Can I Find OCD Support on Reddit?
One of the most important things someone with OCD can do is find support. While in-person support from family, friends, and therapists is important, the worldwide web opens up a universe of opportunity to find shoulders to cry on and people to lean on.
Reddit, which launched in 2005, has become an increasingly popular platform for people from all walks of life to share, commiserate, connect, laugh, or vent about life’s ups and downs, gossip, events, oddities, politics, wellness, cats, and everything else under the sun.
But can it be useful for OCD? Let’s explore the pros and cons.
What is Reddit?
Reddit is made up of a network of online communities where people can discuss and share insight on a variety of interests and topics. Unique to other platforms, Reddit is broken up into subreddits (there are over a million to choose from) that cover specific topics and everyone makes the effort to stick to the applicable topic. This helps ensure that you don’t join a golden retriever subreddit only to be left arguing about the need for gun control.
There are subreddits dedicated to real, straightforward topics as well as unconventional subreddits that are designed to embrace weirdness or make people laugh. Some of the oddest ones include birds with arms, bread stapled to trees, zombie survival tactics, and shower orange (which is dedicated to eating various citrus fruits in the shower……because, why not?).
People on Reddit can be upvoted or downvoted based on whether or not readers enjoy and/or relate to their posts and comments. These votes are used to calculate Reddit Karma, which is essentially a user’s score and translates into their Reddit reputation. Having lots of karma can offer some practical advantages that go beyond street cred; you may be able to start your own subreddits or join exclusive communities off-limits to those without karma. But, mainly, getting karma is similar to getting likes on Facebook: It makes you feel good.
Of course, getting a lot of upvotes also helps bump your post to the top of the pile, so to speak. And that ups the odds that people will see it. It also increases the odds that your content will make it into the “Best of Reddit” category, ultimately introducing it to new audiences.
Benefits of Reddit for OCD
There are lots of benefits to using Reddit for OCD. Most importantly, this platform offers OCD sufferers a chance to connect to one another, ultimately normalizing their condition, their intrusive thoughts, and even the possible shame they may feel. Whether your OCD involves health anxiety, contamination, perfectionism, relationships, religion, or something else, you can find a group with people who get it.
The anonymity of the site, just like the anonymity of the internet in general, gives an outlet and provides a reprieve to those who feel too afraid to share their OCD thoughts with friends, family, or therapists. This may be especially beneficial to those who have one of the more taboo types of OCD, such as Pedophilia OCD or Harm OCD.
From a more action-oriented standpoint, Reddit, because it’s full of people from all over the world with varied experiences, may offer users practical tips on everything from minimizing OCD symptoms, finding a therapist, and helpful medication to talking to your family about your struggles and finding support groups. The platform can be a useful place for both tried-and-true, evidence-based treatment as well as anecdotal treatment that, while perhaps not scientifically-backed, may be advantageous to sufferers. Reddit users can learn about things like foods that minimize OCD symptoms or lifestyle changes that decrease overall anxiety.
Finally, the right Reddit can help OCD sufferers hold each other accountable for their treatment, whether this involves actively taking Zoloft and other SSRIs or sticking to ERPs. The latter may be particularly helpful; there is no doubt that ERPs work, but they’re extraordinarily hard to do because of the anxiety they cause. This is especially true in the beginning and having a few dozen or few hundred online cheerleaders can make a world of difference. Reddit even has a feature that allows posters to state what they’re after, such as asking a question, venting, or seeking empathy, which makes cheering on fellow sufferers more doable. When you know people are actively seeking support, it’s easier to provide it.
What About Those Who Don’t Have OCD?
You don’t have to have OCD to benefit from Reddit; it can also be beneficial to those without the disorder. It’s a platform that educates people and helps them comprehend what OCD is and what it isn’t. This is extraordinarily important due to the numerous misconceptions of OCD that are circulated in society, perpetuated by the media, featured in movies and TV, and even harbored in seemingly benign but dangerous self-diagnoses (such as those who claim they’re “so OCD” due to liking their kitchen clean or their sock drawer organized). Many people come to Reddit simply to learn…..about OCD and everything else. And this makes it a powerful platform for setting the proverbial record straight.
Reddit is a useful tool for everyone, including those who are just curious about OCD, those with family members and friends who are struggling, and those with intrusive thoughts who have OCD but have yet to be diagnosed. This last part is exceptionally important to people with Harm OCD and Pedophilia OCD who may jump to the conclusion that their unwanted thoughts are some sort of desired fantasy. The right Reddit can help someone with violent and/or sexual intrusive thoughts learn that they have a mental illness, thus freeing them from erroneously believing they’re some kind of monster.
The Drawbacks of Reddit for OCD
Just like the internet giveth, it also taketh away; Reddit offers plenty of benefits, but it comes with a downside as well. While the anonymity of Reddit allows people with OCD to post freely and openly, this anonymity may also bring out the worst in people, summoning the trolls like an online Pied Piper.
This is similar to other social media platforms as well as online commenting; some people find the gall to say things online that they would never say to someone in person while others say things just to stir the pot. Many internet trolls post comments that they themselves don’t even believe; they’re merely assuaging their boredom by trying to get a rise out of people. And this means there’s no limit to what they will or will not say.
Unfortunately, it’s always possible that someone will infiltrate an OCD Reddit with the sole purpose of causing chaos. Reddit does have safeguards in place, allowing you to report posts that the mediators will investigate and act on. But the posts are often live for some time before they’re taken down.
Another downside of Reddit is that OCD subreddits may be attractive to people who don’t have OCD but believe they do (in keeping with the danger of self-diagnosis discussed above). This can sidetrack Reddit and prevent true OCD sufferers from getting the support they need.
People, whether they have OCD or not, may also post information that’s not true (at best) and dangerous (at worst). If the suggestion pedaled by some to drink bleach as a way to avoid COVID taught us anything, it’s that some “solutions” are not solutions at all and should be avoided at all costs.
People may post things as a form of self-promotion as well, advocating for OCD sufferers to buy a book they wrote or purchase a bottle of herbs they’re selling. However, Reddit is not promotion-friendly and these posts tend to be taken down quickly or otherwise exiled by Reddit users to internet purgatory.
Overall, the downsides of Reddit can be summed up as the downsides of social media in general: We can’t control other people so there’s always a chance of a few rotten apples trying to ruin the bunch.
Using Reddit as an ERP
In some OCD sufferers, hearing OCD stories may present a conundrum; they want their disease normalized but they’re afraid they’ll adopt the obsessions of others. For example, someone with Scrupulosity OCD may have obsessions about offending God. If they read a post about violent images of killing God, it’s possible that those obsessions will transfer to them.
Even so, this is usually not a reason to avoid Reddit entirely, as avoidance is just another compulsion. Not only that, but the advantages of normalizing OCD and finding support far outweigh the possibility of adopting more obsessions. Besides, because OCD is so clever and relenting, the obsessions it wants you to have can find you whether they come from Reddit or somewhere else. You can’t avoid the world, so there may be little point to avoiding a social media platform.
If you have concerns about using online platforms because of this risk, consider starting small and building on your efforts daily, treating it the same way you’d treat any other ERP. And when you do hear about a new obsession, refrain from doing any compulsions. That will help you avoid locking it in and turning someone else’s intrusive thought into your own.
Ask Me Anything
Ask Me Anything (AMA) is a unique feature of Reddit not found on other social media platforms. In short, AMA’s involve a question-and-answer session where the AMA host can be asked anything by Reddit participants. Some AMAs are hosted by politicians, movie stars, singers, and other celebrities while others are hosted by everyday people who have interesting jobs, hobbies, or circumstances.
People struggling with mental or physical diseases often host as well; as a result, there are several AMAs hosted by people with OCD, which can be valuable resources for OCD sufferers as well as help educate people who don’t know much about the disorder.
If you want to host your own AMA on OCD (or anything else), the process starts with jumping through a few hoops.
First off, you must prove to the Reddit moderators that you’re indeed an expert in whatever you hope to discuss while proving that you are who you say you are. You’ll also need to pick a day and time to host your AMA and set aside a few hours to promote it before it takes place. The more people who join in, the more effective it will be.
Getting Started on Reddit
If treading in Reddit waters is new to you, there are certain things worth considering before getting started. To begin, familiarize yourself with Reddit to learn what flies and what doesn’t. Familiarize yourself with the rules and study what kind of content makes it to the top with lots of upvotes and what type of content is ignored.
As mentioned earlier, Reddit is not a platform friendly to self-promotion. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t post things about yourself, your accomplishments, or even things you’ve illustrated, painted, or written. But avoid linking the content to your website or Etsy page. A good rule of thumb is to post content because you want to share it and not because you want to drive clicks or pad your Venmo account.
Be cordial when commenting, refrain from downvoting people you disagree with, and opt to engage in critical discussion instead. On the flip side, don’t actively encourage people to give you upvotes or campaign for engagement; if you post good content, the upvotes will come.
Sticking to original content is also encouraged; Reddit users tend to shy away from reposted content or memes they’ve seen a million times. The more genuine you are in posting your own content, the better. Likewise, commenting on recent posts is always more likely to draw engagement than commenting on something that was posted three years ago or no longer all that relevant.
Finding an OCD Subreddit
If you’re searching for OCD-specific subreddits, the best way to find the right one is to either google “OCD Reddit” or a more specific search term (such as “Harm OCD Subreddit” or “Scrupulosity OCD Subreddit”). You can also go directly to Reddit and enter OCD keywords into the search bar. Keep the keywords general if you’re looking for lots of returns you can browse.
You’ll find all sorts of subreddits dedicated to general OCD as well as those for specific types. There are also tons of subreddits made up of people sharing their own OCD stories as well as straightforward questions to the community (things like “When did you start having symptoms?”) and subsequent discussions. There are subreddits of people sharing simple things that have helped them with their own struggles (such as ownings dogs) and more complicated things (such as TMS). And there are subreddits for those venting about the difficulties of living with the disorder (just as misery loves company, so does anger).
While much of the OCD talk on Reddit is helpful and dedicated to true OCD, there are some Reddit users who misunderstand OCD and post content conveying this misunderstanding. Just as it happens off-line, there are people who might claim to be “so OCD” because they don’t like a green hat next to a red hat or have other anal-retentive quirks. Luckily, these are easy to spot and avoid. Or, if you’re feeling bold, you can comment on the posts, educating the poster on what OCD really is. This gives you a chance to help decrease OCD’s misconceptions, assuming the Reddit users are receptive. If they’re not, don’t sweat it: These are people you’ll never meet in person and who have no bearing on your life.
When it comes down to it, Reddit is not without its negatives (like most things in the world) but it’s a viable place to get support for OCD and other challenges. Because OCD is often something you have to have in order to truly understand the damage it causes, sufferers will always benefit from joining forces against the obsessive compulsive monster.