By Alison Dotson, author of Being Me with OCD: How I Learned to Obsess Less and Live My Life
How would you respond if a student told you he’s sure he’ll turn into the Incredible Hulk if he wears green? What would you think if a student refused to go near that one tree on the playground because she’s convinced it will poison her?
No one would blame you for being confused and not immediately suspecting obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Maybe you’d even laugh and brush off the fears as normal or harmless childhood phases. How can you possibly know how to help students with OCD if you aren’t quite sure how the disorder manifests?
Trust me, as someone with OCD myself, I get it: OCD is tricky. There is no one symptom, no one obsession or compulsion. Even if you read about common obsessions and compulsions, you’re still only getting the broad strokes of a complicated disorder. In kids, OCD can come across as disobedience when the child refuses to follow through on homework, chores, or bedtime routines and adults don’t realize the refusal is due to overwhelming fear. Kids with OCD may seem bossy because they demand that adults perform rituals or that they refrain from certain activities that trigger the child, and they may act out in anger and frustration.
The silver lining of OCD, though, is that it’s treatable, and teachers and school counselors can play an important role in detection and maintaining recovery. The new short documentary Unstuck: An OCD Kids Movie helps demystify OCD, giving teachers, counselors, parents, and students an intimate peek into the lives of six kids who’ve struggled with OCD and been through the proper treatment.
In Unstuck, you’ll hear firsthand what OCD feels like; how it affects the whole family, including siblings (some of whom share their experiences in the film); how the kids and their parents realized the issue was OCD; and how they went about treating it.
As you watch, you’ll not only be surprised about how specific OCD symptoms can be, you’ll also be moved by how each subject can be at once vulnerable, articulate, and strong. OCD is hard for adult sufferers to handle, and we have the benefit of life experience and kind of getting it. Throw growing pains, lack of independence, and classmates into the mix, and you’ll understand how incredibly resilient these young film subjects are. Watching the film—either on your own, with colleagues, or as part of a classroom activity—can be a stepping stone toward a greater understanding of OCD and toward becoming a valuable resource for students.
Alison Dotson was diagnosed with OCD at age twenty-six, after suffering from “taboo” obsessions for more than a decade. Today, she still has occasional bad thoughts, but she now knows how to deal with them in healthy ways. Alison is the president of OCD Twin Cities, an affiliate of the International OCD Foundation. You can read more about Alison on her blog at alisondotson.com.
Alison is the author of Being Me with OCD: How I Learned to Obsess Less and Live My Life.
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