Understanding OCD — International OCD Foundation uses OCD Awareness Week to Dispel Myths of this Oft-Misunderstood Mental Health Disorder

BOSTON, Mass. (October 8, 2012) — Imagine you woke up one day during a particularly stressful time in your life, and your mind got stuck on a single thought. Perhaps you were anxious about a project at school or work, and were worried that you had made a mistake. Imagine your mind would not let that worry go. Instead, you replayed that anxious thought over and over and over again in your head. Imagine that you could not convince yourself that it was okay, even after re-checking your work and finding no mistake, or finding a mistake, but reasoning with yourself that it was minor and fixable. Now, imagine you woke up everyday with this feeling — this relentless anxiety — regardless of whether there was actually something worrisome happening in your life. Imagine this anxiety left you unable to get out of bed in the morning, or unable to leave the house, or unable to start any project for fear of making another mistake.

For approximately 3 million people in the US alone, this is a reality. This is obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD.* OCD is an anxiety disorder which causes an individual to have obsessions and compulsive behaviors that are so severe, they interfere with the individual’s everyday life; for example, causing the individual to miss work, school, social events, or other important activities.

Now imagine that everyone knew about what caused OCD and how to treat it. And imagine there was no stigma associated with asking for help or admitting you had a mental illness. Imagine that everyone had access to effective, affordable mental health services. Unfortunately, this latter part of the scenario is not yet a reality for most people.

On average, it can take 14 to 17 years to get a proper diagnosis and effective treatment for OCD after first showing symptoms. Can you imagine if that were the case for other illnesses? For cancer?

In an effort to change that, the International OCD Foundation established OCD Awareness Week four years ago to take place every year during the 2nd week of October. During this weeklong event, the IOCDF and our global partners and affiliates work to spread awareness about OCD and related disorders among not only patients and their loved ones, but also mental health professional. Because, while OCD is often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, it is often very treatable when patients eventually do get an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

OCD Awareness Week will be held on October 8th–14th in 2012, with the flagship events planned here in Boston, the location of the International OCD Foundation Headquarters. A benefit & silent auction will be held at the Sheraton Boston on October 13th, celebrating OCD Awareness Week and honoring the four winners of the IOCDF “Dare to Believe” creative expression contest. These winners include a musician who will be travelling all the way from New Zealand to perform his winning song, “Til I’m Down;” a documentary filmmaker who will be travelling from England to screen an excerpt from her film, “Living with Me and My OCD”; a writer from Minnesota who will be reading an excerpt from her memoir, “Tipping Point;” and a mother from Virginia who wrote a children’s book about OCD to help her young son cope with his own OCD.

Other events are happening across the country and around the globe. A sample of these events include:

  • A film festival of OCD films to be held onsite in Austin, TX, and online for people to participate in virtually at www.ocdfilmfest.blogspot.com.
  • A one-day OCD conference in New York for mental health professionals and people affected by OCD, including friends and family.
  • A number of lectures and talks about OCD in places such as San Francisco, Toronto, Kansas, Wisconsin, Boston, Atlanta, and others.
  • A series of online chats where Twitter uses will have the opportunity to ask mental health experts questions on topics such as OCD medication, OCD and relationships, Teens and OCD, and other. To read more about these online chats, visit: http://ocfoundation.org/awarenessweek/twitterchats.
  • In addition to these local and regional events, IOCDF members, Facebook fans, @IOCDF Twitter followers, and other global partners, such as OCD-UK, will be using social media to spread the message of OCD awareness and hope throughout the week. People all over the world can participate by using the Twitter hashtag #OCDweek, or changing their social media profile photo and status update to show that they support OCD Awareness Week.

To learn more about OCD Awareness Week, click here.

About the International OCD Foundation

Founded by a group of people with OCD in 1986, the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) is an international not-for-profit organization for people with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and related disorders, as well as their families and friends, and the professionals who treat OCD. The mission of the IOCDF is to educate the public and professionals about OCD in order to raise awareness and improve the quality of treatment provided; support research into the causes of and effective treatments for OCD and related disorders; improve access to resources for those with OCD and their families; and to advocate and lobby on behalf of the OCD community.

*This is just one of the many ways that OCD can manifest itself, and is not necessarily representative of every person with OCD. Learn more at http://www.iocdf.org/about-ocd.