By Erika Steele, Contributing Writer
Northborough – Whether you’re a parent taxiing kids around, a CEO orchestrating a successful business strategy, or a driver weaving through traffic to and from work, anxiety affects everyone.
Janet Singer understands this concept, having watched her son, Dan, grapple with the debilitating effects of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). A popular blogger on the subject, she incorporated her experience into “Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery,” which will be published Jan. 16. Her blog, www.ocdtalk.wordpress.com, receives over 15,000 hits a month and reaches readers in 167 countries. She hopes her book will go even further.
“While my blog deals with anything and everything to do with OCD, I wanted to write about Dan’s whole journey as I believe there are so many lessons to be learned, the most important being that there is always hope,” Singer said.
“Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery” is her account of the courage and perseverance of a young man who at times was hindered by the very people who were supposed to be helping him. What makes the book unique is the expert commentary that is interwoven throughout.
It was not always a subject she was cognizant of, especially with regard to the effects and repercussions of OCD, defined by the National Library of Medicine as an anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something.
Singer, a Northborough resident for 25 years, admits she was ignorant of the signs that her son portrayed, saying that people with OCD are often so good at hiding symptoms that they easily go unnoticed. It was not until 17-year-old Dan diagnosed himself with a little help from the Internet that she came to understand the severity of the disease.
“My only knowledge of OCD was from what I had learned from the media,” said Singer. “When Dan told me he had OCD, the first thing I said to him was, ‘Are you sure? You never wash your hands.’”
She soon realized it was not just about hygiene. Her son was not eating. He would select a specific chair because it was “safe” and he wouldn’t go into certain buildings on his college campus. Dan was battling with himself, living a life completely dictated by his compulsions. Upon his self-diagnosis, his family embarked on a journey that included seven therapists, 10 medications, and a nine-week stay at a world-renowned residential treatment program. On paper, the Singers were following the right route to recovery, but, in reality, much of what they were doing was wrong.
“Our family floundered and then fought our way through a disorienting maze of treatments and programs, desperately trying to find the best help possible for Dan,” Singer recalled. “Although we didn’t realize it at the time, we were misguided. Neither Dan’s longtime pediatrician nor his local therapist seemed to know that there is a specific treatment for OCD.”
Without giving away the ending, the story Singer shares is positive. She is now an advocate for OCD awareness and Dan is a college graduate working in his chosen field, living his life to the fullest – proof that those suffering from OCD can not only recover, but triumph. It is the message Singer hopes to convey in her book.
“My goal is to spread the word that OCD, no matter how severe, is treatable,” maintained Singer, who will host a book launch at Tatnuck Booksellers in Westborough Saturday, Feb. 28. “Exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy is the frontline treatment for the disorder.”
The basis for ERP therapy is having the patient face their fears, so that the person with OCD is active in his recovery.
“The trick is to not give in to the OCD; by standing up to it you take away its power,” she said.