Fighting OCD - No More Secrets

Posted by Janet Singer on October 03, 2011

With the help of the Internet, my son Dan diagnosed himself with OCD at the age of seventeen. He had known something was wrong for at least a few years, but never told anyone. Wanting to get help before he left for college that coming fall, Dan mustered the courage to tell me his secret. We were in the car when he anxiously announced he had something really important to tell me. But he just couldn’t seem to get the words out.

“Just say it, Dan. You’ll feel better once you do,” I urged.

“Okay. I have OCD,” Dan blurted out.

With a quizzical look, I looked over at my son. “OCD? Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? Dan, what are you talking about? You never even wash your hands.”

While my knowledge of OCD at the time was minimal at best, telling me his secret was the smartest thing Dan could have done. Though it was not easy, he now had a ready-made advocate and the support of his family. Though I was shocked at his revelation and knew next to nothing about OCD, I, like most parents out there, was willing to do whatever it took to help my son.

If you are a teen who is either suffering from OCD or isn’t sure what is going on, please tell your parents about your concerns. While their initial reaction may not be what you hope for (see above!), please remember that they are probably surprised by your admission and know little, if anything, about the disorder. A common reaction from parents is to try and minimize their children’s fears by saying something like, “Oh, I do that too,” or “I’m sure it’s not that bad.” While this lack of validation can be upsetting for an OCD sufferer, these comments are usually made out of ignorance, not malice.

And so parents, indeed entire families, need to be educated, and the first step towards this education is to be open with each other and acknowledge what is going on. You and your parents need to learn as much as possible about OCD, and visiting the OCD Chicago site is a huge step toward that goal. There is a wealth of information here, from OCD symptoms to how to deal with your family to finding the right therapist.

Another reason why you should tell your parents about your OCD is that it is very important that they be taught the proper way to respond to you while you are dealing with this disorder and undergoing treatment. It is common for family members to inadvertently enable their relative with OCD, and this only makes matters worse. Your family deserves to know what is going on with you, so that they can help you as much as possible.

Some teens are reluctant to talk with their parents about their OCD because they are embarrassed or ashamed of their obsessions. Be assured that you do not have to share any of these details with your family if you do not wish to. Whatever you talk about with your therapist in regards to your OCD remains private. While it is important for your family to know that you have OCD, discussing the details of your disorder is up to you.

For whatever reason, there are teens who feel that it is just not possible to talk with their parents about their OCD.I realize there are all kinds of families with all kinds of issues, and sometimes it is not in the sufferer’s best interests to share with their parents. In this case, I can’t stress enough how important it is to have someone advocating for you. Please confide in a close relative or one of your friend’s parents, or someone at your school or religious institution who you trust.

Anything worthwhile takes hard work, and fighting OCD is no exception. The sooner you start treatment, the sooner you can rid yourself of your symptoms and get back to the business of being a teenager. Keep the bar high for yourself and always remember that all of the hopes and dreams that you have for your future can still be yours. So get started, and if you haven’t already, include the people who love you most in your journey. Tell your parents.

Janet Singer, an advocate for OCD awareness, is published regularly on various mental health web sites. She explores all topics related to OCD and shares what helped and what hurt in her son Dan’s recovery from this devastating disorder.  While there were many lessons learned along the way, Janet feels the most powerful one of all is that there is always hope. She is committed to getting the word out that OCD, no matter how severe, is treatable. You can read more about Dan’s story and follow her personal blog at: Janet uses a pseudonym to protect her son’s privacy.


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