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How My Mom Conquered Her OCD


My mother was diagnosed with OCD when I was in the tenth grade. This news came as a revelation both to my mother and to the rest of my family, and it allowed my mother to seek more specific help through therapy.

At the time, I didn't want anything to do with the anxiety that my mother was dealing with; I was angry that I couldn't have the normal mother-daughter bond that most girls were experiencing. At times, I was worried that my mom would never get better, and I wanted desperately for her to try taking medication.

After I left for college, I didn't see my mom as much, and when I went home to visit, I was surprised by how much progress she was making with her therapist. I didn't believe that therapy could really make a difference without some kind of medication, but my mother was determined to prove me wrong.

My mom didn't realize that she had a disorder until she was well into adulthood, though she said that her OCD started as a child. OCD is often dormant until triggered by an excessively stressful event, and for my mother, this event was what my mom calls the "ultimate lack of control"—the death of her own mother at age 17. To deal with this loss, my mom would compulsively organize and was obsessed with tidiness. However, she says that her disorder truly became apparent when she started having close relationships, especially when she had kids. The need to constantly control her family proved very destructive.

Though my mother sought therapy for depression and anxiety over the years, what truly helped her was the behavioral therapy that she underwent with her most recent therapist. She says that she did exercises, like "letting the placemats not match" or "letting the laundry pile up." Like most recovering OCD sufferers, she got worse before she got better. She says that she often felt angry, possibly because of the extreme anxiety she felt from ignoring her compulsions. However, uncovering the hidden causes for her obsessions/compulsions, such as her mother's untimely death, helped my mom to reduce what she calls "the chaos" inside her, and therefore the compulsion to control everything around her.

Today, my mother is a completely different person; she is more patient, more relaxed, and a lot happier. She didn't take any psychiatric drugs; she worked through her pain and found her way to a better life. We are all proud of her progress, and she is a huge inspiration to me. In her own words:

"Only by letting go of the compulsions and obsessions can I come to see who I really am, what my strengths and weaknesses are. As I continue to grow as a person, I continue to address all aspects of my personality. Some things I like and some I don't. By consciously changing myself, I am moving on."

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