I Became an OCD Specialist Because of My Son’s Struggle and Recovery

6 min read
Kim
By Kim

I’ve been a licensed clinical social worker for about 25 years and have done a lot of different things in many different settings. A big focus has been counseling kids in trauma, dealing with issues around abandonment, abuse, and neglect. Another has been working with people impacted by physical health issues that could lead to disorders like anxiety and depression.

Around the time COVID started, I happened upon a job listing for NOCD, a company specializing in treating OCD using evidence-based therapy. I was extremely interested in the opportunity because my son has OCD. 

When he was in first grade (nearly 20 years ago), we started to notice lots of things needing to be “just right” – his clothing in particular. He wanted to wear his clothes very tight. He wore these little round glasses, and he needed to have them pushed up against his face to the point where he couldn’t blink without his eyelashes touching the lenses. He was excessively touching surfaces. He slammed doors because he didn’t want any air to come through the gaps. He slammed them so hard that the doors were coming off the hinges. He pushed his bed up against the wall. We didn’t know it at the time, but this was OCD.

I Was Doing All of the Things That OCD Specialists Know Not To Do

Back then, I didn’t know a lot about OCD, and what I did know didn’t tip me off that my son’s struggles could be a result of OCD. I was just a parent trying to raise my child the best that I could. My main concern was how to reduce the distress he’s constantly living in. One of the main issues at the time was that OCD was causing him to be late to school. There were a lot of tantrums and crying fits because of what was happening in his mind. 

In hindsight, I was doing all of the things that OCD specialists know not to do. I was accommodating him. I bought him boots that were two sizes too small. I bought him a strap for the back of his glasses that would keep them close to his face. I was trying to help him tighten his clothing to make it as snug as he seemed to need it. 

By this point, I’d been a licensed clinical social worker for several years, yet I couldn’t recognize what was happening with my own child. This was just before it became second nature to search for answers to issues on the internet. The technology and the content weren’t quite there yet. Eventually, I took him to see the first of several therapists in search of a solution beyond just accommodating him.

Wasted Years

During those years, there was a lot of emphasis on kids with sensory issues. We did this brushing technique that was supposed to help kids be more tolerant of sensory stimulation. It wasn’t the least bit effective. 

He was then diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and anxiety. He was medicated for ADHD, though it made him sick and more anxious. Unfortunately, this was just the first of four or five therapists who missed the root cause of my son’s distress. We were ushered down a different treatment rabbit hole each time.

When he was in fourth grade, he underwent a psychological evaluation at school. They found his IQ to be really high and started asking him pointed questions. One of those questions was about whether he’d ever thought about harming himself.  His response was, “I go by the silverware drawer, and I see the knives. I think, could I pick this up and hurt myself or hurt somebody else with this?” 

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This thought gave him intense anxiety because hurting himself or someone else would be the last thing he would ever want to do.  He revealed what we now know to be a harm OCD theme in this answer. However, OCD was not even suggested as a possibility at the time due to a lack of understanding about it. 

A Lucky Break 

After three or four years of searching in vain for a solution, we finally found a therapist who had found a workbook written for treating OCD in children. We were very lucky that she was able to look us in the eye and say, “This isn’t ADD; this is OCD.”

Very shortly after this diagnosis, my son started exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy with her. At the same time, we got a little more education about the disorder from the therapist and were suddenly able to understand what was happening in our son’s mind.  

After starting ERP, my son quickly realized he didn’t have to touch certain things, or do things in a certain way. It didn’t take too many sessions to understand that if he just waited, then that feeling would fade, and the urge or sensation would go away.

The treatment was so effective at treating his OCD that within a few months, he was able to manage it very effectively. That affected our entire household. The tension within our family went down considerably. What was happening with my son had a name, and it was finally under his control to a large extent. 

In addition to OCD, my son lives with a few other conditions, including narcolepsy, a sleep disorder typified by overwhelming bouts of drowsiness. He’s been treated for all of these conditions to varying extents, but he still says that ERP is the best and most effective treatment he’s ever received. Managing his OCD also freed up a lot of time and bandwidth to concentrate on those issues that, unfortunately, haven’t been as easy to treat.  

There was a sixteen-year gap between my child getting the treatment he needed and me seeing that job listing at NOCD. When I saw that training in ERP came with the role, a light came on in my head. I’d seen firsthand how effective ERP is, and I wanted to be a person who could provide for other families what my son’s therapist provided for us. 

Becoming Part of the Solution 

Though many years have passed since then, OCD awareness remains really low, which is keeping people from getting this life-changing treatment. I feel that NOCD is doing so much to increase awareness and show that OCD can be far more debilitating than many people think. 

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We found fantastic care for my son’s OCD. Even though there were a few years of false starts, change came quickly as soon as he got the diagnosis. We were lucky. I don’t know what would have happened had we not found someone who was perfectly positioned to help. 

Not everyone is going to have the good fortune to stumble upon somebody who can accurately diagnose and then effectively treat OCD via ERP. But many people may Google what they or their loved one is experiencing and, from there, they’re only a few clicks from learning about how NOCD Therapy works and from talking to someone who can answer questions about what treatment entails. From there, you can get a glimpse of what life looks like when OCD is properly managed.  

If you’re struggling and feeling as if nothing is working, NOCD can help. Like myself, all NOCD therapists are licensed and specialty-trained to treat OCD using ERP therapy. You can book a free 15-min phone call with the NOCD team to learn more about starting treatment with a NOCD therapist. 

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Taylor Newendorp

Taylor Newendorp

Licensed Therapist, MA

I started as a therapist over 14 years ago, working in different mental health environments. Many people with OCD that weren't being treated for it crossed my path and weren't getting better. I decided that I wanted to help people with OCD, so I became an OCD therapist, and eventually, a clinical supervisor. I treated people using Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) and saw people get better day in and day out. I continue to use ERP because nothing is more effective in treating OCD.

Madina Alam

Madina Alam

Licensed Therapist, LCMHC

When I started treating OCD, I quickly realized how much this type of work means to me because I had to learn how to be okay with discomfort and uncertainty myself. I’ve been practicing as a licensed therapist since 2016. My graduate work is in mental health counseling, and I use Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy because it’s the gold standard of OCD treatment.

Tamara Harrison

Tamara Harrison

Licensed Therapist, MA

I have personally struggled with OCD and know what it's like to feel controlled by intrusive thoughts and compulsions, and to also overcome it using the proper therapy. I’ve been a licensed therapist since 2017. I have an M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and practice Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy. I know by experience how effective ERP is in treating OCD symptoms.

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