To Parents Raising a Child With OCD


To the parents raising kids with obsessive compulsive disorder,

It’s going to be OK.

I know it might not seem like it right now, but it will be. Perhaps your child has just been diagnosed with OCD. Or maybe your child’s been diagnosed for years, but symptoms are flaring up again. Maybe your child’s on the seemingly infinite waiting lists for psychiatric help. Wherever your family is in the journey of OCD, it’s going to be OK.

With help, there is hope.

Know you didn’t cause your child’s OCD, just like parents of kids with physical illnesses didn’t cause their kids’ illnesses. No one blames parents of kids with physical illnesses for their child’s illness. But sadly, in our society, some see mental illness as a sign of weakness.

It’s anything but that.

Remember it’s OK to not have all the answers. No one has all the answers when it comes to OCD, or any illness. There are plenty of books, websites, and organizations that are here to help support you and your family. Take advantage of them.

Don’t get discouraged by setbacks. If your child has a setback, that means progress had been made. Don’t forget to praise small successes. It may seem like a tiny thing to delay a compulsion for five seconds, but even in five seconds, the OCD is learning your child can fight back.

Telling OCD “no” is, in my experience, one of the hardest things to do. Imagine an anxious feeling so terrible it feels like you have no choice but to listen to it, like it may make you pass out from fear. Now imagine telling that awful, horrendous feeling, “No.”

That’s an amazing accomplishment.

Some days are hard. I know you already know this, but it’s worth repeating. Bad days don’t last forever, and how your child feels at their worst moment is not how they’ll feel forever. Stress usually makes illnesses worse, and OCD is no exception. In my experience (and the experiences of people I know with OCD) stress can make old obsessions come back, in addition to new ones, bringing with it the hallmark anxiety and compulsions.

OCD never tells the truth, but it makes your child’s fears seem like they’re guaranteed to come true. If your child slips up and does a compulsion, don’t get discouraged. It’s impossible to be on top of the game 100 percent of the time.

Family education is essential. For some people with OCD, reassurance is a compulsion. Compulsions, while they make the person with OCD feel better initially, only feed the cycle, and the obsessions come back stronger the next time.

There is so much hope for people with OCD, especially kids. It’s going to be OK. It may not seem like it right now, but it will be. With help, there is hope.

You can do this.

From, a 17-year-old who’s had OCD for 10 years.


John Green Has a Theory About Why We Stigmatize Mental Illness


It seems like no topic is off-limits for author John Green, who discusses issues ranging from kids movies to the refugee crisis in a vlog he runs with his brother. But Friday in a personal video, he opened up about a topic even he has a hard time taking about.

“I have a mental illness called obsessive compulsive disorder, which is often associated with anxiety and depression problems,” he said in the video (below). “I try to talk about it sometimes because I don’t think there should be anything embarrassing about mental illness, but I don’t talk about it that much because 1) it’s personal, and 2) I find it difficult to talk about my own experiences with chronic illness.”

He then presented a theory about why people with chronic illnesses, like mental illness, are often marginalized and stigmatized.

“I don’t think we humans like to imagine our lives as random,” he said. “We want human lives to be narratives that makes sense, so if we can’t find causation, we just create it.

For example, he said this is why some think people with depression are lazy or assume someone who has diabetes doesn’t eat well.

“All of that stuff is either totally inaccurate or overly simplistic, but we want every effect to have a cause,” he said.

Green admitted he’s been sick for the last couple of weeks because he’s been trying to figure out new “medication regiment.” He said it’s reminded him of how crushing living with a mental illness can be.

“I’ve learned to celebrate small successes,” he said. “I’ve learned to encourage myself without being cruel. And most importantly I’ve learned that there is hope, and when I feel like there isn’t hope, my brain is lying to me.”

Watch the rest of the powerful video below: 


I Want Target to Know Why My Son Wasn't Home for Christmas


When I first heard Target was selling an “ugly sweater” with the words “OCD – Obsessive Christmas Disorder,” I was truly baffled.

Then, after letting it sit in my gut for a bit, I realized I felt deeply sad and retraumatized.

It took a while, but after processing anger, quickly followed by frustration, I realized why a sweater — a silly sweater — was enough to derail me.

Target, your sweater reminded me of my holiday season last year, beginning around this time, just before Thanksgiving.

In November of last year, my son’s obsessive compulsive disorder became so horrifying he was suicidal. He couldn’t leave the house or do the most basic tasks without OCD controlling him. I’m certain if he saw one of your “Obsessive Christmas Disorder” products at a time when managing to even go to Target might be a huge task, it would have fueled his feeling of hopelessness and despair.

As other families were preparing for Thanksgiving and making their Christmas plans, my son was on a plane to a residential treatment program more than 1,000 miles away. This was devastating for our family, and we missed him terribly. Personally, I’ve never felt so lost and grief-stricken.

My middle child was not home for Thanksgiving or Christmas because he made a decision to fight his intrusive thoughts, compulsions and his urge to end it all. He chose to try — to try to find recovery. And he has. Missing Christmas that year saved his life. After eight months of intensive treatment, his OCD is quieter and doesn’t control him as intensely as it once did.

What I want you to know, Target, is that OCD, the true disorder, takes lives. I want you to know your “Obsessive Christmas Disorder” products will most likely cause grief for another family, or another individual, who is touched by how rough this illness can really be.

I hope you and your loved ones don’t have to feel what it’s like to have a family member too sick to be home for Christmas. I hope after the holiday your warehouses are full of “Obsessive Christmas Disorder” products that haven’t been sold. I hope this year’s experience will shed light on the importance of being mindful when making choices about what kind of products you’ll sell. Even better, heal a mother’s heart and take the products off the racks now. Make a gesture to show support and solidarity for people living with mental illness and their families.

That would bring this mom’s heart closer to healing in time for the holiday season.

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People Aren't Happy About Target's New Ugly Christmas Sweater


One of Target’s new Christmas items has not been met with warm, season’s greetings: an “OCD Ugly Christmas Sweater.”

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source: Target

“OCD – Obsessive Christmas Disorder,” the sweater reads.

For people with OCD, which really stands for obsessive compulsive disorder, this isn’t the first time their illness has been trivialized. And members of the OCD community are sick of it.

Jessica Kotnour, an 18-year-old college student who has OCD, wrote a moving Facebook status about why she found the sweater distasteful.

When I see things like this Target Obsessive Christmas Disorder sweater, it makes me frustrated. I’m reminded that people still aren’t taking OCD and other mental illnesses seriously. This sweater continues the thought that OCD is just a cute quirk that makes someone want to have all of the ribbons just right on their presents, or maybe they want to use the perfect type of wrapping paper, or they may spend a few too many minutes frosting that gingerbread man. How I wish, for my sake and for everyone else with OCD, that this is what OCD is. 

This morning I showered for the first time in over a month in my dorm showers due to my OCD making me unable to because of a crippling fear of MRSA. (Don’t worry; I found other places to shower on campus). This is what OCD does. It makes people unable to carry out their daily lives. Can we stop trivializing it?

As an end note, the OCD joke has been make too many times. Get some originally, non-stigmatizing material, Target.

In a response to the sweater, the International OCD Foundation released a blog, re-imagining similar jokes used with other disorders, including calling PTSD, “Post-Turkey Snoozing Disorder.”

“I never want to be the word police, but there is something about this case that feels particularly egregious — Target’s ongoing sale of this ‘OCD: Obsessive Christmas Disorder’ sweater continues to perpetuate the idea that OCD is a joke. Why is it OK to use a mental disorder this way, but no one would think this is OK for a medical disorder (say, cancer), even though both diseases have biological causes?” Jeff Szymanski, executive director of the International OCD Foundation, said in an email to The Mighty.

People have also taken to Twitter to express their disappointment.

Target has been responding to complaints on Twitter. A spokesperson from the company said in a email to Time: “We never want to disappoint our guests and we apologize for any discomfort. We currently do not have plans to remove this sweater.”

“Although many people love Christmas (me included) it certainly doesn’t make one ‘OCD,’” Elizabeth McIngvale-Cegelski, founder of The Peace of Mind Foundation, told The Mighty in an email. “It’s time that we shed the right light on the illness.”

What do you think? Tell us in the comments below.

Related: What I Want Khloe Kardashian to Know About Her ‘OCD’ Cookie Jar Video


17 Quotes That Prove OCD Is So Much More Than Being Neat


For many, obsessive compulsive disorder is synonymous with hand-washing, organizing, color-coding and cleaning. And while associating OCD with these habits isn’t exactly wrong, it leaves out an important part of the picture. It’s easy to look at these behaviors and think, Oh, that’s not so bad. I would love to keep my room so clean. Or, Oh, I hate when my room is a mess. I’m so OCD too. 

But what you don’t see, and what puts the “D” in OCD, are the thought processes behind the compulsive actions. People with OCD don’t organize because it brings them joy. They don’t clean because it’s one of their hobbies. And sometimes, people with OCD don’t clean or organize at all. OCD manifests itself in so many different ways, and likening it to a quirk can be hurtful for those who live with it every day.

So, with the help of the International OCD Foundation, The Mighty asked people with OCD to explain what it’s really like.

Here’s what it’s like to have OCD, from people who live with it: 

1. “OCD is like having a bully stuck inside your head and nobody else can see it.” — Krissy McDermott

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2. “You lose time. You lose entire blocks of your day to obsessive thoughts or actions. I spend so much time finishing songs in my car before I can get out or redoing my entire shower routine because I lost count of how many times I scrubbed my left arm.” — Kelly Hill

3. “[It’s] like that song that plays over and over in your head, only you can’t get rid of it.”  — Kimberly Matthews-Cifra

4. “It’s like having mental hiccups. Mostly, we can function despite the ‘hiccups,’ but we’re exhausted attempting to carry on as if they didn’t exist.” — Sheila Cavanaugh

5. “It’s like being controlled by a puppeteer. Every time you try and just walk away he pulls you back. Are you sure the stove is off and everything is unplugged? Back up we go. Are you sure your hands are as clean as they can get? Back ya go. Are you sure the doors are securely locked? Back down we go. How many people have touched this object? Wash your hands again.” — Toni Neville

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6. “A physical sensation crawls up my arm as I avoid compulsions. But if I complete it, the world resets itself for a moment like everything will be just fine. But only for a moment.” —  Mardy M. Berlinger

7. “For me, it’s like someone else has control of your brain. Like you’re being forced to do an endless number of completely random, pointless tasks you don’t want to do. It’s so exhausting and emotionally draining — like your brain needs an off switch!” — Clarissa Chay

8. “It’s like a broken machine. Thoughts go in your head, get stuck and keep going around and around.” —  Megan Flynn

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9. “Ever seen ‘Inside Out’? With OCD, it’s like Doubt has it’s own control console.” — Josey Eloy Franco

10. “It can look like still waters on the outside while a hurricane is swirling in your mind.” — Marcie Barber Phares

11. “Imagine all your worst thoughts as a soundtrack running through your mind 24/7, day after day.” — Adam Walker Cleveland


12. “Picture standing in a room filled with flies and pouring a bottle of syrup over yourself. The flies constantly swarm about you, buzzing around your head and in your face. You swat and swat, but they keep coming. The flies are like obsessional thoughts — you can’t stop them, you just have to fend them off. The swatting is like compulsions — you can’t resist the urge to do it, even though you know it won’t really keep the flies at bay more than for a brief moment.” — Cheryl Little Sutton

13. “For me, it’s an ever-present nagging feeling that something is just ‘not right.’ I can never really, truly ‘make it right.’ I have to learn to live with the all-consuming feeling of mental discomfort.” — Laura McCarthy

14. “It’s like looking through a magnifying glass that only picks up on the potentially dangerous, harmful and scary.” — Laura

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15. “It means constantly questioning whether what I’m thinking or feeling is me or the OCD. The decision is usually a crap shoot. And then you question the decision over, and over, and over, and over and over, trying to come up with the ‘right’ answer.” —  Anna Stinson

16. “It’s like listening to a CD with an invisible scratch.” — Penny Hare

17. “It’s like you have two brains — a rational brain and an irrational brain. And they’re constantly fighting.” — Emilie Ford

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*Quotes have been edited for length and clarity.

Related: 5 Times the Internet Got OCD Wrong — and Why It Matters


What I Want Khloe Kardashian to Know About Her 'OCD' Cookie Jar Video


Dear Khloé Kardashian,

You popped up in my Google alert on “OCD” this morning. (I’m a Mental Health editor, so I keep tabs on conditions like this). Usually I see articles on new kinds of treatment or people sharing their personal stories, but today I saw your name.

Interesting! I thought. What does Khloe Kardashian have to say about OCD? Then, I saw your video in a cute little write up on, which read:

The segment, aptly titled KHLO-C-D, shows her fiercely building stacks (on stacks on stacks) of perfectly aligned double-stuffed Oreos inside the massive 2-gallon glass cookie jars that reside on her kitchen counters.

‘I love them, but I’m also crazy,’ she says, ‘but I love to know that the rest of the world is as crazy and organized-obsessed as I am.’

‘You say O.C.D. is a disease, but I say it’s a blessing,’ she adds.

Catchy line.

I went downstairs to tell my brother, and we both laughed, but in a slightly uneasy way.

Then I went back to my computer and started to tear up.

You see, my brother had a really bad day yesterday.

Nothing he did was “right.” Nothing — completing his school work, checking his emails, how he was eating. I overheard him and my mom discussing medication. Did he take it? Was he sure he took it? Did he maybe, accidentally skip one dose?

During dinner he was wringing his hands over and over again, his face twisted with stress.

My brother’s world is black and white. If he can’t do something in a way he’s deemed “correct,” he feels like he can’t do it at all. He easily gets stuck on tasks, making everyday things sometimes hard to get through. He’s been in and out of hospitals, and is right now back in school trying to balance his ambition and an illness that’s holding him back.

Yesterday, OCD was winning.

But hey Khloé, you seem like a good person, so I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. Maybe you do experience extreme and irrational anxiety if your cookies aren’t arranged in a certain way. If that’s the case, I’m sorry, and I’m so glad you can push through it and call your OCD a blessing.

But I also want to make sure you understand the weight those words hold for my family, and others like us.

I want you to sit in my brother’s room with me. Watch me hold his hand while he cries because he didn’t do his laundry, so he can’t get dressed, plus nothing in his room is right. He hates being around people his age because it makes him feel like he’s behind. He’ll never date anybody, he’ll never have a “normal” life, he’ll never move out of my parent’s house…

I want you to be with my brother when he’s with my mom, cycling through self-doubt after self-doubt. How does he know if he’s doing his treatment correctly? How can he do things without obsessing over them? How does he know he’s living “correctly” if he can’t ask for reassurance?

I want you to see my brother when he’s alone, tracking his anxiety levels while brushing his teeth. Or when he used to have panic attacks when a door wasn’t shut properly. Or when he’s in his room during a family party, lost in cycling thoughts.

I want you to see my mom’s worry from across the room, mouthing to me, “Check on your brother.”

For him, OCD is usually not a blessing.

But I also want you to see my brother leading a support group. I want you to see how brave he is when he knows his story will help others. I want you to see my brother at his best — creative, determined, motivated and always full of great ideas. He’s the most empathetic person you would ever meet. He can laugh at your video, but he’d never hold it against you or anyone who lightly uses the term “OCD.”

A lot of people have used this slang, and a lot of people will continue to use it. But I just wanted to point out the heaviness of those words. I hope when people casually refer to their habits and preferences as “OCD,” they think of my brother and the 2 to 3 million adults in the United States who live with the condition.

And although your cookies look great, I hope you also use your fame as an opportunity to educate your audience and the people who look up to you.

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Real People. Real Stories.

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We face disability, disease and mental illness together.