By Sara El Halabi J.

One Sunday, two years ago, my best friend, Julia*, visited me with her children for lunch. After washing the dishes, I couldn’t find my friend anywhere. I asked the children where she was, but no one had the slightest idea. I searched every room in the house until I found her in my bedroom. Oh boy, she was in such an awful state, sweating and crying! That was the first time I met OCD face to face.

Julia was having a panic attack, and I didn’t know how to help her. I remained with her, speechless and offering her a hug. ‘I’m sorry you had to see me in this state…please, don’t leave me. I’m too scared,’ she said, holding her hands tightly to stop them from shaking.

I tried to calm her by telling her everything would be alright, but I knew little about what was going on. We were locked in my bedroom for over an hour until she felt calmer.

Seeing my friend in such pain pushed me to do some research. She was afraid to visit a specialist, so when I realised she had OCD, I wanted to better understand her nervousness and illness.

What The Heck Is OCD?

OCD stands for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, a mental health disorder that affects people of all ages by the presence of persistent, intrusive, unwanted thoughts, worries, or urges. In response to an obsession, repetitive behaviours or mental acts flourish in the form of compulsions.

Any situation can trigger this disorder, from an accident to an illness or from prolonged medication use. This situation can lead to extreme anxiety and depression. Among the different OCD behaviours, the most common are:

  •  Having repetitive taboo or perverse thoughts/images.
  •  Worrying about contamination.
  •  Fear of harming others.
  •  Collecting things.
  •  Symmetry or perfection.
  •  Compulsive cleaning, checking or counting.
  •  Worrying about health issues and diseases.

Compulsive behaviours aim to prevent or reduce anxiety and, consequently, move to a state of pleasure, relaxation or gratification. Individuals with OCD have zero or very little awareness while engaging in these acts; they happen almost automatically.

These obsessions and compulsions can be time-consuming— taking from one to three hours.

How Do You Get OCD?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)-V, OCD is 50% hereditary, 40% comes from a past situation or childhood trauma and 10% from a recent event or illness triggering the condition. Julia told me her father suffered compulsive behaviours and bipolar disorder since he was a teenager—he had to take medication for years to control his mental issues. Her grandmother had depression for over ten years before she died. 

Julia had also been a victim of harsh bullying during her childhood and never told anyone about it. However, what triggered her current condition was acute otitis media, which her doctor thought could be brain cancer. By the time it was confirmed that it was an ear infection it was too late for Julia’s anxiety.

Those who have OCD in their childhood are most likely to experience remission by early adulthood. Julia still had it  at 30 years old. She started compulsively checking that every window and door was closed and having repetitive thoughts of suicide because she thought her kids and family would be better off without her. She was slowly sinking into depression.

Panic disorder, social anxiety or other phobias happen to 76% of individuals with OCD, and 63% of them have depressive or bipolar disorder.

Do You Overcome Or Learn To Live With OCD?

Armed with a better understanding of OCD, I talked to my friend and encouraged her to seek help. She consulted a specialist for some time but decided to heal herself without medication. She became aware of when her disorder was about to activate, learned to detect trigger situations, and suppressed her obsessive and compulsive behaviours by avoiding those triggers and replacing the negative thoughts with positive affirmations.

Now, I can say she’s almost healed. Her OCD appears very sporadically, and she can neutralise it instantly.

I have learned from my friend’s case and expert’s suggestions that the following can help, along with any required therapy and medication:.

  •  Seek professional help before doing anything else.
  •  Be kind to yourself and practice self-care.
  • Stay physically active. Dancing, yoga, exercise, etc., are good options to shift your perception away from OCD.
  • Relax by meditating, reading motivational material, listening to music, watching funny movies, etc.
  •  Get enough sleep. This is paramount for mental health.
  •  Adopt healthy eating habits.
  •  Learn some affirmations that enhance your positive thinking.
  •  Stay in touch with people that motivate and inspire you.

Julia realises that the mind can control every situation if we acknowledge the illness and are willing to face it. Living with OCD is now simpler for her because she knows that everything is going to be okay.

*Friend’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.