I Counsel : Some Reflections
There are hundred shades of OCD, probably more. Obsessions and compulsion have been there, for thousands of years, probably more. And tens of terminologies have been used to describe the phenomenon, probably more. Now, that I have iterated the ritualistic probably more in the magic number of times, I might begin to write the write-up, which I was about to write (again?). And, suddenly I realize that it has become even now. Oh, no! It has to be odd, for it to be safe, with the minimum acceptable odd number being three. So, I end this paragraph with a mortified, and rather inaudible p******y m**e, recited in my mind.
Terrible as it may sound, that’s how an OCD mind may work. Numerous associations are made between obsessions, compulsions and their ‘probable’ outcomes. In the last couple of years, I have counselled numerous OCD sufferers around the world. I would just like to pen-down some general observations here.
I Hit a Jackpot
The, little calculation above is from previous blog and it shows that OCD is quite common. 100+ visitors reach my little blog everyday, searching for keywords like OCD, blasphemous thoughts, intrusions, waswaas (Arabic for intrusions) etc. Most of them are from United Kingdom, United States of America, Pakistan and India. Although it can be traced back to ancient times, recent rise in the number of OCD sufferers is disturbing. Perhaps, OCD was a hidden epidemic, and once it was defined, the cases of actual sufferers came to surface more frequently OR perhaps OCD has some unexplored socio-cultural causes that seem to have increased exponentially in the last few decades. Whatever, the reason for the rise in the numbers may be, the first message, that the above image delivers to the OCD sufferers is YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There is perhaps someone else in your neighbourhood, in your class with a similar problem.
I don’t belong to any pharmaceutical company, and nor do I earn money from my blog through advertisement. So, when I say, I hit a jackpot, I am referring to the opportunities I get to help human kind because I tackled a disorder that’s quite common.
‘Counsel me, if you may’ attitude
The above paragraph will be a relief for many, realizing that what they suffer from is common and treatable. However, many others, will resort to what I call ‘counsel me, if you may’ attitude. They process the above information like this: ‘many people suffer from it, but my case is different and much more severe than others’. It’s almost as if they have made up the mind ‘not to recover’. Many people adhere to such mentality, unknowingly. If you find that in you, get rid of it now; no medicine, therapy will help you if you have decided already that your condition is beyond the comprehension of psychologists, untreatable, and much more severe than the normal cases out there.
The fact that you are wise enough to run a comparison and come up with this creative excuse that prevents you from making the effort to counter your disorder, in it-self proves, your condition isn’t that severe. You are finding comfort in that idea, because you are lacking motivation to make real effort to fight the disease.
So, before you think : ‘counsel me, if you may, but you know what, my condition is much severe than others…I don’t think traditional ways of treatment or therapy will have any effect on me, as my case is not ordinary….’, STOP. Stop waiting for some extra-ordinary miracle to happen, to drag you out of this disorder. This attitude is acting as a force-field that is repelling any positive effects of the therapy, treatments that you are going through.
You are not insane
Some people get worried that they are going insane and losing control of their faculties. That’s not true. People, who are insane, don’t know the difference between sanity and insanity. The fact that you are starting to question your sanity, is a proof in itself that you are perfectly sane. You carry out weird rituals that sound and look insane, but that do not define who you are. Those are alien aspects of your life that you need to shun.
Call it whatever you want
‘I am not diagnosed with OCD yet’. Although, they find all the signs in them, they are not ready to call their condition a ‘disorder’, and because society attaches stigmas with those having psychological disorders. And they are not ready to visit any psychologist, because that is considered a stigma too.
If you ask me, diagnosis isn’t that important. There are never any medical tests to confirm what kind of disorder a person is suffering from, and neither are there strict definitions of disorder. The understandings of disorders keep on changing and so do their definitions. It’s worth saying here, that everyone suffers from obsession with a particular thought/activity to some extent, however for some it starts causing mental pressure and disability, that is when it becomes an issue. And there are ‘trends’. Now, I talk to people with scrupulosity from around the globe, and all of them have similar problems. For instance, those who suffer from OCD related to blasphemous thoughts primarily, always tend to involve themselves in mental rituals rather than physical rituals. And those who suffer from obsession with cleanliness etc. tend to involve in physical rituals. It’s important that you understand this. Whether or not you have been diagnosed is not important here. What is important is that you are preoccupied with certain scrupulous thoughts that are disabling you and affecting your everyday performance.
Whether you want to call it obsessive compulsive disorder, melancholy, scrupulosity, anxiety, depression or waswaas etc. does not matter, as long as you realize that you suffer from a ‘condition’ that you need to get rid of, and there are people out there who have studied that ‘condition’ and can help you.
The Social Stigmas
In some societies, social stigmas attached with psychological disorders are a big hurdle in treatment and therapy. Sufferers are afraid of telling their problem to even their spouse. These social stigmas need to be eradicated through knowledge about psychological disorders, and how they are perfectly ‘normal’ and ‘common’ like ‘medical issues’.
Finding the Right Counselor
This is important. If you suffer from scrupulosity (religious OCD) an atheist psychologist might not be able to help you. There are cases where sufferers were asked to stop praying, as a solution to OCD and the counselling session ended as debate on theology. So, try to find psychologist who will understand your situation.
Counselling: An Art and a Science
Counselling is an art and a science. One can only be effective at counselling when he is creative enough empathize with the sufferer. Hence, not only it requires knowledge of different cultures, and their perceptions, it requires creativity, because although there are trends, and people suffering from similar disorders tend to have similar issues, every case is, nevertheless, ‘different’. So, counselling requires background study of remedies, therapies for particular disorders, careful understanding of various cultures and religions and the ability to empathize imaginatively.
Knowing what I know not
I have counselled people from various countries but every case is different. As a counselor we must always strive to increase our knowledge about various traditions, cultures and belief systems because we can never know enough.
It’s not easy. People cry when they narrate their problems to you (especially girls). In the beginning, it was quite tough for me. I would need to counsel myself after every counselling session. Counselling sessions would drain out my energy. With time one learns to be strong, however, it’s important that this does not take away your capability to empathize with the sufferer.
People are Awesome
I’ve met awesome people while treating OCD. I’ve found traits common in OCD sufferers. They tend to be fairly humble, intelligent and well-mannered.
The Pros and Cons of Freebies
Some people tend to ignore the value of what comes for free. So free counselling sessions, sometimes do not bring the desired effect, simply because the sufferer is not valuing the advice. If the same set of advice might have come from a paid counselling session with a qualified psychologist, the sufferer might have acted on it more seriously. There are trade-offs, however. If counselling is not free, many people would not bother to give it a go to begin with.
It brings great-joy when people who were disabled by terrible disorder, start living their life to the full again. And when they send their email of thanks, it gives me matchless sense of achievement, and a push to carry out what I am doing.