Having just returned from the International OCD Foundation conference in Washington, DC, I am inspired to share the experience and join the many OCD advocates in raising awareness and reducing the stigma that can keep many sufferers extremely isolated. Many people who have OCD say they have never met another person who has it. However, approximately one in forty adults and one in a hundred children are diagnosed with OCD. That means in a school of 2000 kids, roughly 20 of those students have some level or form of OCD. Wouldn’t it be nice it if they could share their experiences without shame? One of the main reasons that OCD goes undiagnosed for an average of 8 years is that people, especially kids, are very secretive about it. They feel like their thoughts are strange and their compulsions are even stranger. But their compulsions provide relief, and so sufferers become masters at hiding them. They pretend they forgot something so they can go back into a room to check something or for a just right feeling; they mask their tapping rituals as absent minded fidgeting; they ask for reassurance in increasingly creative ways so that oftentimes, or for a while at least, other people don’t notice the compulsive nature of these behaviors. The sad part is that individual with OCD suffer in silence thinking they are not just different but strange and maybe crazy. This couldn’t be further from the truth. People with OCD are highly intelligent, creative and resourceful. They exert much more energy and effort than the rest of us just to do the simple things in life like get dressed, get out the door or wash dishes because they are simultaneously managing the intrusive thoughts or urges that their brain almost constantly throws at them. The greatest thing we can do for an individual with OCD is to show our respect and admiration for the effort it takes them to do what we do without thinking.
The Annual OCD conference began in 1993 and, this year, was attended by close to 2000 people. Surrounded by others who share similar experiences, sufferers and their family members find support and resources that can help to lift that isolation and reduce the shame and stigma of being different. Clinicians, researchers, and treatment providers also convene to share information, experiences and success stories. In recent years, the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) has built up their track that focuses on kids, teens and their families. There are support groups, social events, movie screenings as well as workshops and seminars specifically geared toward specific age groups including kids, teens and young adults. I had the opportunity to run a support group for parents of kids with OCD for the second year in a row, and again I was struck by the strength and encouragement that parents gain from one another. I was also able to attend a few of the teen seminars as a parent with my teen daughter, and to watch a young people openly shared their struggles and relate to one another without judgement.
My daughter and I met many young people who are leading the way toward greater acceptance and even pride. It was a beautiful, inspiring and educational experience.
More information can be found below
International OCD Foundation and the Southern California Affiliate
For information about Childhood OCD
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