I’ve been an advocate for OCD awareness since 2006, and from the very beginning I’ve received compliments from people after they hear how I did everything I could to help my son Dan during his journey through severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. “He is so lucky to have you,” and “You’re so supportive” are two of the more common phrases I hear frequently.

These words should make me feel great. And they do, for the most part. But something about the praise also makes me sad. What it implies is that my, and my family’s, unwavering support for Dan is not the norm. And maybe it’s not. I don’t really know. But I do know it should be. If Dan had a physical ailment, such as asthma, would I get the same comments? Probably not. Of course any good parent would do everything in his or her power to get the best help possible for their child with asthma.

Why don’t we have the same expectation when dealing with someone with a brain disorder?

I think the only logical answer to this question is: ignorance. A lack of understanding about obsessive-compulsive disorder. Maybe parents think their child is just seeking attention, or faking, or is not as bad off as they seem. Maybe they think their loved one should “just snap out of it,” or are embarrassed by them or their behavior. Maybe they even ridicule the person with OCD. Whatever their thoughts or behaviors, they often stem from a lack of knowledge and understanding of brain disorders.

And then there are families who actually do realize the severity of their loved one’s disorder and want to help, but have no idea where to turn. I know that feeling of being completely lost and not knowing who to listen to or where to seek help. Ignorance again. It’s kind of like being in the middle of a fire, and not knowing how to escape. Not the best time to go looking for a book or searching the Internet for “how to escape a fire.” Think how much easier it would be to handle the situation if we had that knowledge beforehand. It still boggles my mind that so many people are not aware of exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy, the proper treatment for OCD. And I’m not just talking about those who are dealing with OCD; I’m talking about health-care providers as well.

So not only are there people out there suffering from OCD, there are people out there who are suffering alone. I know how difficult it was for my son to defeat OCD, and he had a lot of support. I can’t even begin to imagine what it is like to fight this disorder on your own. So I continue to advocate for OCD awareness through sharing Dan’s story, with the hope of eradicating this ignorance. Knowledge is power and hopefully as the truth about OCD continues to unfold and misconceptions are wiped out, more family members will support their loved ones who are suffering — steering them toward proper treatment, and offering them unconditional love and support.