A Letter to My Teachers About My OCD

Dear teacher,

I am a student in your class, and I suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Obsessive compulsive disorder is a mental illness where the person has obsessions, which are unwanted intrusive thoughts that cause them a lot of anxiety. In order to lower the crippling anxiety, the person performs a compulsion, which is an action that temporarily relieves the anxiety. However, the intrusive thought comes back and a never ending cycle ensues.

I am doing exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP), which is where you expose yourself to the thing that makes you anxious and then don’t do the compulsion to work on recovering from my OCD. A large part of my OCD surrounds school, which is where you come in.

Most of the exposures I do won’t be very obvious, but there are some things that you can do to help my as I am trying to recover. The most important and helpful thing you can do is not reassure me when I ask for reassurance. While I try not to, once of my compulsions is to ask for reassurance to make sure I understand things or did something right. For example, if I ask if something is correct tell me that it might be, but don’t actually answer my question. While it will go against your teacher instinct to help, please don’t reassure me or answer questions aimed at getting reassurance. If I truly don’t understand something I will come to you during work time or outside of class to get help.

Another issue I have regarding school is how long it takes me to do homework, and so I am going to be setting timers work down to spending a reasonable time on homework. Something that would really help me in doing this is if you would either write down or tell me how long assignments should take, so that I have a time for the assignments to work down to achieving. I am also going to be working to stop checking and rechecking my homework, and I am going to be trying a method that uses stickers to show that I cannot check that paper anymore. I just want to let you know so you don’t wonder why there are stickers on the things that I turn in.

OCD aside, I am looking forward to the school year and learning a lot in your class.

Sincerely,

Ashley, a student with OCD