Since the publication of my book Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery, I’ve had several interviews as well as appearances where I’ve talked about our family’s story.

Invariably, I get comments from people applauding my support for my son throughout his battle with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. I have to admit I’m always taken a little aback by these comments and they make me feel a little uncomfortable. Why should I be commended for doing what most good parents feel is their responsibility — to love, care for, and advocate for the well-being of our children? Indeed, I receive emails regularly from parents who are doing that very thing right now: searching for the right path to best help their children.

Of course I am aware that I typically only receive emails from parents who are supportive, and I am not going to be contacted by those who believe their children should just “get over it,” or should “stop being dramatic.” There are also those families who do not want “everyone knowing their business,” and believe mental health issues should be kept private.

I know these negative situations exist because I have heard from many people with obsessive-compulsive disorder who were treated this way by their own parents. From being ignored to being yelled at to being called crazy, these stories are heartbreaking to me. I know how difficult it was for my son to fight his OCD, and he did indeed have a supportive family. I can’t even being to imagine what it is like for children and teenagers who have no family backing to rely on.

Another comment I hear a lot is how great it is that I, as a layperson, understand so much about obsessive-compulsive disorder. Certainly I have learned a lot about OCD over the past eight years, and I do have a fair amount of “book knowledge” about the disorder. But understand it? Not in a million years. How can anybody understand a disorder that is irrational and makes no sense? Do I understand why my son couldn’t even eat? Why he couldn’t move from his perceived “safe chair” for hours and hours? Why he couldn’t go into most buildings on his college campus or be around his friends? No, I don’t understand these things. My only explanation is that he had severe OCD.

I am bringing this up because I want to stress that, in my opinion, truly understanding OCD is not what’s important. What’s important is that we understand our children: that they are truly suffering, that they are doing the best they can at any given time, and that the most helpful thing we can do for them is love and support them in appropriate ways. In other words, we need to understand that OCD is real — as real as any other illness out there. And so our children or other loved ones who are dealing with it should not be ignored, demeaned, or ridiculed, but rather cared for, supported, and loved. That, in a nutshell, is all we need to know about OCD.

OCD Blocks image via Shutterstock.