Becoming a mental health advocate is something that must be done if the stigma surrounding mental health is ever going to change. While they have somewhat dissipated in recent years, stigma and misinformation around mental illness are still serious issues. This is particularly true regarding the stigma addressed toward someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), as someone with OCD must navigate a world in which the reality of their disease has been diminished by many people who now use the term “OCD” in all the wrong ways.
A Brief Overview of OCD
The truth is that someone with OCD is struggling with a chronic illness that almost always professes without some type of professional intervention. According to the journal, Nature Reviews. Disease Primers, “OCD is characterized by the presence of obsessions and/or compulsions. Obsessions are repetitive and persistent thoughts, images, impulses, or urges that are intrusive and unwanted and are commonly associated with anxiety. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that the individual feels driven to perform in response to an obsession according to rigid rules, or to achieve a sense of ‘completeness.’”
It is the severity of these compulsions that make someone with OCD feel so out of control, while also trying to control everything. These behaviors can be extremely damaging and detrimental to everyday life, and yet today OCD is often used as a colloquial term meaning really organized or really concerned with appearance. For these individuals, these are simply chosen character traits, whereas someone struggling with untreated OCD doesn’t have that luxury.
Spotting the Warning Signs and Symptoms of OCD
Part of advocating for issues of mental health is being aware of what to look out for in someone who may be struggling. This is also true with being able to spot some of the warning signs and symptoms of OCD. Being able to do so, and get someone the help they need, may be the difference between short-term effects and long-term consequences. The following are just a few of those warning signs:
- Continually checking to see if the gas on the stove is off, or that windows and doors are locked
- Excessive hand washing, sometimes to the point where the hands become chapped, red, and raw
- Constantly arranging and ordering objects in a specific way, and becoming distressed when they are not
- Complaining of intrusive and repetitive thoughts that will not go away
- Hoarding objects to a detrimental degree
- Having trouble sleeping
- Experiencing the urge to count and recount certain things that they come across
- Continually asking if everything is ok, or specifically asking if everything is ok with them
If any or all of these signs are present, then someone may have a problem and need some advocating on their behalf. While this may seem challenging, the good news is that many resources are available to help ease the process.
Becoming an OCD Advocate
The first way to advocate for someone with OCD is to be honest with them and ask if everything is ok. Asking how an individual is feeling rather than telling them that they may have a problem makes a big difference. After all, unless we are professional mental health care providers, we cannot even be sure if they are struggling with OCD.
Simply asking if they are ok and need any help may be the openness that an individual needs to seek outside care. The next way to advocate for them is to direct them to that care. Having access to and making connections with various treatment facilities, recovery centers, and places focused on community outreach is critical in becoming an effective OCD advocate. These connections make it easy and timely to reach out when someone with OCD needs help.
Helping someone find the right treatment center is a great way to be a mental health advocate, but it shouldn’t stop there. Advocating for someone with OCD means being available when they leave treatment too. Helping someone maintain their recovery in the long term may also seem challenging, but there are many simple ways that we can be of service. This includes reducing stigma by speaking up when we hear misinformation or prejudice, asking about what type of recovery they are working with (and if there is any information they would like us to have in case of relapse), and simply being ready to answer the phone or a text when issues arise.
The Importance of Mental Health and Addiction Advocacy at the Phoenix Recovery Center
Unfortunately, the misinformation and stigmas surrounding mental health are still happening. However, the good news is that with more and more people becoming advocates those stigmas are diminishing.
At The Phoenix Recovery Center, we take mental health advocacy seriously, which is why we focus on community outreach and getting as many people the help they need as possible. Yes, the numbers of those struggling with mental illness remain high, but if we continue to advocate, they won’t be for long.
For more information on how to find help for someone struggling with OCD, please call The Phoenix Recovery Center at (801) 438-3185.