I thought I was the only one who suffered from it. Not until
after I had recovered did I realize that I wasn’t alone. About 2
percent of adults and 1 percent of children experience similar
symptoms. Only later did I learn that it had a name:
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
The symptoms I experienced for several years were the
compulsion to touch things a certain number of times and relentless
anxiety if I resisted that compulsion.
Some people say this disease is caused by stress or trauma. I
don’t think that was the cause in my case, but through my junior-high
years, I lived with the embarrassment of these symptoms in front of my
friends and family.
Imagine not being able to walk through a department store
without touching at least five articles of clothing 12 times each. Or
think of what it would be like to be surrounded by other teens as you
walk down the hall to your class, looking down constantly to make sure
you didn’t step on any lines in the floor tile. Then, if you
accidentally stepped on a line, you’d have to back up and step over it
again. Picture being unable to leave a room without touching the
doorknob about 15 times.
It was awkward and frustrating, but I felt powerless to stop
because the obsession prompting the behaviors was so frightening. I
could not get over the fear that someone in my family—or even a
friend or acquaintance—would be injured the same day I failed to count
or touch things a certain number of times.
Toward the end of my junior-high years, I started developing a
relationship with Jesus. I spent time reading His Word, praying,
absorbing Christian testimonials, and filling my mind with thoughts of
Jesus’ goodness and love. I had faith that nothing was impossible with
Him, and yet still the OCD symptoms remained. I still felt compelled to
touch certain items repeatedly.
During this same time, my older brother, Joshua, had also
becomea Christian. I had seen God transform his life in awesome ways,
and this was a huge encouragement to me in my own spiritual walk.
One day I told him about some of the compulsions I struggled
with. (Somehow I had managed to hide the symptoms from him.) He looked
at me with a gentle smile and said, “Karen, you know that isn’t
biblical. You think you have to do these repetitive things but you
don’t. Jesus doesn’t ask it of you, and you have to choose
whether to obey Him or this compulsion.”
My brother pointed out that I was saying the compulsion was
stronger than God, and I wasn’t trusting God. Instead, I was
behaving as if the disorder were in control of me and my family and
After that conversation with my brother, I began to change.
Resisting was difficult at first, for the fear embedded in the
obsession was strong. Yet I had already purposed in my heart to trust
Jesus and not my feelings.
Eventually I became free of the bondage I had been in by
trusting in Jesus and by the power of the simple truth told to me in
such a gentle way.
I think sometimes that we underestimate how much power there
is in the plain and beautiful truth of the gospel. I am so grateful for
how that power set me free.
Karen recovered from her early-stage Obsessive
Compulsive Disorder (OCD) without professional help. Her treatment of
OCD behaviors by willpower supported by religious faith is not so
common. A combination of medication and/or behavioral therapy, which
teaches the person how to deal with and diminish obsessions, can
successfully treat OCD. Other common obsessions include:
- Fear of contamination
- Fear of violence or aggression
- The need for symmetry or orderliness
- Sexual obsessions
- Cleaning (such as frequently washing hands)
- Checking (such as checking repeatedly that the stove is turned off)
- Repeating (such as repeating a word or an action over and over)
- Slowness (such as spending hours arranging objects)
- Hoarding (such as being unable to throw away newspapers and junk
If you suffer from OCD, the following three Web sites
may help you to begin the healing process:
- Obsessive-Compulsive Foundation
- The Awareness Foundation for OCD and Related Disorders
- Anxiety Disorders Association of America
Karen DeBoe writes from Sherman, Texas.