Mental health advocate Tia Wilson on the importance of OCD awareness and its portrayal in mainstream media

Tia Wilson talks to us about her OCD journey and how she shares it on Instagram

Video Transcript

TIA WILSON: The average length of time it takes someone to be diagnosed with OCD is 17 years. And the more we can kind of start to change the language around it, the more people can start to recognize the symptoms, the earlier they can be diagnosed and the more we can really hone in on treatment and be able to see those results.

So I'm Tia Wilson, and I do a lot of advocacy work within the mental health community. So I remember just kind of always feeling like other people somehow understood how to function in the world better than I did. And I didn't really know what the gap was, what I was missing. I just felt chronically behind.

And I just was feeling really debilitated. I wasn't able to get out of the house to go to my classes, just basic activities of daily living. And it finally reached a point where I recognized that something was going on, and I finally was able to start learning a little bit more about OCD. And that kind of led me to going and being able to get a professional diagnosis and then treatment.

I would say I'm most proud of the fact that as I was navigating this treatment, which is exposure and response prevention, so it's really just taking anything that you're scared of and facing it head on, one of the big exposures I did was I had a really intense set of moral rules. And so I was doing small exposures that were going against those fears.

I was always so scared of, like, what would happen if I just started yelling obscenities? That was always a big fear. And so in exposures, I got to practice yelling obscenities and sitting with the distress of it without trying to calm down. And so it sounds really like a silly thing to practice, but I'm just proud of myself for leaning into the process and not trying to run away from those things I'd been running away from forever.

In the midst of my treatment. I had no desire to do advocacy. It felt so scary to share. I felt so much shame and uncertainty around it. And I remember the first time I posted on Instagram, sharing that I had gone through this treatment, it was one of the scariest moments of my entire life. And I just was so amazed by the love and support I received around it.

Of course, I get the hate messages and people who don't understand it, right? By and large, most people are really there to learn and wanting to support. And so every time I shared, it just got easier after that until, you know, now it's something that I do full time.

So in the media, OCD is portrayed as this really quirky, fun, little thing. And it really doesn't show the fact that it's considered one of the most debilitating disorders in the world. And it causes so much impairment to individuals that's not factored in to these different representations. We kind of can consider OCD the doubt disorder because we just doubt everything in our life.

It just truly is so misunderstood. So many people view it as like a-- you know, the cleaning disorder or just some quirky little trait. And so I really jumped into advocacy because I was realizing there was a need for it. So many people were just like me, who'd-- you know, the average length of time it takes someone to be diagnosed with OCD is 17 years. And I needed someone to be able to point out the symptoms. I needed that awareness earlier. And so if I can provide that for even one other person, then it's all worth it.