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What Happened When I Brought Up OCD and My Therapist Laughed

Six years ago, I was a freshman in college. I had a large group of friends, good grades and I went to every school event I could fit in my schedule. If you had asked me how college was going or looked at my social media, you would have thought I was doing great. What you wouldn’t have thought was that every waking moment of my life had been consumed by extreme anxiety. I was anxious about so many things; my mom dying, my roommate dying, that everyone was pretending to be my friend, that I wasn’t a “true” Christian, that I would accidentally hurt someone driving. I could go on and on about all the things I worried about.

Along with these worries came things I needed to do to stop them from happening. I had to check on my roommate at night, text my mom a certain amount of times, avoid driving and double-check the roads when I did, pray seven times each hour and if it “didn’t feel right,” I had to do it again.

For whatever reason, it seemed like I had the key to stopping these bad things from happening. If I didn’t do these things, I had intrusive thoughts of my roommate being dead, of my mom in a car crash, of running over a child or of burning in a pit of fire. All of this and more was constantly running through my head. I didn’t know what to do. I felt like a terrible person. I decided to seek help from the resources my school provided.

The counselor I went to encouraged me to continue to attend events, go to class and pray. All of this anxiety was “a normal part of transitioning to college.” I did this, but it kept getting worse. By the end of my first semester, the intrusive thoughts and anxiety were almost unbearable. I spent hours begging God to take away the pain. I felt like a different person. I had lost a significant amount of weight in two months, I wasn’t eating and I wasn’t sleeping. Something had to give. The pastor at my school suggested I seek out another opinion, that this didn’t seem like “typical worry.” I started to search online for a second opinion, and as I was searching I found a forum full of other people who had similar anxiety.

They all had obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). I continued to research OCD and felt like the description was describing me. I was so excited to bring this information to my current counselor. I had found a potential answer for why I had been so anxious! I was met with laughter and, “Well that can’t be it, why do you want a diagnosis? It’s just going to take time.”

I was crushed. I had no answers, no relief and I had been laughed at by my very own therapist. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew what I had been doing hadn’t been working. I decided to search for “anxiety specialists” and go to the first one I saw. I drove almost two hours to meet with someone I didn’t know and tell her everything that was going on.

It was intimidating. I thought she would tell me this was “normal” and laugh me out of her office. Instead, she had me fill out some papers and answer some questions. Then she told me the best and most terrifying news I have ever received, “Based on what you have told me and what I have observed, you have textbook OCD.” I didn’t know how to respond. I wanted to hug her, thank her, cry and ask 100 questions. Along with a diagnosis, she offered me hope. She told me cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure response prevention therapy could help me. This wasn’t “typical anxiety,” but it could get better with hard work.

Six years later, I’m doing so much better. OCD doesn’t control my life. Treatment is not easy, but it’s worth it. If I hadn’t found a therapist who knew about OCD, I may still be immensely struggling.

I’ve since learned that OCD is significantly underdiagnosed and undertreated, meaning there are countless others with OCD who don’t receive proper treatment. Maybe they’ve been told their anxiety is normal, maybe they’ve been laughed at, maybe they have the same misconceptions I did about OCD. This is why OCD Awareness Week is important to me. So others can learn more about it. So others don’t have to mange this alone. I hope treatment providers become educated about the symptoms and treatment for OCD. I hope after this week is done, the conversation can continue. I hope you will join me and others around the world in this conversation.

Getty image by dragana991