Is it possible to be cured of OCD?

Not as far as I know, but people and doctors love to encourage us with the tantalizing idea that you can conquer the OCD, get the better of it, and then use the skills and knowledge you’ve gained to aggressively strike when you notice it starting to come back into your life. So, basically you can tame OCD like a wild animal and then beat it back with a stick when it starts getting rabid again. Or something like that.

OCD = fire

My doctor likes to use the fire analogy—i.e., OCD is a fire that we are trying to put out. However, if you don’t properly extinguish it and leave some embers glowing at the bottom of the fire pit, with some gentle coaxing or even a little laziness, those embers can reignite and become a proper wildfire once again without much trouble.

This is why it’s not like someone can just “get over” OCD or suddenly be fine after some treatment. Yes, you can do your cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure response prevention, exposures, etc., and bring the OCD into a manageable and livable state, but it’s not like it goes away completely. At least that’s not been my experience.

In remission?

I’ve had some pretty good states of remission, or at least times wherein my life wasn’t being controlled by the OCD. Sometimes they only last a day or a few hours, but they happen. And this is where you can start getting cocky. You think, “Oh fabulous! I am better now! Hooray!” and you begin to get lax. You start rationalizing that one or two extra hand washes here or there won’t be a big deal because you are “better” now. You use that hand sanitizer even though you’ve been going on a month without it at all (and no one has gotten sick or died). You check the stove one time before going to bed. And then, suddenly, it’s back. The OCD has returned. Goodbye, remission, hello going to therapy every two weeks again instead of every four.

And it’s really disheartening. It’s disheartening to see and feel such good progress only to have to come back to square one or two or even five and begin again. You feel a bit ashamed. You start to wonder why. Why doesn’t it stick? Why do I fall back into these habits so readily? Why won’t the OCD just leave me alone?

The ongoing struggle

After General Conference, I like to reread the talks in the Ensign, and I think I was reading this talk by Elder Paul V. Johnson when I had the sad realization that I probably wasn’t ever going to be cured from OCD. It wasn’t something they could remove with surgery or that I would just suddenly get over. I guess I’d never really looked forward to when I was forty or fifty or seventy to imagine that I will still be dealing with obsessive compulsive disorder in one way or another. I will still probably be subconsciously counting my hand washes or worrying about copyright or feeling anxious about driving down narrow streets or whatever new or old obsession/compulsion it will dictate matters at that time.

It’s a struggle that I will likely have to overcome and keep overcoming again and again. I will go into states of remission and then fall back into old habits again and again. It’s like an addiction that can never be completely forgotten. It’s a part of me that makes me who I am while also hiding and distracting me from who I am. Does that make sense?

Anyway, I suppose we all just have to keep going without getting too discouraged. Because that’s what life is about. Different struggles, different challenges, but the same old enduring to the end.

Do you think it’s possible to be cured from a mental illness? What do you think of this idea of “remission”?

One thought on “The elusive state of “remission””

  1. Awesome insights. I really liked your statement at the end where you said it’s distracting from who you are. Isn’t this something everyone deals with in some form? Our failings distract ourselves snd others from seeing the goodness in each of us. That’s life though. Also, one thing we can look forward to with a surety is that we all will be resurrected and be free of all our frailties! Now that’s cool. I guess though we do need to work on our spiritual progress as that continues on.

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