by Janet Singer

Janet Singer-OCD-personal-storyMy son Dan was in college, and by the time I arrived at his dorm, he had not eaten in more than a week. He was spending hours at a time sitting in one particular chair, hunched over with his head in his hands, doing absolutely nothing. He could not enter most of the buildings on campus and could only do minimal amounts of work at specific times. To top it all off, he was self-injuring. My son was in the throes of severe OCD.

And so his summer was spent at a world-renowned residential program specializing in OCD. It was here that he stopped self-injuring and where he finally got the right treatment. I credit intensive exposure response prevention (ERP) therapy for literally saving his life. But there was a tradeoff. For Dan to function well enough to participate in ERP therapy, he needed medication. Within two weeks he was taking fluoxetine, clonazepam, and risperidone.

Dan made progress, and with a strong support system in place (a psychiatrist, a therapist who specialized in OCD, and his family) he headed back to college. Dan struggled with anxiety and depression throughout the semester, endured many medication changes, but never gave up.

Asking Questions

I questioned Dan’s doctor about the effects of all his medications, but was told, in no uncertain terms, that he needed them. But when Dan was taking three more, I finally had enough. This was not my son; this was a walking zombie. It was time to find new doctors.

I do not pretend to be an expert on this disorder, but I advise anyone dealing with OCD to find a competent therapist who specializes in this illness.

Connecting with new health care providers was the best thing we could have done. Dan’s complete physical and subsequent tests revealed tachycardia (fast heart rate), sky-high triglycerides, possible pericarditis, and a 35-pound weight gain in just a few months. These symptoms and conditions were all attributed to the drugs that he was taking.

Dan’s new psychiatrist began weaning him off of each medication with amazing results. It was as if layers and layers of crud were being scraped off while glimpses of my son were emerging. His test results returned to normal. The extra weight dropped off. His anxiety and depression lifted, and in Dan’s own words his OCD was “practically nonexistent.”

Trusting My Instincts

Now I’m not recommending that everyone stop taking medication for OCD, and I do believe that at some point Dan probably needed many of the meds he was taking. What I am saying is that we all need to be acutely aware of the potential side effects of some of these heavy-duty medications. Trust your instincts. Get another opinion. Do your own research.

Of course Dan’s story is far from over, but it is one of triumph. Now at age 21 he has been completely off of medication for two years, is back at school, and is living life to the fullest. Despite many obstacles, Dan fought his way back from severe OCD and reclaimed his life. He is living proof that there is hope for all OCD sufferers. Everyone needs to know that OCD, even if severe, is treatable.

Janet Singer’s son was debilitated by severe OCD. She writes a blog about her family’s finding its way through a maze of treatments and programs. Ms. Singer is a co-author with Seth J. Gillihan, PhD, of Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery.

"I advise anyone dealing with OCD to find a competent therapist who specializes in this illness."


Read Mrs. Singer article, very encouraging, but would like to know how did her son finally got better, My son is basically paralyzed by his OCD. But refuses treatment, he is too afraid to confront it. Any help out-there?

Article was great but it lacked what most people are trying to understand our identify. What actually helped your son?

I have been suffering for over 20 run years with severe OCD I am on disability for this mental illness which is rare nowadays because people can’t see and illness just write it off as a person being weak or even lying. In regards to your son the biggest hurdle at first was admitting it and starting to get treatment I started in the early 90s when it was in “cool“ to be on medication or see a therapist but once I confronted her school was a little easier but it could just be my situation Friends and other school members and even the staff were supportive because this was the first time they had heard of this but I understand that a lot of places aren’t as excepting of mental illness even nowadays but I really think the first step asked to be acceptance it makes receiving help so much easier but that is something which son has to want any need to have the results to except it no matter what He fears I hope he can one day hopefully soonBut hopefully he has better luck with treatment when I say I’ve been dealing with it for over 21 years is because it’s still prevalent part of almost every second of my life still I’m not saying he won’t be helped I’m just saying sometimes it doesn’t get “cured” like so many people wish

My son has been in and out of OCD hospitals for the last 3 years. He is paralyzed by his OCD as well. He gets treatment but it is a stubborn illness. McClean in Boston and Rogers in Wisconsin is the BEST treatment for residential. My son was with others who had the same diagnosis.

we have been through many treatment, and medications, in my opinion our sons ocd is worse then ever, he dropped out of college, cant keep a job, and he was medicated, now not medicated no difference, she says it can be cured, well my ears are open, he has a severe form, no relief in sight for us, i am depressed daily, i am a fighter, but i want to give up, this is so bad