The Origin of the Name NOCD

Stephen Smith

May 23, 2019

If we had a nickel for every time our company’s name was mispronounced as “N-OCD” or “NO-OCD,”  we’d be the most well-funded digital health company in the world. It’s not everyone else’s mistake, though—it’s ours. Over the past two and a half years, my team and I haven’t taken the time to explain why our name is pronounced “NO-CD” or articulate the significance behind this pronunciation.

While reading books like Stop Obsessing! by Dr. Edna Foa, it quickly becomes clear that seemingly everyone experiences unwanted thoughts from time to time. However, 2.5% of the population are bothered enough by their intrusive thoughts to engage in specific, repetitive actions in an attempt to “make them go away.” These people have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and their actions are called compulsions, which are believed to make their OCD thoughts grow in both severity and frequency.

People with OCD see unpleasant thoughts as potentially true or real—so they try to neutralize them with compulsions (like thoughts, prayers, and actions). But they come back, and this can happen hundreds of times a day.

Dr. Patrick McGrath, PhD
AVP of Residential Services for AMITA Health Behavioral Medicine Institute

When I was in my deepest, darkest moments with OCD—a time when I’d wake up and pray for my thoughts to leave me alone, exhausted from my unsuccessful efforts to disprove them—I realized my suffering was tied completely to my compulsions. Unlike the stereotypical forms of OCD, with people repeatedly washing their hands or straightening belongings, most of my compulsions were mental. An intrusive thought would pop into my head, and milliseconds later I’d launch into 15-20 minutes of intensively reviewing past events, comparing myself to other people, and checking my body for physiological responses. When I found something that “worked”— seemingly disproving my original thought and bringing immense relief—it never lasted. I’d find cracks in my newfound certainty and start ruminating again, an undecided jury deliberating in my head all day long.

After getting diagnosed with OCD and working with an OCD-trained provider, I learned the root of my struggles were my compulsions. As I developed an ability to accept my recurring fears and focused on compulsion prevention, my OCD thoughts gradually lost their power and arrived less frequently. I learned to have an intrusive thought, accept it as a strange thought as opposed to aggressively disproving it, and go on with my day as the other 97.5% of the population without OCD seemed to do.

At least 94% of the population has intrusive thoughts, but people with OCD have extreme emotional reactions to these thoughts and do compulsions to try to get immediate relief from the resulting distress. However, doing compulsions makes these intrusive thoughts more frequent and intense. Therefore, helping people with OCD manage their emotional reactions (often by accepting uncertainty) and resist their compulsions is an effective long-term strategy to reduce OCD symptoms.

Dr. Jamie Feusner, MD
Chief Medical Officer at NOCD

With that epiphany, I started feeling better and regaining my life—but I felt frustrated too. If almost everyone has intrusive thoughts, but only people with OCD perform compulsions due to the level of distress they cause, why do we call the illness obsessive-compulsive disorder and not compulsive disorder, or CD, to focus on the behaviors that drive the illness?

At that point, I decided to “wage war on compulsions” by creating an always-on platform that could offer people the right balance of “tech and touch” needed to prevent compulsions and regain their joy in life, no matter when OCD flares up. To emphasize our focus on compulsion prevention, I called the platform NOCD: standing for NO-COMPULSION-DISORDER.

NOCD offers people access to OCD-trained licensed mental health providers, therapeutic adherence tools, and peer support communities whenever a provider isn’t around. The platform is being used today by tens of thousands of people with OCD globally, and recent research with NOCD supports its model's clinical efficacy.

Live life compulsion-free. And if you need help, check out NOCD.

Stephen founded NOCD after feeling frustrated with a lack of treatment resources and support during his own OCD recovery. He enjoys running hill sprints, listening to audiobooks, and eating breakfast no matter the time of day.

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