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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a treatable disorder, not a punchline

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Kelly Sikkema
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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is too often used as a punchline in society, and many of us don’t truly understand what it is. People who live with OCD spend a minimum of one hour each day obsessing on recurrent and persistent thoughts, or acting out compulsions related to those thoughts. Both behaviors need not exist for a diagnosis of OCD, but if the obsessions or compulsions impair your ability to function at work or in social situations, you may be among the 2-3% of Wichitans living with this illness.

The mental health community does not fully understand what causes OCD, though brain abnormalities stemming from genetics and the environment are thought to play a role. Symptoms often manifest in the late teen years, lending credence to the belief that the groundwork begins to be laid while our brains are still forming. The result is living your life unable to control your own thoughts or actions, for fear that one wrong step will result in disaster, or that you might act on your own thoughts of harm or violence against yourself or those you love.

Fortunately, OCD – as one in the family of anxiety disorders – is generally considered highly treatable through the proper combination of medications and therapy, including exposure therapy conducted in a controlled environment. But most importantly, we need to remember that lining up your food in a certain way in the grocery cart, or needing the volume on your television to be at a certain number, does not equate to OCD. Like many anxiety and depressive disorders, diagnosis hinges on how or if the symptoms genuinely interfere with your ability to function on a day-to-day basis.

Eric Litwiller has served the south central Kansas community through his work at Mental Health Association since September of 2017. As Director of Development and Communications, he is charged with seeking the private investment required to raise awareness of the scope of mental health concerns throughout the region in an effort to eliminate the unfair stigma associated with mental illness.