According to the IOCDF, the average range of time for people to receive treatment for OCD is between 14 to 17 years*. 14 to 17 years of suffering in silence and feeling isolated because of their obsessions and compulsions. It is very important to understand why there is such a delay in treatment for people who suffer from OCD and what we can do to help reduce the time that people can receive proper treatment.
Why the delay? I think it is important to dive into what makes OCD so incredibly isolating and fear inducing. Let's take a look at a common, yet very taboo type of fear: being a pedophile. Now, before we dive into this type of OCD, there is a HUGE difference between someone who has pedophillic disorder and someone that has pedophilic obsessions with OCD.
Pedophillic disorder: finding pleasure in and seeking out sexual fantasies and acts with prepubescent children. These thoughts are welcomed and arousing.
Pedophillic subtype of OCD: finding extreme discomfort and fear of pedophillic thoughts and avoidance of interaction with children. These thoughts are unwanted and intrusive.
For someone with pedophillic OCD, the fear that they may be a pedophile causes extreme distress and will make them avoid interactions with children or even places where children may be present. This can be especially devastating for parents, who sometimes unwillingly distant themselves and avoid relationships with their own children because they are afraid that they may be capable of acting on these unwanted and intrusive thoughts.
This a prime example of why there is a 14 to 17 year delay in treatment for OCD, especially in terms of obsessions that are as taboo as pedophillia. How would someone that is having pedophillic OCD obsessions disclose to anyone the nature of their thoughts without fear of repercussion? They are already fearful that they may be a pedophile, let alone the fear of having someone else have a concern that they may be a pedophile.
These are not the only type of thoughts that can be isolating for someone with OCD. OCD can also present with thoughts of violently hurting other people including loved ones. The dynamic is the same with intentional harm OCD obsessions, people would have these thoughts and experience incredible distress from them because they don't want to act on them. Since the fear is so great, they start to avoid situations and people where they could potentially harm someone else. Distancing themselves from important relationships in their lives. But again, how is this supposed to be addressed? There is an understandable fear meeting with a doctor or therapist with the concern of violently hurting others around you.
For people with OCD, they are not of danger to others like it may seem. Actually, it's quite the contrary. They place such high importance and value on not hurting others, that is exactly what OCD likes to "pick on." Just like with other stigma around mental health, education and understanding is the most important aspect of reducing stigma. Knowing that these thoughts are a product of OCD can significantly reduce the shame that a person can feel for them to occur and allow them to receive the treatment that they need. Reach out to a trained therapist that is used to working with OCD. You don't have to take this journey alone!
Anxiety. Lets be honest, it doesn't always make a whole lot of sense. However, there is more to anxiety that you may just see on the outside. It can be confusing when a loved one is struggling with an anxiety disorder and difficult to understand how they can be "worked up" over something so simple or illogical. As a therapist that specializes working with people with anxiety disorders and OCD, here are some things that I think are important for family members to know to better understand their loved ones:
As a family member, what can you do to best support your loved one? Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Having an understanding of how an anxiety disorder can effect someone and the ways to be most supportive to your loved one during these times can improve your loved one's progress in therapy. A supportive and understanding family member can be a major asset to help them regain control of their lives back from anxiety.
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