Five weeks of OCD exposure therapy, this is what happened

It’s been a month now, since we started D’s OCD treatment with a therapist. It’s a slow process, but I can also spot a tiny bit of progress. Not necessarily in the amount of compulsions he has (there are loads, and as soon as one goes, a new one pops up), but in the way we are dealing with OCD as a family.

After the diagnosis, while we were waiting for our first psychology appointment, it was as if a bomb had hit us. Mr Worry was absolutely everywhere, and so were the angry meltdowns, the high pitch frustrations, the screaming, and our inability to calm D or ourselves down. It was mayhem. We felt frustrated and at a loss. Now, although we still lose our patience now and then, we are accepting the new situation we find ourselves in, and try and be there for our son. As we start to understand more each day, we are able to support him the best we can.

therapy for ocd children
Photo by Kat Jayne on

Acceptance is key in OCD

We have to accept it, and so has he. “I wish there was a magic wizard, who could take Mr Worry away, mummy”, he said tonight. “I know”, I replied, “but that magic wizard is you.” We can be his coach, but at the end of the day, he has to fight OCD himself, with his team of cheerleaders around him. And that is so hard.

The school is now on board and instructed too, luckily, as D’s teacher is also new to this game. That helps. They help him finish his work, and take oral tests sometimes instead of written ones, to avoid the stress that comes with the erasing of each ‘wrong’ letter he writes down. That compulsion will be tackled in due course, obviously, but we only fight one or two compulsions at the time, otherwise the exposure therapy doesn’t work. The easy ones first, and then you slowly work yourself up the ladder. It’s a long ladder, by the way.

Photo by Mitchell Luo on

Mini steps mean progress too

But I already feel much more hopeful than even a week ago. This can all change again, of course, but right now, I see a shimmer of light. D is growing in self-esteem to beat Mr Worry, and when he feels good, he does beat him. “Take that, Mr Worry!” he said proudly in the mirror, as he walked past it no problem a few nights ago, without having to do his usual rituals of funny faces – or avoiding the mirror by crawling underneath it. We were so pleased for him. And it’s a major step forward. We constantly remind him that he was able to do the mirror-thing, so he will also be able to the rest. Slowly.

Today he came out of school telling me that he had been able to “ignore Mr Worry 9 times” and that he had done a short meditation in the toilets during class, when he felt a little stressed. That is a massive achievement! I taught him EFT tapping, and although there is a risk that this physical relaxation exercise becomes a compulsion in itself, it has been extremely effective in making D calm and relaxed inside. If you want to know more about EFT tapping and how it can help with OCD and anxiety, have a look at EFT Universe.

Photo by Gabby K on

Bedtime is hell for an OCD child

At bedtime, however, OCD is big and tiresome, and making the evening routine hellish. The getting changed, standing in front of the mirror, turning off the tap, switching off lights, picking a book off the shelf and putting it back, drinking water from a cup and placing the cup back, arranging teddies, and even turning the pages of the book… it is endless. It drives everybody mad, and it is so hard for us as parents to keep our cool and not get angry with our kid. Because it isn’t him.

unstuck movie ocd

We watched a great film this weekend, called Unstuck, which I recommend to anyone with an OCD child in their family. It’s a short 23-minute documentary about a group of children who managed to overcome OCD. It gave us hope (and made me cry). Two of the boys featured in it, has very similar urges and thoughts as D (erasing letters when writing, or the fear that he’d turn into someone else when not doing a certain compulsion). It was a perfect example for D to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel. But boy, what a lot to deal with in his tiny head.

Published by Nina’s Apartment blog

Creative thinker, digital nomad, freelance writer.

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