In response to a question that I received today which asks me the way forward with OCD, I intend to write this blog post. Let me begin by quoting the question directly-
‘How do you control emotions, fears and illusions in a patient suffering from OCD?’
To my mind, OCD is no ‘illness’ at all and therefore one need not try to control anyone. However the behaviours which get called as ab-normal and therefore attract a diagnostic label are something which are often difficult to comprehend and deal with. Since we cannot understand how someone can make a mountain out of a molehill (in Hindi, Rai ka pahaad) people think and believe their loved ones are having an ‘illness’. Technically when you have an ‘illness’ you need a treatment for it- but where is the illness in this case? It is only a behaviour, a response to a stimulus. Please understand behaviours and do not go about accepting that behaviours need treatment.
I hope you agree that emotions are a part of being alive. So what sort of emotions are we referring to here? People have various emotions from joy, to sadness, anger, depression, withdrawal, tantrums and so forth. Some of these emotions are positive emotions and some are negative. Positive emotions make us happy and expansive, while negative emotions shrink our spirit considerably.
How are fears birthed?
No child at the time of its birth is afraid of anything. You can put a child in front of a lion, it will laugh and smile. It does not know that it should be afraid of the lion.
And yet as the child is growing up, it is socialized into developing fears. The primary teacher in this task is the parents, who in their attempt to protect and save the child from any untoward experiences, instill fears of different sorts; for example fear of the dark, fear of animals, fear of strangers, and of course in India the classic fear of examinations and tests! Once these fears enter into the consciousness of a person, they never leave them, no matter how old the person becomes.
If you want to, at some stage, help the person deal with their fears and emotions, you have to now reach to the bottom of the problem. Let them understand their fears, their apprehensions. This work can never be accomplished by psychiatrists- who would not have the patience to listen to a person’s story, nor the framework to analyze or dissect stories. They only know how to offer solace in the form of a pill. No matter how many pills you pop in for OCD, you can never deal with the ‘symptoms’, because the ‘symptoms’ are not coming from some underlying chemical deficit, but due to fears, which defying rational logic, are embedded deep down in the psychological architecture of the individual’s mental framework!
So please be patient with the ‘patient’ and instead of forcing pills down their throat, let them be heard by a helping non-medical professional. OCD is something one can easily recover from. Help your loved one gently.