The Diagnosis

by Bill Brenner on December 12, 2010

A lot of readers have been asking me about when exactly I was diagnosed with OCD and how I reacted to it. Did it drive me into a deeper depression? Did I worry about being misdiagnosed? Let’s see if I can retrace those moments…

Mood music:


The diagnosis was slow in coming, though I always assumed I had what I had. When I first started getting help in 2004, that first therapist resisted giving me a diagnosis. For one thing, it was still way to early to pin an acronym on my demons. The therapist also hated diagnosing people because she felt a diagnosis was just a label that never tells the entire story.

My third therapist finally gave me a diagnosis in the spring of 2006.

I sat there in her office, staring at the floor as I told her about the old therapist’s dislike of labels.

“Well, do you have obsessive thoughts all the time?” she asked.

“Yup,” I said.

“Does it make you do compulsive things?” she asked.

“Yup,” I said. “I binge eat all the time even though I know it’ll eventually kill me. I just can’t stop.”

“Does it cause disorder in your life?” she asked.

“Absolutely,” I said. “Every day is an exhausting hell.”

“Well, then we may as well call it what it is,” she said.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Was I misdiagnosed?

It really doesn’t matter. I had a problem that was destroying me from the inside out. Putting a label on it helped me because instead of smoke and shadows, I finally had a way to see my struggle in a more concrete fashion. It had finally taken a form. I could see it, therefore I could punch it. Punch it I did, repeatedly.

It always gets back up and I have to keep throwing punches. But it’s better than trying to swing at shadows.

It’s a tricky thing, because in plenty of cases people do get misdiagnosed and the results are damaging. It can lead to prescriptions that don’t get at the root problem, making you worse.

In my case, the diagnosis was accurate. The treatment turned out to be right on, at least.

I think it was more of a relief than cause for a deeper spiral into depression. Because I had something to call it, I could move on to the next phase of recovery.

I still had many bad days after that. Some of my worst days, in fact. It would still be another two years before I could bring my addictions to heel.

The anxiety attacks didn’t cease until I started taking Prozac in early 2007.

But slowly, I got better.

It would be stupid for me to tell you not to freak and backslide after getting a diagnosis. It can be a frightening thing.

The biggest fear is that everyone will define you if you go public. That didn’t happen to me. At work, I’m judged on how I do my job, not on my disease. Of course, the OCD sometimes fuels some of my best work, which makes that less of a problem.

To me, the lesson is to not let a diagnosis be the excuse to live a less than worthwhile life and give in to your darker impulses.

Like anything else in life, you gotta make the best of it.

Obviously, that’s easier said than done.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa December 12, 2010 at 8:34 am

I was 17 when I was diagnosed. It was a comfort knowing other people thought like I did.

Lorie December 18, 2010 at 12:33 pm

Just found your website. Sorry, but it made me cry (joy and sorrow). Happy that I found someone who articulates my own feeling so well and sad that I’m so out of control. I’m a serious sugar binger. Just finished off the Christmas treats I made for our family to give to friends. I’ve gone sugar/flour-free 3 times in the past,. – 4 months, then 10 weeks, then 11 weeks. Following each period of abstinence, I tell myself I’ve got things under control now. I can just eat moderately like a normal person. If I can go cold turkey, I should be able to handle moderation. That’s logical right? This last time I lost 50 lbs. Man! That felt SO good! I reached my lowest weight two months ago and then, still off flour and sugar, easily maintained it over the next month. Then I decided I was ready to add in a moderate amount of sugar. I’ve been on a binge ever since, up 13 lbs. now. Each day I see the scale go up and my heart sinks. What kind of a crazy person does this to themselves? Every day I start out saying I’m not going to eat sugar today. My anxiety builds to the point that I break and then the lies start. “I’ll just eat one piece.” “I won’t eat the rest of the day.” “One more day of sugar won’t matter, I’ll start tomorrow.” I’ve been convinced that I have a physical addiction, like an alcoholic. But yesterday I had an epiphany. This is as much or more like OCD than alcoholism. There is some serious OCD in my family. Grandma was a level 5 hoarder, mom’s got OCD, brother’s got OCD. I’ve always said to myself, boy am I glad I don’t have OCD like them. Yesterday as my anxiety was building until it was released with copious amounts english toffee I made, I realized, “you idiot, this is classic OCD.” Anxiety/Compulsive Behavior/Anxiety diminshes. I have a degree in psychology. How can I have gone for 35 years and not seen this? Now what? I still don’t know how to stop. Hence the tears of sorrow. I don’t know if I have the strength to give up the sugar and flour again because I realized if I’m going to conquer this, it means a lifetime of abstinence, right? How do you do it?

Dottie July 30, 2012 at 10:49 am

Pray and try the prozac like the writer said it took him a while, it may take a while but try. And I’ll be praying for u too.

James S Farris June 17, 2013 at 8:07 am

Extremely long story from beginning until now. (posting date)
At 3-4 years old I witnessed my Mother and a Man doing something forbidden for a married Woman.
Told my Father what I had seen, the 28-30 year marriage ended in divorce.
From that time and for the next 63-64 years, including now, I have not been able to trust ANY Woman.
This has cost heartache throughout 4 marriages.
Now, and for the past 15-16 years, I am being treated for Severe depression and anxiety with medications, now I also self medicate with alcohol.
Is there no help anywhere for this condition?

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