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Ashley began wearing slippers every time she stepped out of the shower and took them off only after she got into bed. Her cleaning habits gradually became more meticulous: She wouldn't let people into her bedroom, threw clean and folded clothes into the hallway to be washed again and opened dresser drawers with her feet to keep from touching knobs with her hands.
"I was getting more and more worried, because it was at that point where it was taking a really long time and it was affecting our lives," said her mother, Jacquie Bystrom.
Ashley's first therapist didn't specialize in OCD, and it wasn't until the Bystroms attended their first foundation conference that they connected with a therapist who helped her bring her fears under control.
OCD no longer rules Ashley's life, though she continues to take a low dose of medication. She rides her horse almost every day, and has the typical teen's messy room, much to her mother's chagrin.
The Bystroms are attending the conference for a third time.
Kant, 26, who lives in Boston and wrote a book on the disorder, will lead an orientation session for young adults new to the conference.
As an 11-year-old, he feared he had to prevent his mind from being contaminated by negative thoughts. To stay clean, he washed his hands and took showers repeatedly, sometimes spending most of his day in the bathroom.
Kant came to the conference eight years ago looking for support. Though he leads a session now, he says the conference still helps ease his own symptoms.
"It's three days of absolute acceptance," Kant said. "These are three days when nobody will look at you and say, 'You are weird.' That's what keeps me coming back."
On the Net:
Obsessive Compulsive Foundation: http://www.ocfoundation.org/
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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