In our Mormons with OCD chat community, one member recommended that I check out one of President Uchtdorf’s talks from this most recent conference about fear. I remember listening to this talk, but I’m grateful for the push to read it again, this time looking at it from the perspective of how OCD works and functions.

The Force of Fear

In the talk, “Perfect Love Casteth Out Fear,” President Uchtdorf states that “fear has often been used as a means to take action.” He primarily focused on how individuals use fear as a motivator or weapon, but thinking about it in light of mental illness, I have seen that obsessive compulsive disorder also uses fears to get us to take action—to do compulsions. We fear certain things will or won’t happen if we don’t engage in these compulsions. This fear of the unknown or of the terrible things that “could” happen leads us to remain entrapped in negative behavioral and cognitive cycles.

A few paragraphs later, President Uchtdorf says that “Worse, we sometimes use similar methods to get others to do what we want.” Sadly, I’ve allowed the OCD to push me to force compulsions and actions on my husband or children. I have used fear or other negative threats to get my family members to do things in order to appease my own obsessions.  Later on he talks about how some demand compliance with their own arbitrary rules, but when others don’t follow these random rules, they chasten them verbally, emotionally, and sometimes even physically.” I’m ashamed to say that I have demanded compliance with arbitrary OCD “rules” and chastened my children or husband if they didn’t want to comply with them.

But Does It Work?

In the next part of his talk, President Uchtdorf hits on important things to remember when he says, “It is true that fear can have a powerful influence over our actions and behavior. But that influence tends to be temporary and shallow. […] People who are fearful may say and do the right things, but they do not feel the right things. They often feel helpless and resentful, even angry.”

These words! Aren’t these words so true for those of us with obsessive compulsive disorder? Yes, we feel that we have to do certain things to feel better, but when those things are compulsions, motivated by the OCD and its fear tactics, we do not feel better after we do them. We are not fulfilled or comforted. We do feel that helplessness. We do feel resentful. We feel angry that our hard work hasn’t fixed the anxiety and worry. Fear doesn’t bring about solutions. OCD’s compulsions don’t actually make us feel better.

Moving Forward Anyway

Of course, President Uchtdorf connects his ideas with the Savior, telling us that “He wants to change more than just our behaviors. He wants to change our very natures. He wants to change our hearts.” I believe that Christ wants us to feel freedom from fear in general and from the fears brought on by mental illness as well. As we seek out and engage in professional help, we can start to understand and change our behaviors and thinking, at least as far as mental illness is concerned. As we do this, we can also become better disciples of the Savior. We can assist others in getting help and also find the time and energy to be better followers of Christ.

Near the end of the talk, President Uchtdorf says that “we need not be paralyzed by fear because bad things might happen. Instead we can move forward with faith, courage, determination, and trust in God.” Even for those who may not share my religious faith, these words can still bring hope. We do not have to let our mental illness paralyze us “just because” something bad could occur. We need to move forward towards the things we may fear and, in doing so, realize that they aren’t so bad after all.

As President Uchtdorf says, “In the face of fear, let us find our courage, muster our faith, and have confidence….” 

What do you think of this connection between fear and OCD?