Fear of ridicule stops people with OCD from seeking help

I can relate to Professor Chong Siow Ann's commentary (The tragedy of obsessive compulsive disorder that goes untreated; Feb 7), as I have been living with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) for more than 20 years.

It takes a long time for patients with OCD to seek help because they know that by coming forward, they face potential mockery.

I was hurt when I found out that my former boss told my then boyfriend that I am "mad" and to be careful. My colleagues used to say that I am "psycho" behind my back. When a colleague saw brochures from the Singapore Association of Mental Health on my table, she told everyone about it, embarrassing me to the core.

Even mental health professionals made fun of my condition, and that dented my self-esteem. One psychologist mimicked me and made me look like a fool.

If patients are to be encouraged to seek treatment, then there must be a fair and non-judgemental assessment. They should not be ridiculed.

It is difficult enough for them to muster the courage to even open up about their illness.

For patients with OCD, one of their greatest fears is losing everything - their job, friendships, respect and dignity - if they reveal too much of themselves.

They are aware of their obsessions and compulsions. Let us not add to their misery by calling them "morons", "weirdos" or "incapable", or by telling them to stop what they are doing immediately. It is not that simple or easy.

The support of family and friends plays a crucial role on the road to recovery. A patient is more motivated to get well if he has a network of support.

With time, proper medication and cognitive behaviour therapy, OCD sufferers can be treated and lead more meaningful and fruitful lives and contribute much to society. I am living proof of that.

Patients with OCD have a place in our society and deserve to be treated in the same manner as everyone else.

Let us not ostracise them because of their illness or make them suffer their pain and anguish in silence.

Julia Abdullah (Miss)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 28, 2017, with the headline 'Fear of ridicule stops people with OCD from seeking help'. Print Edition | Subscribe