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Should I tell my parents about my OCD problem?

Q: I am 27 years old. I am studying in the US and pursuing Ph.D. I am suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) for the past 2 years. I am taking Fluvoxin 50 mg every day, which has resulted in great improvement. My main obsessions are washing, fear about contamination, worrying about dearest ones, checking etc. I did not have these while I was in India. But they have really worsened when I got to US, due to work and stress. No one in my family knows about this so far, except my uncle. My parents think that I should get married. But I want to postpone it till I improve myself and become more self confident. I am the youngest in the family. My elder brother and elder sisters are married and have children. My parents think that I should get married for a nice life here. My father had a heart attack 5 years ago and my mother has a high blood pressure problem. If I inform them about my problem, they will start worrying. Should I tell my parents about this? I think I should wait till the condition improves. Please advise.

A:Your question is difficult to answer with the limited information provided about yourself and your parents in the query. If your parents would be very upset to be told of your problem, even though it is under control, it might not be best to tell them. But secrets prevent closeness and intimacy, and must be kept from close family only when absolutely necessary. The other question is about your own situation: are you getting psychotherapy or counselling to reduce stress in addition to the medication? If not, you should, for three reasons:

  • To help you work through your own answer to your question about secrecy
  • To help you deal with your compulsions through cognitive - behavioural, exposure treatment, in addition to the medication
  • To help you reduce stress from living as a student away from India, in a fast-paced, demanding social and academic culture that is not familiar to you. For example, being from India, you may be very family-oriented, but living in the USA with family far away can itself be stressful. Talking these issues through with a psychotherapist may help you resolve the issues, thereby reducing your OCD.

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