Ethan Smith and Jeff Szymanski, PhD « Blog

It’s about that time again! The International OCD Foundation’s Annual OCD Conference is upon us in less than a month and this year, it’s in the IOCDF’s hometown of Boston, Massachusetts. This can only mean one thing…LOTS OF CLAM CHOWDER!!! Research has shown that consuming delicious clam chowder has absolutely no effect on OCD. However, attending the Conference does. If you’re on the fence about going, here are my top 3 reasons to get on a plane, train, bus, or car and join us this summer.

1. Community

The OCD community is a massive “family” comprised of sufferers, family members and friends, therapists, doctors, and even a couple of therapy dogs that enjoy being pet, chasing toys, and sniffing butts. Most importantly, the Conference facilitates a place of belonging and understanding. The Conference represents a safe place for anyone and everyone touched by OCD and related disorders to come, learn, and socialize. It’s an unsung rule that the Conference is a “stigma free” zone. It’s an amazing experience where lifelong friends are made, and loneliness is not an option.

2. Access

The Conference gathers the greatest minds in psychiatry and psychology who specialize in OCD and related disorders from around the world, from individuals with 12 degrees who treat patients, to sufferers who successfully manage their OCD, all with a wealth of knowledge ready to share with you. To be blunt, we all know therapy is expensive. This Conference is an incredible opportunity to access an abundance of resources in one place. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve spoken to whose journey to mental health began at the Conference through meeting therapists and friends that laid the foundation for recovery. My own recovery started there, and I promise you from breakout sessions and panels to just stopping someone in the hall and talking to them, you will walk away with priceless knowledge and potential action steps that can lead to lifelong change.

3. Action

So often in our quest for wellness, we read, sit, think, ponder, and discuss. Taking action initially can be an elusive and scary step. The step is necessary however to reach successful OCD management. The Conference as a whole creates a phenomenal opportunity to TAKE ACTION, on your own, toward beating OCD once and for all. Whether you’ve just been diagnosed or you’re in maintenance, you can never take enough action in an effort to live a beautiful life without OCD. The Annual OCD Conference is the ultimate action step. With countless activities, panels, and discussions, the Conference offers one-of-a-kind content no matter where you are in your process. And the best part is, you’re not alone. You’re surround by 1500 other people all trying to do the exact same thing. Take action in an effort to squelch OCD and have a little fun in the process.

Community, access, and action are such crucial steps to getting better, and to have them all in one beautiful, completely accessible location…there’s nothing else like it!

And the secret reason to go? You’ll discover, no matter where you are in your journey, that just by attending and interacting, you will help others with your story in ways you don’t even know. We are all unique and our paths original, but are all joined by the common thread of OCD. We are all students and all teachers. Even if you feel completely helpless and can’t fathom how you could possibly help someone else, EVERYONE has the ability to help others. Just by being there, by sharing, by relating, by helping to create that community and taking action, you will touch people in a way that could alter their own path for the better. Dr. Michael Jenike once told me “The best thing you can do for you OCD is to help others.” There’s no better place to give that a try than the IOCDF’s Annual OCD Conference. See you in Boston


  • Anonymous

    “The best thing you can do for your OCD is to help others [with OCD].”

    Now, that’s an interesting remark. Reminds me of something said (or written) by Viktor E. Frankl, MD (1905–1997):

    “Being human is being always directed, and pointing, to something or someone other than oneself: to a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter, a cause to serve or a person to love. Only to the extent that someone is living out this self-transcendence of human existence, is he truly human or does he become his true self. He becomes so, not by concerning himself with his self’s actualization, but by forgetting himself and giving himself, overlooking himself and focusing outward.”

    Unfortunately, I’m afraid that, for some, even this (helping of others with OCD) might develop into a compulsion — especially if done unasked. I’m thinking of hyper-responsibility here.

    It’s better if at first you let yourself helped. As you said in your Keynote speech a year ago (to which I listened today):

    “But at the end of the day, therapy is so easy! It’s two things you have to do: (1) listen and (2) say ‘Yes’.”

    P.S.: I love your comment section — no timestamps! (grin)

    • Or maybe I’m mistaken. Your thoughts?

      (By the way, the above quotation is from A Viktor E. Frankl Anthology: Edited, Outlined and Annotated by Timothy Lent, Section S8. Self-Transcendence —

      • brigit

        Beautiful! Agreed!

    • Margaret Sisson

      Not everyone will choice to be an advocate. That is SO ok. It needs to be a personal choice.
      OCD at times is all consuming and in some cases when someone focuses on helping others it helps them. My son found it healing for him and others when he told his story. That was not always the case… He hid his OCD for many years. But when he did start telling his story, he found that others related and he was able to be a good support for many. That also helped him.
      I think that is where the IOCDF is coming from. It is always someone’s personal choice to be an advocate.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with both Ethan and Anonymous. I believe that one can have a compulsion to give. I think that there are times when I engage in compulsive giving in that when I see that someone needs or wants something, I have a strong need to give it to them, even when giving is against my better judgment or could be hurtful to myself or my family. There is not a specific concern or fear, just a sense that I am responsible for providing for them or for alleviating any distress they might be experiencing.. At times I feel helpless when experiencing that urge to give. Yet giving to others is also very important both for others and perhaps even more for my own sense of wellbeing, meaning and purpose. Compulsive giving for me has to do more with my own needs, I think, while the kind of giving that Ethan is talking about is more focused on the receiver’s needs. It can be hard to distinguish in the moment sometimes.

    • Anonymous I

      Maybe a rule of thumb could be to not help unless one is asked to do so. And even then, let the other person ask twice (unless, of course, it is something very urgent and important).

      In myself I have noticed that when I am asked, I am usually not very willing to help, because I have “better” ideas at the moment, like emailing someone to announce him that he has OCD and should go to treatment. (grin) Heck, I have even tried to teach my own therapist how to treat me. It can get very absurd at times.

      Do you know what else I have noticed? That I don’t have any “Pure O” symptoms unless I fall into the hyper-responsibility trap!

    • Note: This doesn’t, however, mean that I don’t have symptoms of other sub-types. I’m not even so sure of the cause-effect relationship between hyper-responsibility and “Pure O”.

      Again, maybe I’m mistaken. Or maybe it’s just me, and not a general rule for how these things work. Your thoughts on this matter (Ethan, Anonymous II, IOCDF staff, other) would be appreciated.


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