Understanding Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
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Narrator: This is Tia. She is 10. This is her story.
Tia: Must brush teeth for exactly two minutes or something bad will happen!
Must flick the light switch off and on 27 times or something bad will happen!
Can’t let foods touch each other or bad things will happen!
Can’t let other kids touch me or bad things will happen!
Must brush teeth for exactly two minutes or bad things will happen!
Must flick the light switch off and on 27 times or something bad will happen!
This is exhausting. I don’t know why I have to do it, I don’t want to do it, but I have to do it!
Chi: Phew, that really does sound exhausting!
Tia: Huh? Who’s there?!
Axon, Pump, Skindy, Chi, Gastro, Abacus: The Medikidz!
Chi: Hey, Tia, we saw you struggling with your OCD and wanted to help you understand what it’s all about!
Tia: How can you understand what I’m going through? Do any of you have OCD?
Chi: No, but...
Gabriel: ...That’s why they brought me!
My name’s Gabriel. I have OCD too, and I’m here to share my story with you.
Tia: You do? Wow, I’ve never met anyone else with OCD!
Chi: We’ve got a lot to learn! Let’s get comfortable.
OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
An obsession is a worrying thought.
Gabriel: A compulsion is an action that the OCD makes you do, even if you know it’s silly.
Tia: Like when I have to switch the lights on and off?
Gabriel: Exactly. And disorder means problem. OCD is an illness, like asthma or diabetes.
Abacus: OCD is something that happens in a part of your brain called the basal ganglia. When you encounter something dangerous, the basal ganglia sends a message to other parts of your brain to alert you that something is wrong.
Axon: If you have OCD, the basal ganglia keeps sending you the “something is wrong” message even when there isn’t any danger.
Gabriel: The thing is, for people like us, the worries can be really big. We do a lot of things to try to make them go away, but they keep coming back. And they get in the way of all the things we would like to be doing.
Obsessions are thoughts that don’t go away. They keep going around and around in your head, even when you try to ignore them!
Tia: That happens to me all the time! They’re like gnats buzzing around my brain and they won’t leave me alone!
Narrator: Danger – Germs – Sick – Fire – Fail
Gastro: People with OCD worry about lots of different things, like germs making you sick, something bad happening to you or someone you care about, or even that you might hurt someone or do something bad.
Gabriel: One of my obsessions was with gaining weight or eating anything unhealthy.
I was always worried about getting sick.
I couldn’t even look at unhealthy foods without feeling worried!
Abacus: Compulsions are things you think you have to do to get rid of the anxiety. They make it go away, but then it comes right back.
Doing the action might make you feel safer and less worried.
Gabriel: If you’re worried about germs, you might wash your hands lots of times.
I used hand sanitizer all the time. I was so worried about germs that after I used it, I made my mom wash the bottle!
Skindy: If you’re worried that something might make you sick, you might ask your mom or dad over and over again if they’re sure it’s safe for you to eat.
Tia: I definitely do that!
Brother: It’s not going to bite you!
Mom: Don’t worry, sweetie, the broccoli doesn’t have germs. It’s safe to eat.
Axon: If you’re worried someone is going to break into your house, you might need to check that the door is locked a certain number of times.
Okay, laser grid is activated...just had to make sure!
Abacus: You’ve made sure five times now!
Pump: You might have to touch both shoulders at the same time, or say certain things in your head.
Tia: I do that just to get the right feeling!
Chi: Sometimes you don’t know what you’re worried about, but you just don’t feel right until you do certain actions, like line things up or count when you go up the stairs.
Gabriel: Having OCD can make you feel anxious and frightened. You might also feel sad and tearful. It’s common to feel ashamed and guilty too.
I used to be so scared of my food getting contaminated that sometimes I couldn’t even eat dinner with my family. My OCD made me miss out on a lot of family time.
Abacus: Doing these things can make your worries go away for a while. But they come back, and get stronger and stronger over time.
Tia: Yeah, I always feel better when I do them, but it never lasts!
Skindy: You might end up spending a lot of time doing your actions over and over, and miss out on things that make you happy, like spending time with friends and doing messy things.
Tia: Yeah, my OCD is so bad it’s hard for me to sit near other kids, which, as you can imagine, creates a problem when trying to make friends.
Hey! I like your hair!
Girl: Ummm, why is she yelling at me?
Tia: A lot of times I just get so embarrassed. I hate how I’m feeling and it’s hard for other kids to understand because I look fine!
Gabriel: I know. I felt the same way for a long time. I felt alone, like I must be the only kid in the world feeling that way, but I learned that having OCD is nothing to be ashamed of.
Axon: And you are definitely not alone! Lots of people have it, boys, girls, and adults too. Around 3 in 100 people have OCD.
Abacus: That means that if there are 100 people in your school, it is likely that 3 of them will have OCD.
Gabriel: Don’t be tempted to hide how you are feeling! If you think you might have OCD, it’s important to tell someone you trust, so they can help you. I talked to my dad.
Tia: I can talk to my mom. She helps me when I’m having trouble.
Chi: Just so you know, Tia, your parents may want to take you to see your doctor. Your doctor will ask you questions about your thoughts and feelings.
Abacus: Your doctor will try to find out if your worries are caused by OCD, or by something else. Remember, everyone has worries sometimes.
Gabriel: If your doctor thinks that you have OCD, they will suggest some treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy, also known as CBT.
Gabriel: Cognitive means how you think, and behavioral means what you do. Your therapist can help you get rid of your OCD by changing the ways you think and what you do.
Doctor: I know exactly what this is. I know how to help you.
Gabriel: Your therapist will explain your OCD and help you make a list of all your worries, from the smallest to the largest.
Then he’ll show you how to fight back against your OCD, one worry at a time, by letting yourself feel anxious without doing your compulsion. You see that the worry goes up and then comes down. You do it over and over until that thing doesn’t cause you any worry any more.
Once you start fighting back against your OCD, you feel stronger and it feels weaker. You don’t have to do what your OCD tells you to do. You’ll feel in charge of your life again.
Chi: Some people with OCD will take a type of medicine called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, SSRI for short.
This is a tablet that you take once or twice every day for as long as you need it. The medicine can help you feel less anxious.
Abacus: Medication can make you feel less anxious, so you can fight the OCD better. Some people do CBT, some take medication, and some do both.
Gabriel: Here’s your own medichron computer with everything you learned about OCD on it, so you can help other kids too!
Tia: Awesome! Bye Medikidz! Bye Gabriel! Thanks for sharing your story with me! It really helped!
Abacus, Chi, Gastro, Pump, Skindy, Axon: You're welcome!
Tia: With therapy, medication and lots of practice saying no to my OCD, I’m feeling so much better. No more teeth timer for me!
Now lights go off once in the morning, and off once at night! I can go to sleep without so many worries! And if I do get worried, I know how to handle it!
Instead, I’m excited about all the good things that are happening! I still get worried sometimes. But those things don’t control my life anymore. I do!