One of the most helpful things in my own recovery journey has been hearing about other people’s experiences with OCD. This might be because we relish in stories of triumph and are drawn toward people with shared experiences. I think this is true for many things in life. Personally, I learn and grow from these stories.
There is something powerful about knowing that someone else has walked the same path as you and that they have not only survived it, but possibly even thrived. I love hearing about the determination and grit of others who have faced similar obstacles. These stories of hope often inspired me to keep going, even when I didn’t think I could.
Support is a key piece of your recovery journey. That’s why at NOCD, we provide a safe space for people in the OCD community and their families to share their experiences in our virtual support groups, which are available to members doing exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy with NOCD Therapy. There are over 25 different groups to join, with sessions nearly every day of the week, dealing with themes ranging from living with OCD to relapse prevention.
You are not alone
Support groups may help you realize that you are not alone. Many people have struggled with OCD for so long without proper treatment, going from therapist to therapist in hopes of finding relief, unable to get the specialized treatment needed to manage OCD. It’s often by hearing about other people’s experiences with successful treatment that they are able to learn about ERP therapy and finally get the help they need. And during treatment, support from others can help people keep going when things get challenging.
This is one of the main reasons I continue to share my story: I want others to know that life can look very different from what it does in the throes of OCD. It may not seem like it at the moment, but there is hope after OCD—and you can live a life you may never have imagined. Similarly, support groups can provide a non-judgmental place where you can learn from others and healthily express your emotions.
These support systems can normalize your experiences and reduce the shame and guilt often experienced by people with OCD and other mental illnesses. You can lean on others for their support and backing, and they can provide encouragement and help you recognize improvements that you may not realize you’ve made. This can provide a sense of control over your life, as you get to decide how to share your story.
Giving and getting support
Participating in a support group may seem scary at first; after all, you may be sharing your struggles and thoughts with others. However, vulnerability in sharing your experiences can often have a tremendous impact on your life and in the lives of others. For example, sharing my story helps others see a glimpse into what recovery can look like and provide hope; but in turn, I can also look back at my journey and am reminded daily of how far I’ve come. This helps to me stay on track—I know the things that I need to do to stay healthy and to remain in recovery with my OCD.
Sharing keeps me accountable and reminds me of the powerful tools I have learned and the importance of using them on a daily basis. I have found that being vulnerable also helps with the shame aspect of OCD: when I share my personal struggle and give it a voice, it takes the shameful feelings away each time, bit by bit. That’s because when you talk about something out loud, it can take away its power. Since you are choosing to share, you are in essence choosing freedom over fear.
Additionally, developing a sense of purpose from your own painful experiences may even inspire others. You may be the very person who helps someone realize that they too can get better and live in recovery. They may regain confidence in treatment and in themselves.
Accountability, advocacy, and authenticity
You will likely also find that support groups provide a place for accountability in addition to your therapist. Having a therapist trained in ERP and who specializes in OCD cannot be replaced—the knowledge and expertise they have is unmatched, and the skills and the work that they help you do in treatment is unique. They help you build the foundation for the work that you will continue to do throughout your life, for as long as you experience symptoms of OCD.
But when people are in ERP, they often need to have people they trust who can hold them accountable for their treatment. This is true in most areas of our lives. Think about the idea behind playing a sport, for example. A coach is there to support you, to check in, to look for progress, and keep you accountable to ensure you are doing the best work you can. Your team also motivates you and can also help to keep you accountable, as they are in (or were in) your same shoes. It makes sense then that having a group of people who are experiencing similar things as yourself can be so beneficial. There is something powerful about being in a room full of people (even a virtual room) who “get it,” and who have lived experiences that you can relate to. That is what a good OCD support group will do: it allows for accountability and support.
In addition to accountability, support groups can help you find more resources and connect you with other sources of support. You can learn to become your own advocate and provide advocacy for others. You can gain insight into what relapse prevention looks like.
Support groups are also a great tool to help manage and reduce stress. Just talking about the things that make you feel isolated and hidden can be cathartic in and of itself. Having a safe place to be your authentic self and meet others who have similar experiences is a wonderful confidence booster.
ERP alongside support
Finding support in a community of others with OCD can be an integral part of the recovery process. It can provide an outlet to express yourself with others who will be understanding and empathetic. However, it’s important to remember that even with the support of others, ERP therapy with a licensed and trained OCD specialist is needed to treat and manage the disorder.
ERP is the gold standard treatment for OCD. This form of therapy involves specifically targeting the source of your obsessions by directly exposing you to it. In many cases, people find that ERP helps their anxiety subside to the point where they no longer experience intense fears related to their thoughts on a regular basis.
ERP therapy is an active form of treatment and requires intentional buy-in when participating in exposures, a willingness to feel discomfort, and honesty with your therapist about your obsessions and compulsions (even if they are shameful or taboo). ERP therapy has been proven to effectively treat people with OCD. Remember that you are not your OCD, and getting better is possible.
If you’re struggling with OCD and are looking for treatment that can help you get better, NOCD is here for you. Our licensed therapists deeply understand OCD and are specialty-trained in treating OCD with ERP. We work side-by-side with the OCD experts and researchers who designed some of the world’s top OCD treatment programs – and that means the best care for our members. I encourage you to learn about NOCD’s accessible, evidence-based approach to treatment with our team to get matched with one and get started with OCD treatment.
As a part of NOCD Therapy, you are also able to join others who are on a similar journey, share your personal story if you choose, and learn ways to overcome challenges related to OCD through our support groups. There’s no added cost to participate. Support groups are hosted on Zoom and are led by NOCD therapists.
Some of the support groups that we offer include Managing OCD, Autism and OCD, Mom Support Group, OCD: Sexual Content, Relationship OCD, Creativity in OCD, Teens with OCD, Managing Religious OCD, Hoarding, and many others.