Should I Tell Others About My OCD?

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Blake has been an open book about his OCD ever since he was diagnosed. Maybe it is because he had just turned seven and it did not occur to him to feel embarrassed. Maybe it was a relief that there was an easy way to explain to others why he kept running to the bathroom, why his belongings were soaking wet, or why he kept bending down to tap his shoes repeatedly. As he got a little older, he easily volunteered to tell others about his OCD. He reasoned that he wanted others to understand OCD and to let other kids know that there is help if you are suffering.

What he never did was think through the pros and cons of sharing. In my own practice, I’ve noticed many OCD sufferers are hugely embarrassed to share that they have OCD. That’s it. Case closed. Little to no consideration about the pros and cons.

Lately I’ve been thinking, maybe there is a better way to go about deciding whether or not to tell. I think sorting through pros and cons is one way to make the decision. While the pros and cons are probably unique to each individual, I’m curious about what your (or your loved ones) pros and cons are.

Please share your thoughts below. What do you think some pros are to sharing that you have OCD? What might be some cons to telling others? Thank you for your thoughts.

  • Angie




3 thoughts on “Should I Tell Others About My OCD?

  1. In my personal experience:
    The Pros: I’ve been blessed to live and work around well educated people. I am not quick to share, but when I do I almost always find that people are compassionate and supportive. Many tell me they know someone else with OCD. Once I reveal that I have OCD to such people, I can let my guard down somewhat when I’m around them and OCD causes me to act “strangely.” I can tell them: “Oh just ignore me…it’s my OCD causing this…” It will pass. It’s a relief to be accepted even with my handicap. (And in my fairly severe case it is indeed a handicap.)

    The Cons: There stigma surrounding mental illness is still alive and well in the minds of far too many people. I have some acquaintances who I know just “won’t get it”. If I’m aware of that then I keep my mouth shut. The last thing I need is to hear someone tell me to “snap out of it” or “toughen up.” The most startling case of this in my life sadly was my ex wife. After I was diagnosed and went into treatment, she toughed it out with me for about 10 years. I give her full credit for that effort. What was incredibly shocking was that when she finally asked for a divorce, she admitted that she believed I should have been able to heal myself via “mind over matter.” I could not believe it. Her statement completely blew my mind. But then pieces started to fall into place…the main example being that even though she stayed with me she quietly refused to participate in my treatment. She left it to me to “deal with it.” She was simply waiting for me to “get through it”. I believe I was getting good treatment. I was (still am) in ERP therapy and also on meds. But after 10 years I had not improved enough for her to be happy so she left. The sad part of this is that she wasted 10 years of her own time as well as mine.

    I’ve been in treatment for 26 years now and I find myself wanting to spread the word about OCD far and wide. It doesn’t get enough “press.” There is not enough medical research being done. I have not found the courage to “go public” (probably via Facebook) with my story yet. I hope one day I will. It is still far too difficult for people with OCD to find proper treatment (based on what I read in blogs like this one.)

    The mental health “stigma” needs to be exterminated. The brain is just like any other organ in the human body. It can fail. People need to understand that basic concept. In addition to that, those of us who suffer with this nasty illness need more help: More research. More doctors.

    So my bottom line response to: “Should I tell others about my OCD?” is: If I think sharing will improve the quality of my relationship then I share. If I think I may end up getting hurt in the deal…then I keep my mouth shut.

    It shouldn’t be this way. Saying: “I have OCD” shouldn’t be any different than saying: “I have diabetes.” Sadly with OCD and other mental health illnesses, we “aren’t there yet.” We have work to do to educate people and eradicate the “stigma”.

    1. Paul, Thank you so much for your willingness to share here. I am so glad that you’ve encountered some people who are so understanding and supportive. At the same time, your comments about stigma highlight a reason I’m sure many people choose to hold back. You are correct. We have work to do. In some way, I think you are already working to eradicate stigma bit by bit. – Angie

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