Updated: Jul 26, 2021
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that occurs when a person gets caught in a cycle of unwanted and intrusive thoughts. These thoughts trigger distressing feelings and cause the person to feel driven to engage in repetitive behavior, compulsions.
OCD can be a life-long struggle.
Read about Anthony's battle with the disorder and the profound realizations he's made since getting better.
The worst of my OCD didn’t hit me until I had to move away from home for my Freshman year of college. Since then it has been a frequent cycle of getting “stuck” on things to obsessively worry about.
Up until I moved away from home for Freshman year, I would have always just described myself as extremely motivated, hard-working, and maybe a little rigid at times. While I would probably study too much and spend too much time at the gym, I never thought this was a sign of mental illness.
It wasn’t until the familiar environment of my upbringing was pulled away from me did I start to realize my issues.
DISCOVERING MY OCD
A consistent component of my OCD has always been calling my parents for reassurance when I start to panic. This has been a hard habit to kick to this day. In my mind, I have always thought of their opinion as being the gold standard because it is how I grew up thinking.
Unfortunately, I often use this like an alcoholic using their favorite cocktail after a difficult day. While the real me understands that calling them and asking their opinions will realistically not solve much, the drive from my OCD always desiring to feel good often propels me back to this embarrassing compulsion.
While the guilty feelings I get after calling my parents are pretty painful, it’s the escalation in the anxiety based around my OCD content that makes me suffer the most emotionally following these compulsions.
The themes of my obsessions can be of many topics, but they usually focus on things currently important to me. Relationships, career, health, and success are often the most common topics I get stuck on.
I’ve developed a sort of amnesia looking back on my life regarding my flare-ups. I’ll think “Oh I was so much better during this particular time,” when truthfully I’ve struggled throughout my life with OCD.
For someone who does not have OCD, I’d explain it like the most terrifying bully forcing you to do things you don’t want to. At its worst, my anxiety makes it feel like someone is grabbing you, trying to suck the air from your lungs.
For most people, these feelings would obviously not be too comfortable, but for an OCD sufferer, the curse becomes that their fearful thoughts manage to get stuck on repeat.
For me, the scarier the thought the more likely it will get trapped in the loop. One of the worst times in my life is when I got stuck in an OCD loop after a bad breakup. While I had been the one in the relationship to call it quits, my lack of clarity over whether I made the right or wrong decision eventually elevated my anxiety so much that I was regularly thinking about suicide.
When the psychiatrist I was seeing during this episode decided to send me to a psychiatric floor because I verbalized my thought content this made things even worse.
OCD can seem like a curse because you will spend (at least for me) 50-75% of your life feeling and acting normal but then you have these alternate feelings inside that you are unable to control.
When I was staying at the hospital for my OCD, I had so many terrible feelings. I consciously understood that part of me didn’t need to be there and that it was just making my self-image worse. I had not actually physically attempted to hurt myself neither had a logical, thought out plan to do so. While I was having extremely intense emotions and that was frightening to everyone around me, I was actually getting stuck in obsessional thoughts regarding my fears of the thought of suicide. Looking back at this time in my life I understand the difference.
OCD affects 1 in 100 people. Though there are medications to help treat OCD, many OCD patients, perhaps as many as 40-60%, do not respond to the current medication options. At Biohaven, our mission is to pave the way for new resources and studies so individuals with
OCD have more effective treatment options.