When you’re first diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), it can come as both a relief and a shock. Finally, you have an answer for the way you’ve been feeling — but at the same time, your understanding of your life may have completely changed. It’s not something anyone should have to shoulder alone, and at some point, you’ll probably find yourself wanting to share your new understanding of yourself with those closest to you.
It can feel daunting at first trying to decide how to tell your friends and family about your OCD, but you can choose how, when and whom to disclose your diagnosis to — and you don’t have anything to be ashamed of.
Whatever concerns you may have about sharing your diagnosis, we have a few tips you can keep in mind to help you prepare to tell your friends about your OCD.
Some challenges you might face
One of the biggest challenges in sharing your OCD diagnosis is often that those you’re disclosing it to don’t actually know what OCD is. Those who don’t deal with OCD themselves or haven’t come into contact with it regularly often base their understanding of the disorder on what they’ve seen out there in the world. For example, they may have seen a character with stereotypical OCD on a TV show, or they may have had an aunt who exhibited compulsions — but these examples barely scratch the surface of what OCD is.
This can make it hard for some to tell their family or friends about their OCD, because they may feel that their loved ones won’t believe in their diagnosis. Many people with OCD have expressed concerns over this, worrying that their families might shrug it off with disbelief simply because the symptoms aren’t always overt.
OCD awareness — and any mental health awareness — first starts with education and exposure to the realities of the condition. Some people have never had to be aware of these things, so sharing your diagnosis can be difficult if the person you’re sharing it with doesn’t even know about it. Thankfully, there are a lot of resources out there to help you create some of that education and exposure for the ones you’re closest with.
Educate your friends about your OCD with help
Before you were diagnosed with OCD, you likely read or watched some materials that gave you an idea of what OCD is and what the symptoms are. Maybe you passively came across a few blog posts or social media shares and dug a little deeper. Maybe you actively sought out the experiences of others on blogs and websites. Whichever way you initially learned about this condition, remember that it likely took some time for you to understand it at first, too. The same can be true for any loved ones you’re sharing your diagnosis with.
When you’re first telling your friends about your OCD, you may want to direct them to additional information about the condition so they can better understand what you’re dealing with. You can send them some of the articles or reading materials you may have looked at when you were working to get a diagnosis. Having additional resources available takes the burden of explanation off of you and can help those closest to you better understand the reality of OCD.
If you’re not sure where to begin, we have a great educational piece on what OCD is and what its accompanying symptoms are that can help you get started explaining your condition to your friends.
Disclose your OCD on your terms, in your time
Telling your friends about your OCD shouldn’t be about having them further accommodate your symptoms or making them 100% understand your struggles; it should be about sharing your life with them and allowing others to support you in your journey, wherever you may be. You don’t have an obligation to tell anyone about your condition. You can choose who you want to tell, how much you want to tell them and when you want to tell them.
It can be scary when you first decide to open up to those closest to you about your OCD, but the ones who really care about you will make an effort to understand and be there for you. They don’t have to fully understand every nuance of your condition to be there for you — and they probably never will get it 100%. Even someone else with OCD can’t fully understand your particular struggles or experiences. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be an important source of support as you make your way through treatment.
Remember to take your time. You can lead with your symptoms first and then explain that all these things add up to OCD, rather than leading with “I have OCD” and running the risk of immediate assumptions. You can tell them first about your experience obtaining a diagnosis and then about the diagnosis itself.
There’s not a tried-and-true right way to tell your friends you have OCD. But using these tips, you should be on track to find the way that works best for you.
If you are struggling with OCD and think you might benefit from help please know that you can give us a call. A free 15-minute phone call can lead to life changing therapy.