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Asheville’s first annual walk, 2017

I’ve heard the argument that obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is one of the most difficult mental illnesses to live with. Imagine feeling intense anxiety over things that most people never think about, then believing you have to go to extreme lengths to make that feeling go away. Now imagine doing that while knowing that the fear is irrational to begin with, and even if you make the feeling go away, it will return soon.

I’ve also heard it said that OCD is probably one of the most misunderstood of the mental illnesses, often portrayed in the movies as a funny quirk that offers comic relief, or limited to excessive hand washing. We hear phrases like, “I’m so obsessed with this band!” or “My books have to be a certain way on my shelf. I’m pretty OCD about it.” The way OCD has woven its way into our vernacular almost always misrepresents the true experience.

To demystify the disorder, one organization is rallying groups across the country for the sixth year in a row to participate in the 1 Million Steps 4 OCD Walk. Chapters nationwide will walk together to raise awareness of OCD, and contribute financial support to the International Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Foundation (IOCDF).

The Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Center will be participating in Asheville, NC for the second year in a row. The following is an interview with organizer and OCD specialist Dr. Haley Elder:

What is the 1 Million Steps 4 OCD Walk all about?

In 2012, a father named Denis Asselin walked over 500 miles (which is roughly one million steps) from his home in Cheney, PA to Boston, MA in memory of his son Nathaniel. Nathaniel took his own life at the age of 24 after a long battle with OCD and Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). His father Denis walked to both honor his son and raise awareness about OCD and BDD. At the end of his walk, Denis was greeted in Boston on June 5, 2012 by the staff of the IOCDF, friends, family, and members of the OCD community at a rally honoring Denis and supporting OCD and BDD awareness. The next year the first 1 Million Steps 4 OCD Walk took place in Boston with the goal of raising awareness, money, and hope for this illness.

Each year since, more and more cities have participated. As the walks have expanded, smaller grassroots virtual walks have started to pop up around the country and this year we are having the second organized one in Asheville, which we hope will continue to grow in size each year.

Why is it so important to raise awareness about OCD?

Our best estimate is that OCD affects roughly 2-3 million adults and approximately 500,000 children and adolescents in the United States alone. By building awareness of this disorder, it is the foundation’s hope that worldwide mental health professionals will become better educated about evidence-based treatments, the general public will gain access to information about treatments for OCD, and the stigma surrounding OCD and mental illness in general will be reduced.

 

How can I get involved?

OCD-NC, an official affiliate of the IOCDF, will be hosting a grassroots 1 Million Steps 4 OCD Walk in Asheville on Saturday, June 9, 2018. It will take place at French Broad River Park, 508 Riverview Drive, Asheville, NC 28806. Check-in for the walk will be at 9:15 am, with the walk commencing at 10 am. To register to attend or donate, please visit: https://www.crowdrise.com/AshevilleNCOCDWalk

I think I may have OCD, or I know someone who does. Where can I go to learn more or seek treatment?

The Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Center offers comprehensive treatment of OCD, including individual therapy, an intensive outpatient program, medication options, and a support group. Please contact us to learn more. You can also visit the IOCDF website at https://iocdf.org/ for more information about OCD and its treatment.

Photos by: Katie Kelleher