OCD and Fear

Written by Janet Singer

I’ve previously written about recovery avoidance in those with OCD, and how heartbreaking it can be for family and friends to know there is treatment for the disorder, yet their loved ones refuse to commit themselves to it. I’ve talked about how important it is for those with OCD to identify their values, so that the desire to regain the things they hold most dear could hopefully propel them toward recovery. But still, time after time, I hear of those who just can’t bring themselves to embrace treatment.

They are too afraid.

As someone without OCD, I have never understood this. In my mind, since OCD sufferers are already living a life of fear, it makes sense to pursue treatment (ERP therapy), and at least have this fear lead to some positive results: freedom from OCD. I know treatment is scary, but is it really scarier than living with obsessive-compulsive disorder?

For some people, it is. I now realize that for a good number of OCD sufferers, the thought of living without OCD might be more frightening than living with the disorder. While those with OCD typically realize their disorder makes no sense, they also, on some level, believe their OCD keeps them and their loved ones safe. After all, isn’t that the whole “purpose” of all those compulsions? To make certain that all is well? Why rock the boat? It’s too scary.

Another fear some OCD sufferers have is that if they “lose” their OCD, they will not be themselves; they will  be missing a part of who they are. Again, as someone without the disorder, this makes no sense to me. In fact, I think the opposite is true: OCD does not allow sufferers to truly be themselves. When my son Dan’s OCD was severe, he was caught up in the world of OCD and anxiety, unable to spend his time, pursue his goals, or even think his thoughts, the way he wanted. Only when he recovered did he return to his authentic self; who he was, and is, meant to be.

I believe OCD sufferers are often a lot stronger than they think they are. It’s not unusual to hear stories of children with OCD who are able to resist doing their compulsions at school (likely due to fear of ridicule), or of adults who find themselves in situations they can’t control. Maybe they absolutely have no choice but to use a public restroom, or perhaps they also resist compulsions for fear of being “found out.” Whatever the scenario, if the incentive is strong enough, sufferers can stand up to their OCD.

Almost three-and-a-half years ago, I wrote a post called Where There’s a Will…, where I discussed my son Dan’s motivation to fight his OCD. I still truly believe that for all OCD sufferers, where there is a will there is a way. The trick is to find that will, fight through the fear, and refuse to let OCD ruin your life anymore.

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