We know of a woman (let’s call her Joanna) who suffered from OCD for most of her life. She remembers being eight years old, at an end-of-school-year track meet, and lightly touching the shoulder of her teacher’s young daughter. Joanna worried all summer—three long months—that the track dust on her hand had hurt the little girl. The anxiety only ended when she saw the teacher on the first day of school and asked, without letting on why, how her daughter was.
Once Joanna hit her teens, the OCD was accompanied by an at-times oppressive sadness—mild in comparison to debilitating clinical depression, but joy-sapping nonetheless.
This sounds like a woman crippled by sadness and compulsive thoughts, but that’s not the case. Joanna held good jobs of increasing responsibility, had great friends, a strong marriage, and an emotionally healthy son. Her husband knew about her issues, but she hid the full extent even from him.
For some reason, Joanna’s brooding stopped when she was at work, and therefore reaching out to her company’s EAP during the working day never occurred to her. However, after returning from a week-long vacation in which she continually fretted that she had sent an email to the wrong client, she reached out for help.
Joanna was a little embarrassed—she was a smart woman and knew her fears were silly—however the EAP counselor was understanding and supportive. Being clinically trained, she recognized that Joanna might benefit from medication and encouraged her to see her primary care physician. Joanna did, and received a diagnosis of dysthymia, a form of depression. The term is from the Greek “ill-humor”; sufferers have symptoms that are less severe than those associated with major depression, but the chronic nature of dysthymia often results in a greatly reduced quality of life. Obsessive thoughts are a known symptom of dysthymia.
Joanna received medication that helped tremendously. She was amused by one of the stated side-effects—“a lack of concern”—which was something she had been praying for her whole life. Joanna did not fret that she waited so long to get help; she was just happy she finally did.
Your company’s EAP exists to help you. The counselors are highly trained professionals who will offer non-judgmental guidance. No matter what your issue may be, don’t suffer in silence. It does take courage to admit you need help, but just take a deep breath and make the call.