Shedding the stigma associated with obsessive compulsive disorder and heightening awareness of the illness is the purpose behind OCD Awareness Week on Oct. 11-17.
“Did you know that 1 in 100 adults likely have OCD? And up to 1 in 200 children? That’s a half a million children in the US alone,” explained Carly Bourne, director of marketing and communication for the International Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Foundation (IOCDF).
OCD can be a debilitating disorder, Bourne noted, but there is treatment that can help.
“Unfortunately, it can take up to 14 to 17 years from the first onset of symptoms for people to get access to effective treatment, due to obstacles such as stigma and a lack of awareness about mental health — and OCD, in particular,” she said.
A key goal in this international effort is to help more people receive appropriate and effective treatment.
Launched in 2009 by the IOCDF, OCD Awareness Week is now celebrated by a number of organizations across the US and around the world, with events such as OCD screening days, lectures, conferences, fundraisers and more.
“Have you ever heard someone say, ‘Oh, you are being so OCD,’ about somebody who has to have things a certain way .. . or for someone who is super tidy,’ asked Oconomowoc resident Megan Welsh, executive director of OCD Wisconsin.
“OCD isn’t about idiosyncrasies that make a person unique. … It is a disorder of the brain and of behavior,”she said.
“OCD causes severe anxiety in those affected. OCD involves both obsessions and compulsions that take a lot of time and that get in the way of important activities that the person values,” Welsh explained.
“At a parent group meeting about OCD, a famous doctor was asked this question: ‘I check my burners before I leave the house, and I have some tendencies that are kind of along those lines. How do you know if you need to get help? The doctor replied, ‘When it is interfering with your life.'”
“Everybody’s got their stuff, but if your stuff gets to be so much that you can’t leave your house, or your child can’t attend school, or your family can’t enjoy a social life, these are some examples of how it could be interfering with your life,” Welsh said.
OCD Wisconsin Board member and Waukesha resident Denise Folcik struggled with OCD for years and has written two books on the subject.
“Feeling like you are in charge of other people living or dying is a very time-consuming, stressful and exhausting job. I relentlessly performed rituals day after tiring day in the hopes of keeping the people I loved alive and healthy,” she said of her disorder. “I bathed and washed my hands until my skin was raw and bleeding in an attempt to keep myself and others free of ‘death germs.'”
Folcik said that she was helped with after extensive therapy and a suitable antidepressant.
“I still have OCD thoughts and occasionally perform rituals here and there. OCD thoughts try to rent head space, but I am no longer looking for tenants. I know there is no cure for my disorder, but I do know that I have the choice to make my life much better by using the tools I have gathered in my recovery toolbox. I am living proof that life can improve tremendously with knowledge, perseverance and support,” she said.
Free seminar planned
If you, or someone you know, suffers from OCD, plan to attend a seminar at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 2, at Waukesha County Technical College in Pewaukee, given by Bradley C. Riemann, clinical director of Rogers Memorial Hospital’s Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Center and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Services.
“OCD is the fourth most common psychiatric condition is the U.S. It is also very disabling, causing impairment in relationships, jobs and at school. Thankfully, it is also very treatable in the vast majority of cases,” Riemann said.
Early diagnosis and treatment are key to successful recovery; learn about the latest in OCD treatment during this free session hosted by OCD Wisconsin.
Some of the topics to be covered include: signs and symptoms, assessment, exposure and ritual prevention. RSVP to Megan Welsh at:firstname.lastname@example.org by Oct. 26; space is limited.
“The important thing to know is that nobody is alone. When you are in need of help, there is help to be found,” Welsh said. For more information, https://iocdf.org.