If used correctly, online OCD forums—such as Reddit or PsychForums—can be a great place to find support and information. If not use correctly, however, they can actually be detrimental to your recovery.
What are online OCD forums?
Online OCD forums are a place for those suffering from OCD to seek and offer support. It’s also a place to share information and resources, such as helpful YouTube videos, books, or blogs. Most online forums—OCD or otherwise—share a similar structure. A forum user can create a ‘post’ to which other members of the forum are able to respond. Generally, forums are anonymous, and people go by online aliases, or screennames.
How can online OCD forums be used in an unhealthy way?
The primary way in which OCD forums can be used in an unhealthy manner is to use them to seek reassurance. OCD sufferers are on a constant search for reassurance, and an anonymous, online forum is a great place to find that. As those of you who are one your way to recovery already know, reassurance can make your OCD quite worse–it teaches avoidance, ultimately increases anxiety, and results in codependence. If you’ve spent any amount of time on one of these forums, you know that they are rife with these sorts of posts. With some practice, it becomes easy to not engage with these posts, and, with a bit more practice, you will be able to avoid posting them yourself. But something I’ve learned on my road to recovery is that reassurance-seeking behavior finds a way. On OCD forums, users can be quite cunning. For example, they may make a post not explicitly asking for reassurance but still related to their obsession, in hopes that another user provides reassurance somewhere along the way. At one point in time, I have been a perpetrator of this kind of post, although at the time I would not have admitted it, even to myself. Another way users sometimes seek reassurance is to find posts by others with a similar obsession and hope to find some reassurance that they were already given; an OCD forum user might be perusing the forum under the guise of looking for educational resources or memes, but with the search for reassurance as their primary motivator.
Part of using OCD forums in a healthy way–and part of recovery, in general–is being honest with yourself. If you keep your wits about you, you should be able to use OCD forums in a healthy way and to make them a healthier place for others on their road to recovery.
How can online OCD forums be used in a healthy way?
There are very many ways that OCD forums can be used in a healthy manner. First off, they can be a fantastic place to find educational resources on OCD. Oftentimes, forums may have a ‘stickied’ post that contains a list of such resources, but you can also ask other users for recommendations. It is also a fantastic place to find solidarity. Other OCD sufferers can share their stories, their pain with you, and even their memes with you, and this can help you feel like you are not so alone. It’s also a place where you can see the entire gamut of OCD obsessions. Seeing how absurd and unlikely some of these fears seem from the outside, can help bring some of your own obsessions into perspective. Lastly, it’s a place where you can help others along their path to recovery, which is something that I believe all OCD sufferers can benefit from.