Wednesday, October 16, 2013

OCD Awareness Week - Check out this blog post from Free Spirit Publishing!

Post       : Guest Post: I Didn’t Know I Had OCD: Helping Kids Spot It
URL        :
Posted     : October 16, 2013 at 6:06 am
Author     : fspguestblogger
Tags       : FSP author, mental health, obsessive-compulsive disorder, OCD, OCD
Awareness Week, teens
Categories : Social & Emotional Learning

By Alison Dotson, author of Being Me with OCD )
When I was in high school I was the very definition of a goody two-shoes. I didn’t
drink or smoke or go to parties. Instead, I spent most of my time with my
theater-geek best friend, holing up in her parents’ basement to watch movies, eat
Doritos, talk about boys, and make video parodies of The Real World. I was obedient
beyond understanding; my parents didn’t even bother giving me a curfew.

While my behavior was near pristine, unwanted thoughts would torment me for days,
weeks, months at a time. Acting happy was often a chore. At my lowest points, I
would immediately feel guilty when I laughed and had fun: Who did I think I was,
being carefree when I was a terrible person who had arguably the strangest, most
immoral thoughts ever? Punishing myself felt better than feeling happy, because I
couldn’t forgive myself. And I couldn’t expect anyone else to, either.
I didn’t know there were people I could talk to who would understand—my parents, a
therapist, maybe a school counselor. How could I open up to someone who might not
understand, though? Of course it’s hard, especially for school personnel who have so
much on their plate, to be intimately familiar with every mental disorder, not to
mention all of the different ways one disorder can manifest itself.

One frustration people with OCD tend to have in common is other people’s perceptions
of what having OCD means. Most people think it has everything to do with germs and
excessive hand washing, repeatedly turning the oven on and off, and having to do
things a certain number of times. But there can be more to it than that. Sometimes
people with OCD have none of those symptoms.
These were religious obsessions. I’d blow perfectly normal doubts out of proportion,
berating myself until I burst into tears of frustration. I’d basically believed I was going
to hell, and it’s pretty hard to be happy when you think your fate’s already been
sealed—a devastating fate, no less. And then there were the obsessions about
diseases and accidents. If I read a book about cancer, I thought I had it; if I saw
a movie about someone being caught in a fire or in a car accident I’d assume I’d end
up in a house fire or car accident, too.

Even as I’d double over in laughter with friends, tears streaming down my face, the
obsessions were there, even if only in the farthest corner of my mind. They were
like a stain on my character, immovable, a nuisance. Light moments were

I still carried on, of course. I still laughed. I still smiled. Through it all, I
seemed normal to others. When I was really down it often came across to my mom as
typical teenage angst, hormones gone awry, making her sweet daughter undeniably
crabby and rude. But the truth was that I was often miserable and overwhelmed by the
obsessions. It was easier to lash out in anger than show weakness by crying. What if
she asked what was wrong? I’d have to lie. How do you explain that you’re sad
because you’re a bad person? How do you confess that you’re plagued with blasphemous
thoughts or weird sexual obsessions?

The more adults who are armed with the knowledge to help kids with OCD, the better.
 OCD Awareness Week ( )  is October 14–20, making
now a great time to increase your own awareness. A good place to start is this
fairly long list of common obsessions ( ) , obsessions that seemingly
“normal” and happy students may be dealing with in silence.

It’s important to understand that OCD is not a laughing matter, that many of us live
with a tremendous amount of guilt and shame. No one should have to suffer through
this alone. That’s where caring, informed adults can come in. I’ve benefited from an
amazing community of OCD sufferers and survivors as well as mental health
professionals who have dedicated much of their careers to helping people like me—and
there’s always room for more open minds and shoulders to lean on.
Alison Dotson ( ) 
is the author of Being Me with OCD: How I Learned to Obsess Less and Live My Life ( ) ,
new this month on the Free Spirit Website.

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