One of the most difficult things about rOCD is to get a proper diagnosis of the condition/disease. A lot of people focus on the relationship aspect but the real problem is the obsessive aspect (OCD) and this is what needs to be diagnosed. The relationship is a symptom not the real disease.Imagine this – someone has a brain tumour that is causing huge headaches. We keep on taking headache pills and trying to solve this, when this is just a symptom.It is not going to be very effective. This is why I have used the designation rOCD and not ROCD throughout this blog.
Although I am not clinically trained (psychology/psychotherapy/medical) , I believe a lot of sufferers go on misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all. This is partly due to two reasons:
the “newness” of the condition leading to lack of awareness from mental health professionals AND
because rOCD can also overlap with “normal” relationship problems and other mental health issues.
Let me talk about reason number 1 first. The first time I experienced rOCD symptoms I looked for help from a qualified person. I was a complete emotional mess. I did not understand what was happening to me and I was totally confused. I only had two sessions as our sessions were turning into psychoanalysis sessions e.g. how my parents’ relationship affected me. I wanted some quick relief of my symptoms not a never ending talk about the past.
In the meanwhile I was also looking for help from my family doctor (GP how we call it in the UK). I knew that I had had some depression symptoms in the past and I always managed to manage it. Everyone has some bad days, right? What was slowly “killing me ” was the sleepless nights due to anxiety and sometimes panic attacks. When I first went to see my GP, she signed me off from work for a while to get some rest. I thought I was possessed because I felt “bad” or uneasy all the time (apparently feeling possessed is a common description of anxiety among religious people). Funny enough my girlfriend’s sister picked up on this when I was trying to break up with her sister (now my wife!) due to my anxiety symptoms. She gave me some calming medicine which helped and advised me to look for medical help.
So I was on the road to “fixing” some of my physical symptoms. After I dropped the word depression in my GP’s office, I did a computer test for the severity of my depression and I was prescribed a drug Citalopram. It was a rough ride in the beginning but it did help with my anxiety and depression in the long run. Now I am off my meds.
After deciding to look for another therapist, I ended up going to my University’s help centre run by psychologists and other mental health professionals. There I was, a grown man in his 30’s having to ask for psychological help after having to stop my post graduate studies for a while. Unfortunately, the two psychotherapists that I saw had no knowledge of ROCD and approached it from a CBT point of view. That is basically changing the way that you think to change the way that you feel. I felt I was closer to the answer but I wasn’t there yet. It was kind of helping with my anxiety and depression but I was running scared of losing my girlfriend.
Then I decided to look for help online by googling my symptoms and found out about rOCD. I found a professional that understood rOCD, had 4 sessions costing me around £300 but “finally” had an answer to it. Once you know what you are fighting against, your chances of winning greatly increase. I felt I was on the right path but I had to end at the 4 session mark because I could not afford more. This was all done on the phone using the regular 50 minute talk format. I picked up a lot of things from it, made me move forward with hope and had a new resolve in life.
One of the things I learned about in the previous process was mindfulness. I went back to the University centre and enrolled on short course on mindfulness. It was agreat and helped me gain a better understanding on how to tackle rOCD.
Now for reason number 2, how to distinguish rOCD from “normal” relationship problems? This might be the thing that keeps most rOCD sufferers awake at night and that drives the anxiety and constant barrage of thoughts. If this is the case, in my experience, most likely it is ROCD. It does not help when everything else tells us otherwise:
- Friends that we go to and discuss these things with them and they project our fears on us (some of them truly help though)
- Hollywood, TV and magazines that portray “real love” i.e. if it is true love, they will live happily ever after
- Our misconceptions about love and relationships caused by our own perception or poor role models
- Our brain that is constantly looking for exceptions and making associations e.g. “if this was love I would be feeling this way”
Summing up, Reason no.1 + Reason no.2 = complete mess in diagnosis
The answer: Seek (r)OCD specialists AND find the answer for yourself.
I say “and” because even with my diagnosis being made by a specialist rOCD therapist, I had a lot of trouble accepting it. Sometimes the symptoms are there screaming rOCD but it is very difficult for rOCD sufferers to even accept the diagnosis. How can we be sure about something when the problem IS being sure about something? Confusing? Yes, we both know it is. First, we have to put the brain in a better place to get there. I will address this further in my next post.