Thomas Rehder has a message for those afflicted with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
“Never give up,” the 12-year-old said.
Thomas, who lives in Martinez, knows first-hand just how hard that advice can be to follow. Thomas was diagnosed with OCD at 4. Since then it has disrupted nearly every aspect of his life.
Instead of succumbing to the severe anxiety disorder, Thomas decided to fight back and help others affected by OCD.
In June, Thomas started a Facebook page called O.C.D. War, where he posts weekly tips and wants to create an online network for people with OCD. He made a black O.C.D. War cap he wears in hopes of raising awareness.
“I thought I could help them if I could tell them what I’ve been going through and how I’ve been dealing with my OCD,” Thomas said.
His mother, Janice Rehder, first noticed something was awry when Thomas was 4.
“That was when he started the compulsive hand washing,” she said.
At that time, Thomas also was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism that doctors consider secondary to his OCD.
Many of Thomas’ compulsions now center around his heightened senses, such as making sure his clothing feels comfortable and staying away from anything with a mint scent.
“With clothing issues he’s missed out on going places because by the time he got ready, it was over,” his mother said.
Thomas said he checks to make sure the car doors are locked and goes around to each door in the house at least twice to ensure they’re closed.
Thomas also likes things to be symmetrical, such as picture frames in the house or his writing.
“I’ve missed out on going to a friend’s house or not being able to spend the night,” Thomas said. “It’s also caused me to not go to karate classes, which I really love.
“That also stresses me out.”
Thomas, a seventh-grader, opted to attend Evans Christian Academy instead of a public middle school.
“It’s better, to me, than public school because there aren’t really any bullies and everybody gets along,” he said. “There’s no lockers or anything, which would stress me out.”
By keeping his mind distracted from compulsive thoughts and engaging in physical activity, Thomas has found ways to combat his disorder. Breathing exercises also help.
Thomas, a black belt in karate, credits martial arts as an outlet for his frustration.
“Karate has taught me to never give up and to always keep on going,” he said. “No matter what the situation is, just deal with it.”
While Thomas is focused on encouraging others through his Facebook page, Rehder said her son is also helping himself.
“It’s really been a help for him,” she said. “It helps him stay accountable because he knows if he’s trying to help other people then he has to work extra hard on himself.”
Rehder said she hopes the Facebook page can clear up misconceptions people have about OCD.
“A lot of people say it in a casual way,” she said. “They don’t understand the devastating effect that is has on someone’s life.”
Thomas’ battle with OCD recently led him to spend a short stint in the hospital for treatment.
Even with that, Rehder said she’s amazed at far her son as come.
“It makes me proud because I know what a hard fight he’s had with this,” she said.