We often hear Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) being referred to jokingly. How many times throughout our lives have we heard someone say, “my OCD is being triggered” or “I was so OCD about my homework last night”? Such a trivial perspective of OCD has become so widespread that the true hardship experienced by sufferers is often not acknowledged or is taken lightly. OCD, as defined in the DSM-5, involves the persistent intrusion of unwanted and distressing thoughts, images or urges known as an obsession. Typically, the sufferer would perform compulsions, under strict self-imposed rules, to suppress or neutralise the obsession. Compulsions include repetitive behaviours, such as constant checking or handwashing, or mental acts such as counting or repeating words silently.
Sufferers believe that by performing these compulsions, they will prevent the bad thought from coming true and their anxiety will be reduced. Being confronted with obsessions and feeling the overwhelming need to perform compulsions inhibits one’s ability to function and, if left untreated, can become highly disabling.
In her new docuseries, The Secret Life of Lele Pons, social media star Lele Pons reveals she has been struggling with OCD since she was a young girl, calling it her “deepest darkest secret.” Pons and her family open up about how Lele’s disorder has impacted all their lives, revealing that before she sought treatment, Pons was unable to function at the most basic level- she couldn’t be removed from the car, she couldn’t eat or sleep and she would become panicked at the thought of walking through doorways. “My OCD is very very powerful thoughts that make me do stuff I don’t want to do,” Lele explains. Lele revealing that she struggles with her mental health came as quite a shock and really emphasises its hidden nature. It’s really important that we remember that we don’t know what someone may be going through and what struggles they might be coping with.
Lele also brings attention to how she has been afraid to share her struggles with the internet due to the stigmas that currently exist about mental disorders. When a societal stigma is internalised by someone experiencing mental illness, it can lead to feelings of shame and embarrassment which can result in avoidance of treatment and overall reduced quality of life. We are all proud that Lele had the courage to bring awareness to her disorder and share her experience with Exposure Therapy. By doing so she is helping others who can relate to her and shows the rest of us that even though someone is struggling with their mental health, they can still be successful in their career and relationships.
Reducing attitudes and behaviours that enforce stigma is important as more people will, therefore, feel encouraged to seek treatment and less of our loved ones will feel they have to isolate themselves from the world. Lele’s family and friends are an inspiration of how being supportive and not judgemental can help pave the road for recovery and success.
To learn more about how stigma impacts those who struggle with mental health, click here.