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Lauren’s OCD Awareness Story

By: Lauren Klar

Hello OCD North community! My name is Lauren, and I am an advanced standing Master of Social Work (MSW) student doing my practicum here at OCD North. I study at the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto, specializing in Children and Their Families. The end of my first month at the clinic coincides with OCD Awareness week. In light of this, I’d love to share with our community what I’ve learned so far from being at OCD North, how my perspective about OCD has changed, and why OCD awareness is so important.

I read a lot of literature about OCD and OCD treatment during my first few weeks at OCD North. My eyes were opened to how much of a debilitating mental health issue OCD truly is. The obsessions, otherwise known as fears and anxieties, drive compulsions and rituals like counting and checking. These compulsions are a way to quiet the obsessions immediately. However, it is not a long-term solution. At OCD North, the therapists treat clients using exposure and responsive prevention. This is a type of cognitive-behavioural therapy that exclusively works to treat OCD. I was shocked that I had never heard of this therapy modality before, especially having done two undergraduate degrees where I took various mental health courses. While shadowing some ERP sessions, I saw how amazing this treatment is and how it can help individuals overcome OCD. I saw how people with OCD could be so brave and patient. Each day, their biggest fears follow them around and prevent them from going about their day-to-day activities. They have chosen to take control, one exposure after another, to beat OCD and take back control of their lives.

Before beginning my practicum, I had a surface-level understanding of OCD. By this, I mean that I thought people with OCD were those who organized the clothes in their closet by colour or people who were very neat and tidy. Looking back, the compulsive part of OCD is what I thought OCD was. Maybe you’ve heard someone say, “I’m so OCD,” or “I definitely have OCD; I’m such a clean freak!”. What I didn’t realize is how this idiosyncrasy or quirk is not only far from what the disease truly is, but that joking about OCD has unintentional consequences. It gives people the perception that OCD is not the complex disorder that, in reality, it is. When something like rigorously cleaning, which is generally seen as a good quality, is praised, it can diminish the severity of OCD symptoms. As a result, people with OCD will overlook their symptoms and avoid seeking treatment. This is why OCD awareness week, and OCD awareness in general, is SO critical. People need to treat OCD as a serious disorder rather than a joke to prevent misunderstandings from occurring. The stigma surrounding this disorder is REAL, and so is OCD! I’m excited to learn more to advocate for this community, educate others, and help clients be the best version of themselves!