I get a lot of comments on my blog. One recurring theme is that obsessive-compulsive disorder is often accompanied by feelings of intense loneliness. Those with OCD typically realize how bizarre their symptoms might seem to others and would feel humiliated if they were to be “found out.” So they do everything in their power to hide their disorder.
The flip side of this, of course, is that if nobody knows what you are going through, then you have no support system. There is not one person who can encourage you to get help or advocate for you. OCD can be such a lonely illness.
Such a lonely illness. Those words pierce right through me. Thinking back to when my son Dan’s OCD was severe, especially before he received proper treatment, I know he felt incredibly alone. How could anyone possibly understand or relate to what was happening to him?
In this article by Dr. Jeff Szymanski, he explains how even those with OCD often have trouble relating to others with the disorder:
Even in a facility dedicated to individuals with OCD, they would stare at each other in astonishment as they explained their behaviors to each other: “You do WHAT? Don’t you know that is crazy?” I get that it is hard to understand what someone with OCD actually goes through — even people with OCD have a hard time being empathetic with each other!
It is not only those of us without OCD who have a hard time making sense of the disorder. It can even be difficult for those who have OCD to understand somebody else’s unique obsessions and compulsions. More loneliness.
Loneliness is one of the reasons why I feel it is so important to keep connecting and sharing through writing, blogging, speaking, and gathering together. While there is invaluable information disseminated through the organized presentations at OCD conferences, I think the personal connections attendees make are even more beneficial. I have overheard conversations such as: “Oh, you’re kidding me, I do that too,” and “You’re the only other person I’ve ever met who…” The first-person OCD blogs I follow are filled with similar comments. These are ways we can all feel a little less lonely.
As you might have guessed, I’m not just referring to those with OCD here. I’m also talking about their families and friends — those who love someone with OCD. I’m talking about me. When I had no understanding of what was happening to Dan and no idea where to turn for assistance, I felt lost, alone and lonely.
It was a difficult journey to Dan’s recovery, but I know now that I am not alone, and Dan is not alone either. Having obsessive-compulsive disorder is hard enough without the feelings of isolation that come with it. So let’s keep talking and blogging and coming together. OCD can be a tormenting, disabling disorder, and nobody should have to deal with it alone. There is no legitimate reason not to ask for help. And if we all unite against the tyrant that is OCD, we have a better chance of not only ending the loneliness, but also beating the disorder.
Lonely boy image available from Shutterstock