OCD Stockholm Syndrome

First things first, I am a guest blogger on Monday at my friend Hannah’s blog, Prayers of Light.  Over there you can read a little something I wrote about Digory Kirke, about finally getting to hear the rest of the story.  Fellow Narnia geeks like me and Hannah are more than welcome to check it out!

Let’s talk about OCD Stockholm Syndrome, yes?

OCD.  Obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Stockholm Syndrome.  When hostages love their captors/abusers.

OCD Stockholm Syndrome.  When obsessive-compulsives ironically cling to the disorder that holds them in bondage.

“OCD Stockholm Syndrome” isn’t a real term, but it’s a real thing– and one I don’t think we talk about that often.  It’s confusing and senseless, and I don’t claim to understand it myself.  But this blog is in the business of shining light in dark places (mmm, lights all around!), so I thought I’d write about it.

I hate OCD.  I really do.  I think it is an ugly, vile, reprehensible disorder that steals joy and leaves people in shackles.  So, tell me why it is that, after my cognitive-behavioral therapy was over, I asked my therapist, “Do I still have OCD?” and when he said, “Yes,” I felt relief.

I think I was worried about what I would lose.  OCD had woven its way through me and entangled itself so deeply through me that a big part of me was worried that I would lose my personality if I lost OCD.  I also thought I’d lose my reputation as the “thinker” amongst my circle of influence.  As a Christian, I worried that I would lose my desperation for Christ if this disorder vanished because, after all, hadn’t it motivated me toward loving my God?

Once I watched a talk show where an audience member asked a question to the girl on the stage suffering from anorexia.  The audience member had formerly been through treatment for anorexia herself, and she asked (with incredible insight), “Sometimes don’t you feel like anorexia is your best friend?” and the girl on the stage answered, “Yes.”

At the time that I watched this talk show, I had not yet undergone ERP, and I remember thinking, I understand that.

It’s bizarre, I know.

When I communicate with other obsessive-compulsives, there is often a theme of therapy-avoidance that runs deeper than just a distaste for the hard work and anxiety that characterizes Exposure and Response Prevention therapy.  There is this deep-seated worry that ERP will not only erase OCD and anxiety from their lives– but a part of themselves.

I didn’t like to talk about this with people because it seemed so contrary to everything I stood for.  How could I hate OCD with everything inside of me– and yet still cling to it with such a quiet desperation?  It made no sense, and even to this day, I still have not figured it out.


But I wanted to talk about it on my blog because it’s a real thing– a real thing that sometimes prevents sufferers from the relief that is available to them.  I don’t know a lot about this strange phenomenon, but I do know this: I was worried about losing my personality, reputation, and desperation for Christ, but now that my OCD is under control, I am finally the Jackie I was supposed to be; I am still a deep thinker but now my thoughts are productive and not circular, and I actually have a greater capacity for deep thought because I am not sent reeling in terror by my thoughts; and I finally feel the nearness of God.  Whatever was lost doesn’t compare to what I gained.

17 thoughts on “OCD Stockholm Syndrome

  1. Insightful post, Jackie. I agree that sometimes we may cling to that which is actually holding us captive. OCD may be making our lives miserable, but it’s familiar. It’s a way of living. It’s the way we deal with things. It’s comfortable. And yes–we think it’s who we are. So we cling to it.Having said that, we can’t discount that OCD did influence us. We just have to somehow separate the disease from the person.

  2. This post is a real eye-opener for me, Jackie. While I understand that many with OCD are reluctant to leave it behind because it keeps them “safe,” you are obviously talking about more than that. Thanks for your insight!

    • Thanks for reading, Janet! I felt wary about posting about this because it seems so counter-intuitive. But I figured that I might as well step up and say, “I’ve felt this,” to make it easier for others to say, “Me too.”

  3. I often asked other people “Do I have OCD?” because I wasn’t sure about it. I also thought that, if they told me “No, you don’t”, I would feel disappointed because I believed I had something I actually didn’t have. Once I asked my therapist (it took me a lot of time because I was ashamed of asking her that), her answer was “Instead of being happy about your recovery from OCD, you’re obsessing about it… you have only some tendencies now, but you might have had it in the past.” I felt relieved and no longer sought reassurance in that way.
    Sometimes I find it hard to distinguish if some behavior is OCD-related (i.e. urge to do a compulsion) or something more related to my personality. I was told I have some OC personality traits.

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  5. I like the work you are doing Jakie. I am a 19 year old boy and I developed ocd just a year ago. I am sure I hate it and I want it to go away. I just got into the university and ocd is getting in the Way. I used to be very intelligent and focused but now it’s different. I just have to attend to some ritual to feel good, though I have been doing cognitive behavioural therapy and I feel better. Pls, I want you to teach me about being closer to God.

  6. Good food for thought here! I think of it this way. In life, you have your core values and desires that you hold onto more tightly than anything else. OCD comes alongside you and whispers to you, “Let me help you safeguard those. You may risk losing [whatever it is you so desperately desire], unless you do what I tell you to do. Stick with me. I’ll help you keep your most valued possessions safe.” You find that when you do OCD’s bidding, you truly do feel like you’re doing what you have to do in order to protect and further those absolutely crucial values. To break up with OCD is to break up with that feeling and to make yourself vulnerable to that potential loss that OCD was warning you against. OCD has tricked us into believing it’s our friend, because it seems to be on board with preserving whatever we hold most dear. In my experience, that’s why I can’t let go. I haven’t yet made it to that point where I can stop doing the things that make me feel like my core desires in life are secure. Which is why I’m finally seeking therapy. 🙂 Great post!

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  11. This is me 100%. As I went to therapy and began to heal, I noticed my mind would almost look for my intrusive thoughts. I would almost monitor myself for them and then bam! There they would be. This was a hard hurdle for me to overcome that’s for sure!

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