The holidays are often marketed as “the most wonderful time of the year.” Regardless of what you do (or don’t) celebrate, there certainly is a shift in the air during this season. While this shift may be exciting for many, those living with OCD are faced with new sets of challenges, and unfortunately, new things for OCD to cling to like the annoying pest it is (insert eye roll here).
Often, those living with OCD may feel anxiety, dread, confusion, and fear surrounding the holiday season and all it might entail for them, their family, and loved ones. These feelings are quite the opposite of December’s light and bright tone and can often lead individuals to feel shame about their experiences. What does that shame look like? Well, many things – OCD is so different from person to person that this will be unique for everyone. But, one common theme emerges: one might find themselves hiding the OCD or engaging in avoidance to keep OCD thoughts and feelings at bay. Essentially, you might find yourself keeping OCD under wraps.
When we let shame get the best of us, and we start hiding from or avoiding the realities of the OCD experience, it holds us back from beating OCD (something we know you all want to do!) This season – and every season – we encourage you to be bold and stand up to fear. Don’t keep OCD under wraps! The more you try to minimize, hide, and avoid the reality of OCD, the harder it is to beat it.
So, what does keeping OCD under wraps look like, exactly? We thought you’d never ask! As with everything when it comes to OCD, keeping OCD “under wraps” will look different for everybody. But, there are certainly some tell-tale signs:
Your new favorite word is “no.”
Suppose you’re finding yourself saying “no” a lot this season, and avoiding things like social interactions, going to certain places, or taking part in special family traditions. In that case, this could be a big indication that you’re keeping OCD under wraps. Take a second and reflect on the things you’re turning down – is it because you genuinely aren’t in the mood, or does it have some connection (no matter how small) to an OCD fear? If you don’t feel like doing something, that’s always okay. But, if you can tell that you’re saying no because OCD wants you to say no, it’s an indicator that you’ve been trying to keep OCD under wraps, which annoyingly only makes the OCD more determined.
You’ve started a new career as a party planner.
Maybe you haven’t seen your loved ones in a while, and they don’t know much about the OCD. Or, perhaps this will be the first time you’ve seen a loved one since your diagnosis or starting the OCD recovery journey. Whatever your situation looks like, it’s resulted in a desire to plan (read: over plan) every single detail of your upcoming gathering. Now, we’re not saying it’s bad to plan (and no shade to party planners either!). Planning can actually be really good, such as planning for how you’re going to respond to certain situations or triggers (check out this post if you want to learn more about that!). But, when you become consumed by planning for the visit, a few things can happen:
- First, over-planning is actually a form of avoidance as you work through everything that could go “wrong” and plan how to avoid that situation.
- Second, OCD is now controlling you in a different way. All your planning is just you spending all your time and energy on OCD (which, as the annoying oaf it is, thrives on the attention).
- Finally, over-planning can actually be a manifestation of shame (our least favourite s-word). Think about it – why do you feel the desire to have everything planned out so perfectly? If it’s to make sure you don’t have any run-ins with OCD or that others don’t find out about what you’re going through, this could indicate that you have some shame surrounding the OCD. Remember, there is NEVER shame about the OCD experience!
You’re on an exposure holiday.
Maybe you don’t want others to see you doing exposures or feel like you have to explain them. Or, you’re getting caught up in all the activities the season has to offer and are super busy. Maybe things have been going well for you, and OCD isn’t being such a nuisance. Whatever the reason, you’ve slowed down on your exposure work. It doesn’t always seem like a big deal at the moment, but letting a compulsion slide here or there or forgetting to practice your exposures and statements can really take a toll. Taking a holiday is great (and we always encourage self-care!), but the more you slack off on the tools and strategies you’ve learned to beat OCD, the more you minimize the reality of the OCD experience – you’re keeping OCD under wraps. Unfortunately, this has the opposite effect than desired; the more you keep OCD under wraps, the more it sneaks back up on you.
Now that you know some of our top tell-tale signs that you’re keeping OCD under wraps here comes the fun part – unwrap it! This season (and every season), we encourage you to unwrap OCD. Call it out for what it is and how it affects you, say no to shame, and stand up to OCD! We know you’ve got this, and as always, OCD North is always here to support you and cheer you on.
Here’s to unwrapping OCD!
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Our clinicians are OCD and Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) specialists. We understand OCD as it manifests in the pediatric and adult populations, families, schools, and the workplace. We utilize ERP to break the cycle of OCD individually and systemically to help you achieve your goals. Read more about our services.