Obsessive compulsive disorder - OCD treatment and therapy from NOCD

How to Cope with Feelings of Isolation Caused by OCD

By Stacy Quick, LPC

Sep 01, 20235 minute read

People who have OCD will often tell you that they feel all alone in a silent battle. They describe a feeling of intense isolation. The very nature of this disorder makes it challenging for individuals to engage in social activities or even work a job. OCD can make it difficult to maintain important relationships. Intrusive thoughts and endless compulsions consume a great deal of time and energy. Individuals describe an overpowering sense of mental exhaustion that is exerted just to get through the day—leaving little time for socialization. 

Avoidance can increase loneliness

One of the key components of OCD can be avoidance. Sufferers are likely to avoid triggers, situations, objects, or interactions that may worsen symptoms. Depending on the symptom severity, this can even lead to being housebound. While avoidance may bring about temporary feelings of relief, it can also lead to increased feelings of loneliness. 

Avoidance can hinder the process of getting help through treatment with professionals, friends, and even family. When individuals with OCD avoid discussions surrounding their mental health they are likely to feel more alienated and alone. Avoidance can prevent those experiencing OCD from pursuing activities that they enjoy or moving toward the things that they value. It may impair their ability to follow through with goals that are important to them. Feeling limited may lead to an increased sense of emptiness, feelings of a loss of purposefulness, and even a disconnection from the world around them. 

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Avoidance often reinforces the obsessions and compulsions that the individual with OCD engages in. Unintentionally, the brief feelings of relief brought on by avoiding their compulsions only strengthens the belief that those triggers are actually dangerous. This serves as a continuation of the harmful OCD cycle that leads to increased distress and isolation. 

Negative perceptions and stigma may lead to feelings of isolation

The stigma surrounding mental health conditions can also lead to feelings of isolation. Many individuals with OCD report feeling out of place, awkward, or like they just “don’t fit in” when they are out in social settings. Chronic feelings of guilt and shame, common among OCD sufferers, likely contribute to this. Embarrassment over their symptoms may cause them to withdraw—unfortunately, this only serves to exacerbate these deep-seated feelings of loneliness. 

People with OCD often feel misunderstood. Society still has a limited understanding of what OCD truly entails. Misconceptions lead to faulty information being circulated, and OCD is often stereotyped and oversimplified. How many times have you heard “I’m so OCD” when someone is referring to being neat or organized? This is an all too common misrepresentation of a very serious illness. These types of comments and beliefs fail to validate the highly distressing experiences that those who have OCD deal with every day. Stigma and discrimination only serve to increase feelings of loneliness. 

Due to this discriminatory behavior, many with OCD will not disclose that they have it. They may fear harsh judgment. They may fear being dismissed as being “attention-seeking.” There is often an underlying fear of being labeled as “crazy” that prevents so many from seeking help and discussing their struggles more openly. Sadly, these occurrences hinder individuals from seeking out support and understanding for their condition. 

It should also be noted that there is a lack of education in society about OCD. Unlike other common mental health conditions, OCD remains vastly misunderstood and under-represented. Individuals experiencing OCD may be unable to locate relatable stories that can offer validation and support, leaving them feeling even more hopeless and alone. That is why it is critical that more advocacy and reliable education initiatives be made available to the public. It’s imperative that as a community we foster empathy for OCD and other serious mental illnesses. 

Finding community

In order to combat feelings of loneliness and isolation individuals can benefit from therapy and even consider medication prescribed by an OCD specialist. Joining support groups can also bring about a sense of hope, a reminder that you are not suffering in silence and are not alone in this struggle. Connecting with people who have shared experiences can bring a sense of belonging and understanding, and have a powerful impact on how one feels emotionally. 

In addition to finding a community of support through therapy, treatment, and support groups, it can be important to carve out time for oneself. Participating in hobbies and activities that bring feelings of comfort and fulfillment can have a lasting positive impact. This may include pursuing creativity, exercising, becoming active in local events, or volunteering. Remember to set realistic expectations and not jump “all in” too quickly—it may take time to build up to certain activities. 

Practicing self-compassion and self-care is also imperative. It’s crucial to treat ourselves with the same kindness that we often so readily give to others. Forgiving oneself for mistakes, letting go of the past, and focusing on the present moment can bring about an increased sense of hope and feeling of purpose.

ERP can help you feel less alone

It is vital that individuals with OCD know that they are not alone. There is hope. OCD is treatable and there is a whole community of people with similar experiences. You can live a fulfilling life moving toward your values when you have OCD. You can learn to manage feelings of isolation and loneliness. You can learn how to reconnect with the world around you. Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy can help with this, along with a combination of treatment and support groups. There are so many resources and strategies available to improve social interaction and build a welcoming network of friends and family members.

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Specialty-trained, qualified, and licensed OCD specialists can also help you achieve your goals.  A successful ERP therapist will guide, support, and motivate you. They will not only show you empathy and compassion, but more importantly teach you to be kinder and gentler with yourself. If you have any questions about starting ERP therapy or need more information about the treatment, please don’t hesitate to book a free 15-minute call with our care team. On the call, we’ll assist you in either getting started with a licensed therapist at NOCD who has specialty training in OCD and ERP or connect you to other resources that might be helpful.

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