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The Value of Support Groups for People who are OCD

written by: Amanda Smith • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 9/26/2010

Finding a great OCD support group that is specific to your symptoms is one of the most therapeutic tools around. Not only does it provide you with a sense of nonjudgmental confidentiality, you can also learn a lot from the stories and experiences of others.

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    What are Support Groups for OCD?

    Support groups are made up of individuals suffering from or have experiencing a similar illness. OCD support groups consist of individuals whose lives are inhibited daily by obsessive thoughts and/or compulsive rituals. These groups can be very beneficial to someone who lives with OCD because it gives them a place to be themselves and speak about their mental illness in an environment that is understanding and non-judgemental. Support groups are great for people with OCD because many people think that their obsessive thoughts are bizzare and often feel that they cannot talk about them with their friends and family members. Being in a group with others who have intrusive obsessive thoughts gives the individual the opportunity to discuss their seemingly strange thoughts with others who are experiencing the same feelings of anxiety. Support groups should be completely confidential and the information discussed should not be shared with anyone outside of the group.

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    What are the Benefits?

    It is always helpful to connect with others who are going through, or have gone through, a similar situation. The onset of OCD can be very scary at times, because we are not used to the symptoms and intrusive thoughts can invoke intense anxiety. It is a long and tough process to be able to dismiss intrusive thoughts as just "one of those OCD thoughts." They often feel incredibly realistic and possible. It helps to discuss them with others for many reasons, like those listed below.

    • Talking about your intrusive thoughts is therapeutic in itself. You are exposing yourself to the thoughts that scare you the most, thereby taking away some of the power behind them. Its hard to talk about your intrusive thoughts with people who don't understand OCD. This makes a support group very useful.
    • You will hear other people discuss their symptoms. You think that you have weird thoughts? When you hear the thoughts that others have, it makes it clear that you are not the only one suffering from faulty thinking. You may hear someone fixated and anxious about something that would provide you with little to no anxiety. This is how you can begin to understand that OCD is not about each individual thought, it is about the anxiety behind all of them.
    • You can learn about what helps others cope with their OCD and what natural remedies they have found to be effective.
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    How do I get Involved?

    There are many ways that you can go about finding a support group for people who suffer from OCD. The key to finding the right one for you is all about the research. OCD is a very dynamic illness as there are many different symptoms that can come about. Someone who is compuslive about handwashing may need a different kind of support than someone who is debilitated by the thought that they have may molested a child. This is why it is good to scope out the different groups in your area and find the one that seems like the right match for you.

    The best way to find the OCD support group for you is to consult with your primary mental health professional to see if there are any groups that are recommended in your area. Your therapist and/or psychiatrist knows your symptoms and may be able to direct you to a specific kind of group. You can also use your favorite search engine to search online for support groups in your area. Meetup.com is a wonderful tool for finding local groups in your area.

    Sometimes group therapy for OCD may be offered and could be covered by your insurance. This is a little different from a typical support group in that it would be led by a mental health professional, but you will still get the same benefits of community. You may even want to create your own group if you know others that would be interested in meeting.

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    Resources

    This article is based on my experience working in mental health.