the best treatment.
Why is OCD happening to me now?
Illness can happen at any time, and college life is a stressful time that can be vastly different from your pre-college life at home. In fact, it’s not unusual to first have OCD symptoms at college. Read more about why college can “trigger” OCD.
Could My Symptoms Be Some Other Mental Disorder?
A number of conditions frequently co-exist, or “partner” with OCD. Disorders that can occur with OCD – referred to as “comorbid” disorders – include depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, tic disorders (including Tourette Syndrome), eating disorders and anxiety disorders other than OCD. And there are many other conditions that can be comorbid with OCD. As a result, it can be confusing to try to sort out what your particular symptoms actually are.
What’s Wrong With Doing My Compulsions? It Makes Me Feel Better.
Continuing to perform rituals in response to your obsessions can actually make your OCD worse.
Where Can I Go For Help?
Start with your college or university’s student health center or counseling service. Tell them you think you might have OCD and want to see a cognitive behavior therapist. If your counseling center doesn't have a cognitive behavior therapist on board, ask them to help you find one. If the staff doesn't have information about cognitive behavior therapists for OCD, you can contact Beyond OCD to discuss therapy options for OCD. Your goal is to get relief from OCD as soon as possible.
Can a Support Group Help Me?
A support group can provide information, encouragement and emotional support for people who have OCD. It can play a very important role in OCD recovery, but it's not a substitute for treatment.
When Money Is A Problem
If your student health center or counseling service is able to provide Cognitive Behavior Therapy, it may be covered under your student health insurance. If you need to go to a cognitive behavior therapist in private practice, it could be more costly. When money is an issue, it can present challenges to getting OCD treatment, but don’t give up.
Frequently Asked Questions about OCD and Its Treatment
Of course you have questions about OCD. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions by college students:
- What causes OCD?
- Is OCD inherited?
- Can stress cause OCD?
- Why can’t a person just stop their OCD?
- Is there an online test I can take to see if I have OCD?
- What’s the best treatment for OCD?
- Can you guarantee I’ll get better with treatment?
- Do I have to be hospitalized to treat my OCD?
- What if I don’t get treatment for my OCD?
- My college “doesn’t treat OCD”. Now What Can I Do?
- What are my options if my school offers CBT but limits the number of visits?
- Should I change schools to get OCD treatment?
- Should I take a leave of absence to get treatment?
- Are there accommodations available through disabilities services?
- Should I tell my family I have OCD?