Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Support Groups: A Helpful OCD Treatment for You?

Like my profile says, I've had OCD since I was 13. Since then, therapists have recommended finding a support group. Only during my last severe regression in April of 2008 did I seriously consider it. I love my support group, and I've been going ever since. But it took a fit of desperation one day at work for me to find mine on the internet. Looks like you're in just the right place to find yours, too.

If you're considering a support group as a form of OCD treatment, perhaps these points to ponder will help you make the decision quicker than I did.

Support groups provide community.
I know OCD can make us feel lonely, stupid, and codependent. It closes the world in around us, isolating us. But at group I've met people who can sometimes think the same irrational way I think. I understand them, too. Bottom line: Join a group and if you were alone in your OCD before, you aren't anymore.

Support groups give you objectivity.
Join a group and you'll encounter all types of OCD--the hoarders, the scrupulous, the contaminated, the guilt-ridden, and those who can't be labeled. You'll hear all types of OCD stories. You'll see what it can be at its best, and you'll see what it can be at its worst, and hopefully identify tendencies in yourself so you can learn to keep the OCD in check. It's like looking in a mirror. If you see that a hair is out of place, you fix it.

Support groups let you see what works.
Before attending group, I had never heard of ERP, or Exposure/Response Prevention (more about that in a later post). My therapists through the years had always used Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, the other part of the OCD treatment dichotomy. I never even knew that this other kind of therapy existed, or that it could benefit me. Join a group and you can discuss treatment styles, therapists, and mental exercises and analyze what works for you.

Support groups give you accountability.
Every week at group we get together in small clusters and set goals, and check in on last session's goals. If needed or wanted, group members exchange numbers to serve as checkposts with whom to check in and record progress. Conversely, if we want to sit a week out and not give ourselves a goal, we allow that. We understand that each of us is choosing to be here, and choosing to get better. There's a lot of power in that, and a sense of control over what feels out of control.

If you are not a member of a support group as a means of OCD treatment, click here to visit the OC Foundation's "find a support group" page. Until then, if you're reading this blog, feel free to call what we have going here our little support group. : )


  1. I come from a small community and wish there were more support groups for people. You're so fortunate to have found yours.

  2. Thanks for sharing what helps. It hopefully might encourage others to overcome any unfounded fears of the unknown that they may have about OCD self-help support groups. So people may feel more comfortable, many mutual help groups also have a ground rule that members have the right to “pass” on answering any group discussion question that is going round, if they want to.

    In terms of a few other things that support groups often provide, support groups give you:

    - hope, in finding others who do meet their goals, and re-taken control of their lives. They can serve as powerfully helpful role models.

    - an opportunity for you to actually help others, and even if it’s just your quietly nodding your head when someone else is telling their story and you understand what they are expressing because you’ve “been there” too, or your sharing a piece of information, a coping technique, or a resource that you found helpful. Professionals call that “helper therapy.” Some refer to it as the “helper’s high.” In other self-help groups, they explain it as “If you help someone to the top of the hill, you get there yourself.”

    - acceptance, in that you’re accepted for who you are.

    - and the very comforting feeling that within the group, that you’re not a freak, but you’re really a normal human being with an unusual disorder.

    There are a few other national/international self-help support groups that can advise you of existing local support groups, or show you how you can join with others to start one, e.g., the Trichotillomania Learning Center (for compulsive hair pullers & skin pickers) http://www.trich.org
    Anyone know of others?

    Take care and hope, - Ed

  3. Ed,
    Thank you very much for your extension of my post! You are right about all of those things. I guess I just felt guilty about the "helper's high" because I've been doing really well, and it DOES feel good to help others, too, even though there is a genuine desire to help my friends. I had never heard it called that, before.

  4. My therapist is trying to get me to join a support group but I just know it wouldn't work...I can't open up to a roomful of people.

  5. I wish there was a support group in my area and I live in a large metro region!

  6. I really think that cognitive behavioral therapy is the best way to go. It promotes supporting each other through hard times and increasing the patient's self-esteem.