A Roundup of Advice

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I tailor my Tuesday Q&A questions to my subject, but there’s one question I always ask: “If you could give just one piece of advice to someone with OCD, what would it be?” Here’s a roundup of every piece of advice — so far.

“Try and find someone you trust to talk with about your obsessive thoughts. This can be a family member, a doctor, a clergy person, or someone affiliated with the IOCDF. But no one should have to deal with OCD alone.” Lee Baer

“It sounds like a cliché, but I think this encapsulates everything I try to put out there: Choose to believe beyond your doubt.” Jeff Bell

“The best advice I would have to give out would be to remind yourself that OCD just wants power, it likes to lie and take over. Don’t let it — use mindfulness and grounding techniques to get by, take your thoughts, emotions, and feelings with you wherever you go, sit with them, and continue on. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how you felt, but how you lived. And there is help and there is hope!” Jessica Bishop

“Two pieces of advice, if I’m allowed. One: Be cautious whose advice you take. I realize the irony of this sentence as I type it, but OCD is a very complicated illness and non-expert opinions can often be unhelpful. Two: Get a course of ERP combined with CBT — it could turn your life around.” Rose Bretecher

“Reach out, don’t turn inwards. You are not the only person who has felt the way you feel, you are not the only person in the world who has thought the terrible things you have thought. There are people who know exactly what you are going through and people who want to help. It is only by coming together that we realize we are not alone. OCD is such an isolating disorder that’s what it wants to do, it wants us to think we are depraved and disgusting and alone. The truth is we are not. We have a mental disorder. A mental disorder is nothing to be ashamed of any more than diabetes or cancer is. You are not alone…someone cares.” Julie Burnfield

“Don’t give up, there’s hope. When it seems that getting better is impossible, believe that it is possible, because it is.” Jenn Coward

“Don’t rely on one piece of advice. If you can access and afford to see an OCD specialist, listen to what they have to say and do the work, all of it, even if the work makes very little sense in the beginning because it’s such the opposite of what you want to do sometimes. If you can’t access a therapist, read several books on OCD, utilize a workbook, educate yourself about the disorder and teach yourself the tools to master it as best you can. Join a support group, follow an OCD blog, go to an IOCDF conference, connect with other OCD sufferers. Take your own advice and pool it together with the advice of people who know about OCD. You’re not alone so don’t be alone.” Jon Hershfield

“Just one piece! That is hard! My advice to those with OCD is that recovery is possible for anyone — you are not an exception! But recovery does not come without some really difficult work. Make the commitment to ERP and trust the process!” Chrissie Hodges

“Learn as much about it as you can! Once you have context, you can better navigate what’s happening. I keep an OCD file on my phone where I store tips, quotes — anything that I can quickly access and remind myself of when I feel like I’m going under. One of my favorites is from Jon Hershfield, ‘If OCD thoughts are loud, the options are to accept their loudness or try to turn them up and blow out the speakers.’ But I can’t stop at one! Tip two: Connect with others who have OCD at your own pace, whether it’s an anonymous online group or a support group in your hometown. Peer support is special and dear to my heart.” Melanie Lefebvre

“You don’t have to suffer. It was a long, hard road for me getting well — today there is a lot more help for us. Get help. I know I couldn’t have gotten better by myself. The OCD Conference in Boston really encouraged me. We’ve come a long way in research, medication, therapy, and support. Never feel shame in being ill with something that’s not your fault. Have hope…because it’s real.” Clint Malarchuk

“You are not alone, you don’t have to suffer in silence, and help is available. With the appropriate treatment (ERP or ERP and medication) you can gain control of your OCD and learn to manage your illness. Treatment is number one always, but the second thing I recommend is to meet someone else who lives with OCD. You can do this through the International OCD Foundation’s conference, support groups, or online groups. Understanding that there is help available and that you aren’t alone are in my opinion the two most important things to help you gain control of your OCD. Lastly, I would recommend giving back when and if you are ready. I have found some of my greatest healing has come from sharing my story and helping others in need with OCD or a mental illness.” Elizabeth McIngvale

“Never, ever give up. You can take your life back from OCD.” Shala Nicely

“Don’t base the decisions you make in your life on what your OCD wants. It is your life; base your decisions on what you want.” Carol Rettner

“My doctor told me that it was possible to get better. I believed him. I saw this as hope. It became my beacon and lifted me when I was struggling mightily, particularly when I was at my lowest. So believe with all your heart that it is possible to get better. Let hope be your beacon. Stay in the fight.” Shannon Shy

“Don’t wait one more day to get the right help. OCD is treatable! I have never met anyone who has regretted doing ERP therapy. The only regret I hear is for not having done it sooner.” Janet Singer

“Uncertainty is one of the greatest and most exciting aspects of life. Give it a big hug.” Ethan S. Smith

“ERP, ERP, ERP!” Jackie Lea Sommers

“I would suggest seeking help in the first place. Of course I mean specialized help (CBT/ERP therapy). Secondly, it is important that people suffering from OCD understand that they are not their disorder. OCD is not a personality trait, not even a personality disorder. We need to dis-identify from our symptoms and focus on our CBT/ERP treatment. I would also encourage OCD sufferers to talk about their disorder. There is nothing to be ashamed of or feel embarrassed about. As I said, our symptoms do not define our identity. One way of breaking stigma is letting people know about our OCD instead of trying to hide its manifestations.In sum, OCD can be treated, sufferers can actually get better and enjoy more functional lives. There is no need to hide; in fact, the more we talk about our OCD the less OCD will speak for us.” Ro Vitale

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4 responses »

  1. I enjoyed reading your article on advice for someone with OCD. In 1996 I had just been diagnosed with OCD and lived in N. CA. The OC Foundation held their annual conference in San Jose 2 months later and I met so many great people with OCD- professionals, people receiving services, family members, writers and more! I was so unsure how to proceed and had already started reading as much as I could about OCD but it was one person in particular whose words I still remember so many years later. I asked Dr. Jonathan Grayson what was my first step in treating OCD and he replied “being willing to live a life of uncertainty”. This was key to the beginning of my recovery and have shared this with many others. I am so grateful for all ideas about treating OCD that are effective, supportive and hopeful. Best, Lorre Mendelson

    • Thank you, Lorre! And thanks for sharing your piece of advice as well. Living with uncertainty is so hard, especially when you have OCD. But it’s the only way to really live, isn’t it?

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