I have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Some days are better than others and some days are terrible. This is not something I share lightly or even share with pride. It is debilitating and very real. On a day-to-day basis, it interrupts my life. I lose time. I lose sleep. I can perseverate on specific fears. It can result in depression and loss of relationships. It is not easily described, understood or tolerated.
I have fears and anxieties that compel me to act compulsively. These compulsions, I know do not fix any of my anxieties, nor do they take away my fear. On the contrary, they create a more vicious cycle. An internal cycle of obsession fed by compulsion. How would I begin to share this with anyone? How do I describe the symptoms of OCD with not being laughed at or worse yet, believed?
Let me tell you what OCD is and what it isn’t
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is an anxiety disorder. OCD is a disorder that it is clinically diagnosed when specific criteria is met; when anxiety reaches levels that causes significant deficits in a persons’ life. Usually at the root of OCD is a fear/s that may be connected to real life trauma. The person obsesses on the fear to the point that it causes anxiety and in severe cases panic attacks. From this point, the person creates ways to decrease their anxiety from the fear by creating a ritual/habit/compulsion. Initially, this compulsion seems to bring relief from the anxiety, but it is temporary. The anxiety usually returns, but much stronger and the person needs to engage in the compulsive ritualistic behavior at a much higher frequency. There are some similarities here with drug addiction. The first time someone gets high, they don’t need that much. The longer they do it, the body gets accustomed to the substances, the more they will inevitably need to do to get that same first high.
What OCD is not.
OCD is not something to be proud of. I have heard people talk about how they like cleanliness and things to be organized and they say things like, “I’m pretty sure I have OCD.” And they will say that with a smile on their face, as if living with this disorder is some kind of secret virtue. OCD is not stubbornness and it is not simply wanting things to be a certain way, due to selfishness.
That being said, I frequently am meditating on Romans 12:2, 1 Thess 5:18, 1 Peter 5:7 and 1 Corinthians 10:13
Questions that constantly flow through my head each and every day are:
Rom 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. How do I not be transformed by this world?
1 Thess 5:18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. How do I give thanks in all my circumstances?
1 Peter 5:7 cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. How do I cast all my anxieties on the Lord and what does that look like?
1 Corinth 10:13 No temptation[a] has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted[b] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,[c] he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. How do I trust God to lead me through temptation?
I share this with the hopes that it may be helpful for those with OCD and for those who do not suffer from this disorder. There is still a responsibility from everyone that is in the midst of suffering to respond in a worshipful way Jesus. For me that looks like regular reading of the Bible so I can understand who God is, what He promises and who he has called me to be. It means going to church to worship Christ. For at least one day a week, I get to take the focus off myself and place it on the one who gave me hope. Finally, I must be in community. In community, there is hope for life, change and love. In my isolation, there is only loneliness and misery and no freedom from OCD.
If you feel this piece would be helpful for others, please pass it on.
Christian Bringolf MA LMHC
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