One of the most significant facts I have learnt about OCD, is that every single case of OCD is different. Every. Single. One. Therefore when reading self-help books or information, I would worry that unless what I was reading mentioned my exact thoughts – maybe it meant that I wasn’t experiencing OCD and that my thoughts and fears were real. That I was the exception – that I truly was, or hand become, the bad person I feared. But books cannot of course mention every single example, all they can do is group thoughts to best cover them all. This will instil a sense of fear in you… a sense of doubt… a ‘but what if it’s not OCD…? thought’…
It’s terrifying. For me, the doubt is the hardest part of OCD. But you have to stay strong. The more we talk about OCD with one another, and the more we share experiences, the more we will realise we are not alone and that it is the OCD talking. This is why we need to end the stigma. It’s important you do not suffer alone and seek professional help as early as possible. People are so shamed my their thoughts – we need to break these barriers down; you don’t need to keep them to yourself.
I have often found that writing things down and presenting them to my doctor or therapist to be the best way of sharing.
Why is seeking help so hard for OCD sufferers?
People with OCD are often reluctant to seek help because they feel ashamed or embarrassed.
However, if you have OCD, there is nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about. It is a long-term health condition like diabetes or asthma, and it is not your fault you have it.
Seeking help is important because it is unlikely your symptoms will improve if left untreated, and they may get worse.
It can be extremely difficult to discuss your experiences with a doctor, particularly if you experience distressing thoughts about issues such as religion, sex or violence. However, it is important to try and talk as honestly as you can, so your GP can suggest the right type of help for you.
If you find it difficult talking about your OCD, you may find it useful to prepare beforehand. You could think about how you would answer the questions above and write down the answers to take with you. Then if you start to feel embarrassed or overwhelmed when you are with your GP, you can refer to your notes – or even hand them to the doctor.
Sufferers often go undiagnosed for many years, partly because of a lack of understanding of the condition by the individual themself and amongst health professionals, and partly because of the intense feelings of embarrassment, guilt and sometimes even shame associated with what is often called the ‘secret illness’. This often leads to delays in diagnosis of the illness and delays in treatment, with a person often waiting an average of 10–15 years between symptoms developing and seeking treatment.
Why people might be afraid to use self-help books
- Fear that thinking about their problem will make it worse. In fact the opposite if true. When individuals try to avoid thinking about their OCD and what they can do about it, then the problem persists and over time becomes more difficult to solve.
- They fear that if they learn about other obsessions or compulsions, they will ‘pick up’ another worry. There is no evidence that you can ‘catch’ or exacerbate OCD from reading about other obsessions.
- Individuals with OCD believe that because obsessions can vary enormously, no one book will be able to cover all of the different types of obsessions and compulsions – fear that a book will not directly mention their particular obsession and for that reason will not be directly relevant to them.
- A related fear is that if one’s own obsession is not precisely described, then the information that intrusive thoughts are safe may not apply because ‘mine is different’. This can quickly lead people to conclude that their particular obsession really does have a meaning – or that it reveals something sinister about them. OCD can have many features, and it is true that every person with OCD is unique. Every person with OCD whom we have treated before has at least one feature that we have not seen before – try to focus on the similarities in the form rather than the differences in the content.