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A Conversation About OCD

By July 1, 2013November 19th, 2020Blogs, Dr. Jenny Yip

In our last newsletter, RFC celebrated National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week. Here at RFC, not only do we promote awareness, we advocate for ACTION. We are so proud to feature Audrey, a RFC alumnus, who presented the following speech about OCD to her class. We truly commend her for her courage and enthusiasm in spreading awareness, while encouraging her fellow classmates to learn more about OCD.
Read what Audrey’s got to say about OCD and be inspired as we have.

Hello, my name is Audrey and today I want to try my best to engage you in a more interactive conversation about OCD. I want to encourage you to learn something new and ask questions.
Everybody has thoughts that they find disturbing from time to time. Maybe you have had a nightmare or a scary movie that you just could not get out of your head. Raise your hand if you have ever had a thought like this.
Usually, these thoughts come and go and people go back to their normal lives. However, with certain people, worries and intrusive thoughts can take over most of their free time. These types of thoughts are called
. Think about how you felt during that disturbing thought. You probably felt uncomfortable and anxious, right? Maybe you had to call your parents into your room or watch something else that you like for a while to distract yourself from the thoughts. But, for people living with OCD, when a thought gets stuck, the uncomfortable feeling or anxiety compels them to perform a certain behavior or ritual to lower the anxiety. These behaviors are called

For example, starting around this past August, one of the obsessive thoughts I began to have was about germs. I felt that there were constantly germs on me, especially my hands. My hands always felt dirty. I didn’t want to touch anyone or anything so that I would not contaminate them with my germs. I even went around opening and closing doors and drawers with my elbows! The thought would not leave my mind and caused me to feel very worried and tired most of the time. I could not stop thinking about the germs and how not to get them on anyone or anything. The only way I could get a little relief from the anxiety would be to do the compulsion. What do you think my compulsion was? What do you think I did to try to get rid of the thought that there were germs all over my hands? YES! I had to wash my hands. While I was washing my hands, with lots of soap, I felt relieved but very quickly after washing them the worried feelings would come back and I would have to wash my hands again! It got so intense that I began washing my hands so many times during the day that it interrupted my whole day! I did not WANT to wash my hands, but it was the only way I knew how to feel a little better and try to get rid of the germs for a while.
Ok, a little test… What does the “O” stand for in OCD? That’s right, Obsessive, for obsessive thoughts. What about the “C”? Yes! Compulsive, for compulsive behaviors. What do you think the last letter stands for? The last letter stands for Disorder. Something has gone wrong in the brain to bring about these obsessions and compulsions. I knew I needed help, so I told my mom about it. She read some good books and found a great place that specializes in helping people with OCD. I have a wonderful therapist named Dr. Stutman, who also has OCD, and has been teaching me lots of ways to fight against it.
I have been learning that the only way to stop the cycle of OCD is to change my behaviors. Sometimes this is REALLY hard. Some of my homework assignments from the past have been to use my hands to open the fridge or kitchen drawers or to not wash my hands for a whole day! That is called an exposure. These homework made me feel even more anxious at first, but the more I did them the less anxiety I had each time. So, now, I don’t need to wash my hands anymore all of the time. If the thought comes to me, I just do something else or wait a while and the anxiety goes away!
The main thing about OCD is that it is a disorder of doubt and tons of “what ifs”. If you let it control your life it can rob you of the things you love to do most. Everyone has doubt and most people like to feel like they are in control, but the only thing that we can control is how we face our fears and learn to have an attitude of courage and acceptance. Because, if you say you can’t, it’s true, you can’t. But, if you say you can, then you can!