Boost outreach, support for anxiety illness

It is heart-warming to hear that more people have sought treatment for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), a testament to the increasing awareness that the public has of mental illness ("Call for greater support as more suffer anxiety illness"; Jan 3).

However, the fact that we are the OCD capital of the world, coupled with many people still not seeking treatment, suggests that more should be done to improve public awareness of the illness.

We should galvanise more resources and action into supporting these patients and their families, as well as encouraging treatment of the disease.

First, OCD patients usually remain silent in spite of their "inner suffering".

They have obsessions which are intrusive, as well as recurring thoughts that cause a lot of anxiety to them.

They then perform compulsions to "neutralise" the anxiety, albeit temporarily.

Some people do not engage in compulsions, or they engage in covert ones.

Regardless of the "type" of OCD, the disorder exacts a great mental affliction on sufferers, who often hesitate to seek help because they just cannot come to terms with the fact that they are suffering from a mental problem.

The time spent on compulsions and the anguish caused by obsessions have been shown to cause impairment of varying degrees to sufferers' daily lives.

Second, the people close to an OCD sufferer often suffer in other ways, too.

OCD, especially when left to deteriorate to a very serious stage, often causes great suffering to loved ones and close friends, who may have to bear the brunt of the sufferers' demanding behaviours.

Finally, OCD suffers from a few misconceptions that still need to be more widely addressed.

Some people think that OCD sufferers are concerned with only repetitive washing or cleaning, when, in reality, the sub-types of OCD are manifold.

It is a very disabling anxiety disorder with thoughts (obsessions) that clearly engender a great degree of distress or anxiety.

OCD is a potentially serious mental disorder, as shown by its high ranking in the leading causes of disability globally by the World Health Organisation.

I am confident that more outreach and support efforts will reach these sufferers and their loved ones.

Aaron Low Chin Yong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2016, with the headline 'Boost outreach, support for anxiety illness'. Print Edition | Subscribe