The postpartum period is sometimes accompanied by anxiety, depression, and even obsessive-compulsive disorder. Studies on preventive therapy for postpartum OCD have shown promising results. What a great idea! Stop OCD in its tracks before it has a chance to latch on to people and wreak havoc in their lives.
But why limit this preventive therapy to women who have just given birth? We know that obsessive-compulsive disorder sometimes runs in families. We know that there are often subtle signs of OCD before it becomes full-blown. We know that OCD involves anxiety and is often seen with co-existing conditions such as depression, social phobia, and Tourette syndrome, to name just a few. Given the fact that we know all this, shouldn’t we be able to identify an at-risk population for developing OCD?
And once we are able to identify this at-risk population, why can’t we offer these people Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) as soon as possible? Exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy, specifically, is the first-line psychological treatment for OCD as recommended by the American Psychological Association. When done correctly with committed individuals, it significantly reduces the severity of symptoms in those with OCD. And while we’re at it, why not offer Cognitive Behavioral Therapy classes in schools as part of a health and wellness curriculum? And in the workplace as well? The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that over twenty-five percent of teenagers will suffer from some type of anxiety disorder. And that’s just teenagers. Anxiety disorders in both adults and younger children are also on the rise.
The great thing about Cognitive Behavior Therapy is that, when presented in age-appropriate ways, it can pretty much benefit everybody, young and old. And I’m not just talking about those who are suffering from OCD or anxiety disorders. This type of therapy can help us all deal with the day-to-day stress in our lives as well. We have nothing to lose and so much to gain by making CBT widely available.
In conjunction with preventive CBT therapy, I also think it is important to raise awareness of what OCD really is — indeed what all brain disorders look like. In regards to OCD, if we can increase understanding of this often misrepresented and misunderstood disorder, people will be able to more easily recognize the symptoms in themselves and their loved ones. An early diagnosis can lead to quicker treatment. Current estimates indicate it often takes 14-17 years from the onset of symptoms to get a correct diagnosis and proper treatment for OCD. More awareness and education means less suffering in silence for those dealing with OCD.
Perhaps I’m not being realistic. I know that implementing preventive programs takes time and money that might not be readily available. But one can dream. And as long as I’m dreaming, I might as well throw in a cure for OCD as well. Who knows? Maybe one day in the not so distant future, if we all work together to advocate for OCD awareness and preventive therapy, these dreams might just become a reality.