Sunday, April 22, 2012

How do you talk to friends about how OCD affects you?

looking out


In a comment on a recent post, a reader asked the following question:


I have a question for anyone reading this ... how do you let others know about your OCD so they can cut you some slack? 
I only recently realized how much this disorder messes with my daily and weekly functioning. I thought I had adult ADD but it's anxiety, not ADD. 
I live alone and my "circle" does not have any idea how much energy it takes me, sometimes, just to get out the door. Any advice on how to help them to help me would be great.
For myself, I told very few people about my OCD.  My husband, my best friend, people in my OCD Goal Support Group and then as I started Exposure Therapy, a couple more close friends.  With my husband, it helped that he was willing to read Jonathan Grayson's book Freedom from OCD.


I'd love hear what other readers have to say about how to talk to others regarding your OCD and how it affects your functioning.  

20 comments:

  1. I don't. It is something I hope to achieve though and I sure hope you get some good comments on this subject that I can learn from. Most of my family knows and it is such a great relief because then I can relax around them. Occasionally if something triggers me and I am with the people who I have told, then I can honestly say, "It's an OCD thing" and all is good. But it is so stressful to be around friends who don't know, because I fear something will happen and they will think I have lost my mind. I think there are some misconceptions about OCD out there, and that hinders me telling people.

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  2. I recently stopped talking about it. I honestly didn't think too much about it at first (I'm fairly open about myself), but I see the way they react. Most of the time I get the feeling they think I'm being dramatic--"oh, everyone has OCD to some extent. I like to organize my CD's by artist's last name." etc. It's tossed around so casually that people either think you're trying to get attention or that you're crazy, and neither opinion of myself is one I'm particularly fond of. >.>

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  3. I've thought about this recently, as sometimes it seems like it would useful to have them know at work. But I get scared. And I also really feel strongly that everything I ever did again would be chalked up to OCD. And I don't want that.

    (I find this happens through my health insurance. If I call with a non-mental health problem, even if I'm being a pain in the ass, they are totally polite and accommodating. When I call for mental health services or issues, I'm treated rudely and like a crazy person. EVERY.SINGLE.TIME. I don't even bother to use my mental health insurance coverage anymore because I got so tired of it.)

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  4. I don't tell many people. Like Christy commented above, I'm tired of the comments "Oh, everybody has some OCD." I just don't feel the need to explain to people who don't really want to know anyway (I'm talking about co-workers, casual friends).

    My husband is the only one I can talk to completely openly about the OCD. I'm like Ann. I don't want others to think everything I do--especially anything negative--is because of OCD.

    And I have to ask myself: does everyone in my life need to know? If they read my blog, fine. If someone is genuinely interested, I will discuss it with him or her. Otherwise, it's not helping anyone.

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  5. Well, I guess I'm a blabber mouth! I just told 3 more people today. ha ha

    Previously, there were only a very few people in my most inner circle that knew. As I've gotten better, I've realized that I've nothing to be ashamed of. Overall, the response has been nothing short of incredible.

    I am a homemaker. However, if I worked, I'm not too sure if I would tell co-workers or my boss. It really would depend on my situation. Many years ago, when I was working, I did tell one close friend at work. She was really awesome about it. However, not everyone is going to react that way. The work environment is definitely different than friends at church, etc.

    I did mention my situation to a ministry leader at church and I explained that my OCD was why I was late a lot. I have to admit, he did cut me slack after that. However, at the same time, I don't want him to cut me too much slack so that it enables me to get worse. It's really a fine line I think.

    I also agree with Ann and Tina - I certainly don't want others to think everything I do is OCD based. However, I guess that is the risk I've decided to take because I'm pretty much going out in the open with it now. I'm seriously considering doing some sort of mental illness ministry at my church, and well, everyone is going to find out sooner or later if I do that.

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    1. Sunny, that's the fine line I walk as well--wanting to be able to talk with friends about it, but at the same time not wanting to have my OCD enabled(but tempted at the same time. . .) I find that friends who have struggled with something painful, even if it's not OCD, are the ones who I can talk to.

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  6. I think it depends on who I'm talking to. I've told my parents, my aunt, my husband (of course), three priests, and two close friends. If there's a NEED to know, I'll tell someone. But if I want to volunteer information without a need, I usually have a little criteria:

    * are they a blabbermouth?
    * are they supportive of mental illness or are they of the "you can fix everything with faith/sleep/food/etc" or "mental illness is a sham designed to keep big pharma in business" camps
    * is there a potential they may begin judging me or blaming everything on OCD?

    That sort of thing. So far, I have yet to find someone who hasn't needed to know that I've told.

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    1. Alfonsia--your criteria sound very helpful in weeding out those whose response would be a hinderance to your mental well being!

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  7. For the greater part of the past 2 years, I've made a lot of excuses and isolated myself. I decided to be honest with one friend a few months ago and even admitted to being housebound for 6 months in 2011. She was really cool about it and very understanding and even realized what a big step I'd taken by going out again :) Other friends have been less understanding, but they just don't "get" it.

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    1. I'm glad you had a friend you trusted enough to talk to--that's a treasure!

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  8. I guess I tell people when I want to tell them. With people at work, I am selective about who I tell and usually make sure it is "safe" first. But with friends and family? I sometimes keep things secret, but other times, if I just want to talk about it enough, I do. And then afterwards, sometimes I feel criticized (usually in the "you should be better by now" or "anxiety and depression are sinful" or "get over it" sort of ways - note that I say that is how I feel since I'm not sure I always interpret people's responses right). Sometimes I wonder why on earth I brought it up when I knew that so-and-so thinks such-and-such and/or might criticize me. But I keep talking when I really want to. I think it is sort of like friendship; you have to risk getting hurt to have friends.

    As far as being specific about OCD (usually I stick to depression, anxiety, and/or med side effects), I don't think my pastors have understood it very well when I talk to them about it. For the most part, people who have it understand, people who have/had some mental illness sometimes understand partially or come closer to understanding, and people who really don't know about it still don't understand after I talk to them (though hopefully my talking to them will help them understand a little more or understand somebody else later on).

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    1. I can understand your wariness. I find that even therapists, who have had mental health training, don't know that much about OCD let alone friends, family or pastors.

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  9. It surprised me to read that so many of us don't talk about it openly. I sometimes of myself as someone who would be totally willing to tell anyone that I have OCD, but the more I think about it, the less I think that's true, because I feel so ashamed about it sometimes.
    I talk about it most with my wife, and I am so lucky that I have her. I have told a few of my oldest friends, and a few newer ones, and I don't think it's changed our relationship in any of those cases, but it's very possible I could be missing something. I'm not a very social person, and I'm not good at predicting what anyone's response will be to any situation.
    Shame mostly factors in when I talk with professors about it. I have accommodations for extra time on exams, and it has never been easy to tell my professors about that, even if I don't tell them why I get the accommodation (it's not required that they do). Sometimes I don't end up taking the accommodation, because I deceive myself into thinking that I don't need it, and talking with professors about it makes me feel like an invalid. Of course then I do poorly on the test because I'm so stressed about not having enough time, and then I tell the prof about the accommodation anyway, so that I will have more time on the next test.
    So I've told many professors over the years that I have OCD. All have been sympathetic, and I am thankful for that, but it's probable that none of them understand what it really means. Since I started grad school, at least two have responded that being perfectionistic as a scientist is not entirely a bad thing. And I agree, but damn, I would rather not have OCD, even if it has in some ways helped me get this far in academia.
    I dread the day that I have to tell a boss that I have this disease. I'm worried they will see me as a liability. Also, my OCD will tell me that it's my fault that I even have to bring it up.
    I have told my thesis advisor, but at the time I felt safe and rather confident, as he had just invited me to join his group. I have brought it up again more recently, as a means of explaining my recent failures. He's been understanding, though I'm afraid I'll have to explain more to him, and he'll start to think of me as someone who is just slowing the group down,
    The only time I've heard something like the "everyone has OCD" line is when I told my friend last year, and he responded that he has perfectionism issues too. Since then, I've noticed something in him like OCPD or mild OCD, but I don't think he's ever been treated.

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    1. Welcome ForConfidence! You encapsulate the dilemma so well when you say that that "damn, I would rather not have OCD, even if it has in some ways helped me get this far academia". My OCD goes beyond what is "helpful"--and I have to remind myself that others don't realize how energy sucking it is, and of course my OCD latches onto this and says, "see, you need me. . ." but it never really delivered the perfection it promised.

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  10. As they say, It ain't easy. Wish it was. Theres exposure therapy along with cognitive behavior therapy. I just published my first book but let me say I obsessed about pulling the trigger for over a year.

    The Coparazzi
    Amazon.com Barnes and Noble

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    1. Congratulations on your book VInnie!

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  11. When i first finally admitted to myself that something was wrong- things were getting more and more contaminated, instead of cleaner, i did tell other people. I didn't 'cause' my ocd, so why should i be ashamed of it? Besides, they would soon notice the weird things i did anyway. My mom believed that if i would just go to church, it would all disappear (at the time i WAS going to church), my siblings just don't care much either way. I don't work (I'm amazed at how all of you that do work manage so well). Others that i've told have been more supportive and interested than my family but i've realized that most people aren't that interested in my 'quirks' if i'm not disturbing their lives with them.

    My husband has been supportive but hasn't read any of the literature himself, my oldest son (early 20's) was completely annoyed with me and has appreciated my decline in symptoms so he doesn't have to worry about it ( and maybe i can go back to worrying about him and his life instead).

    I got most of my frustrations out either thru journal writing or thru talking about it with my counsellor. (she helped me see my husband's and son's points of view). \

    I don't keep it a 'secret' as secrets like that are shaming. I just keep it private, on a need to know basis.

    My earlier ocd thots and actions (redriving a city block to make sure i didn't hit someone) i kept mostly to myself except my husband. Ocd thots also were kept to myself except for my husband, and then counsellor. I suspected i had some ocd tendencies because of the driving thing, but had no proof or official diagnosis. I was officially diagnosed only 5 yrs ago, after the contamination ocd got out of control.

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    1. Karin, I like your distinction between "secret" and "private." I write this blog anonymously, not because I believe OCD is shameful, but that in order to share something very private, it was allowed me to find my voice. At some point, I'd like write a book, when I'm ready to give up being anonymous.

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  12. I just wanted to thank you so much for your blog and your posts. It has really helped me with my health anxiety and continues to help me. I love being able to read through and realize I am not the only one out there with these feelings. So THANK YOU!

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    1. Jules, you are so very welcome!! I know how hard it is to be alone with health anxiety--and I'm glad you found my blog.

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