Organization offers help for OCD sufferers

October 15, 2009 (CHICAGO) It's a condition that often gives people anxiety and makes them feel embarrassed and alone. OCD is characterized by obsessive thoughts and/or compulsive behaviors that significantly interfere with daily life.

Susan Richman was a young attorney when an incident changed her life.

"When I was 28 it actually was triggered by seeing mouse, a dead mouse in my apartment and thought it might have been contaminated and has spread that contamination and chains of contamination, and I started cleaning whatever I had in apartment with the Lysol, Isopropol alcohol. Suddenly I found that I couldn't stop cleaning, and within a very short period of time I was cleaning six to eight hours a day," Richman said. "I really become completely disabled for three years where I could barely leave my house I couldn't go grocery shopping."

Anthony Barone also has OCD.

"Seven years old I would be in bed, and my mother had a crucifix up in the dining room where I was sleeping, and I would have to get up ten, twelve times and touch this crucifix," Barone said. "As I started school about 9 years old, in the fourth grade, I would have an assignment like arithmetic assignment , mathematic assignment and I would constantly erase and go over and go over, and obviously I never finished the assignment. I failed the fourth grade."

"In 1987 I was diagnosed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I was 50 years old; I knew nothing about the disease. I've never heard the name. I lived a whole life from seven years old to 50 years old thinking that I was the only person in the world that had it. I thought I was a mentally ill person," Barone said.

Both Richman and Barone's OCD are under control.

For Richman, what helped was exposure and response prevention therapy, a behavior therapy treatment that helps people with OCD get over their fears and reclaim their lives.

Barone found help from a therapist and an organization called OCD Chicago. It is the only not for profit organization in the Chicago area that is devoted to helping people with OCD issues.

Ellen Sawyer is the executive director.

"The number one question that people want to know is if there's help," Sawyer said.

Of course the answer is yes.

"No one will ever be cured but it can be controlled," Sawyer said. "We would like everybody in the world who has OCD to know that there's a name for this disorder, and that they're not alone and there is a treatment for it."

I'm a perfect case where I was disabled by this and now it hardly impedes on my life," Richman said.


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