When suffering with a mental illness it can sometimes feel very lonely as if no one understands what you’re going through. Added to that there’s still a slight stigma when it comes to mental health problems and a ton of misconceptions surrounding different mental illnesses. Being a sufferer of OCD, Anxiety and Depression there’s nothing more frustrating than knowing what suffering with one of these illnesses is like, then having people making jokes or comments regarding your mental illness, that are far from helpful or factual.
I thought for this blog post I’d share some of the worst things to say to someone suffering with OCD, Anxiety and Depression. I took to a OCD forum to ask for people’s examples to add to my own, of things they’ve had said to them and the comments came flooding in. A lot of the time due to misconceptions people don’t even realise what there saying is factually incorrect and offensive to a sufferer. Not only will this spread awareness on this subject, but I think a lot of people will relate to this and realise they’re not the only person who experience this. It’s not about treading on eggshells when it comes to someone suffering it’s about making sure that comment you don’t give a second thought is not only factually correct but helpful and not hurtful to someone.
‘You know it’s all in your head so just stop!!’
This is one that’s quite often said to OCD sufferers when struggling with OCD’s symptoms, such as when a sufferer is resisting to perform a certain compulsion, because they think something terrible will happen. No matter if you know what you’re experiencing is OCD or know it sounds silly, it’s not as simple as just stopping. People with OCD have vivid thoughts, questions, feelings and images followed by a great deal of fear and doubt. No one would ever suffer with mental illness if it was as simple as just stopping. Trust me if we could just stop, we would.
‘Oh you have OCD? I bet your house is tidy!!’
This is a very big misconception about OCD. Yes people with OCD can have really tidy houses, but many people with OCD have normal, untidy and disorganised houses. OCD is not just a cleaning disorder, there’s many symptoms and types.
‘But you’re so pretty/handsome and you have so much going for you and so much to live for, you shouldn’t be depressed!’
The thing is you don’t choose to be depressed, you can be the best looking, richest and most successful human being ever and depression can take a hold of you. It’s a chemical imbalance in the brain, being pretty or having so many great things going for you, doesn’t equal happiness unfortunately. Thanks to life events, lack of self-worth and brain chemistry, depression can grip anyone.
‘I think everyone has a little bit of OCD’
No, not everybody has a bit of OCD, OCD is a diagnosed disorder which you either have or don’t. People might be perfectionists, habitual or like to do things or have things in a certain way but this doesn’t mean someone has a little bit of OCD. Unless you have thoughts and feelings that make you feel the NEED to certain things to prevent something bad from happening, it’s probably not OCD.
‘I would never go on medication if I had depression, I’d just try to get better by myself’
Everyone is different and you may not need to go on medication and be able to recover from depression with counselling or therapy’s. A lot of people however medication helps a lot. Whether someone does or doesn’t take medication doesn’t make them any stronger or weaker, it also depends on the severity of the depression. If it helps you, then that’s all that matters. People are often afraid to admit they take medication in fear they will be seen as weak, comments like this reinforce this.
‘ Oh I know how you feel when it comes to feeling depressed, last week I was so depressed, I couldn’t stop crying about stuff’
Having a off week or a week where you feel down, low or cry a lot isn’t depression. If that mood persists for weeks and months, to the point your life is being significantly effected, that’s depression.
‘I’d love to be OCD then maybe I’d be more organised and my house would be tidy!’
Trust me, you wouldn’t love OCD, it’s a serious debilitating illness that tears a lives apart. Again the cleaning misconception, there is more to OCD than cleaning. No one with OCD ever enjoys what they do or loves it.
‘Just get out more, have some fun, chill out then maybe you will feel better and less depressed’
I know people say this to try be helpful but in all honestly it makes you feel worse. When your suffering with Depression you already don’t understand why you no longer feel like going out and having fun. Asking yourself questions such as ‘what’s wrong with me?’ or ‘why am i like this?’ Unfortunately it’s not as simple as just getting out more, you feel like you mentally and physically can’t find the motivation to do the smallest things and having fun, no longer feels fun but an effort.
‘ All people who self harm are attention seekers’
Many people who self harm live in silence and hide the fact that they do. It’s hard to understand, I get that. The thing is with self harm its a way of expressing what your feeling on the inside on the outside. There are many reasons people self harm and whether someone is doing it as a cry for help or doing it as a release and then hiding it, it should be taken seriously, the person is clearly in a lot of pain mentally, feels alone and needs help not judgement.
‘ You can’t just take days off work all the time, i couldn’t afford to do that!’ or ‘ You have to work, no one wants to but its something you have to do, so get a job’
The problem is when suffering with depression you literally feel as if you CANT find the energy or motivation to do the smallest things or the fun things in life, let alone go to work. If you have severe depression, needing money can’t change how you feel. A sufferer will already feel bad about not holding down a job, ashamed that they can’t and like they’re lazy or pathetic. Which is why saying these things wont help it simply confirms all the negative thoughts and feelings that person is having about themselves.
‘There is people a lot worse of than you and they still work and cope with life’
This sort of response when your suffering with a mental illness is really hard to hear. A lot of people suffering with mental illness already have very low self-worth and saying this sort of thing only makes it worse. They probably know there are people worse off, but it doesn’t make how they feel any less or better, it doesn’t make their problems go away. People will already feel bad, ashamed and upset about how they feel, this is the last thing they wants to hear.
‘I just organised my DVDs in colour order, I’m so OCD’
Another classic comment when the word OCD is misused. Organising your DVDs in a certain order or whatever it may be, along with wanting to clean and do something a certain way, isn’t OCD. Unless the reason you done it was for things to ‘feel right’ or stop something bad from happening such as a thought coming true.
‘Just snap out of it’ or ‘You need a reality check’
You can tell someone with a mental illness to snap out of it or get a reality check as much as you like, because you care, want them to get better or want to shock them into getting better, but it won’t happen. You cannot snap out of a mental illness, if only you could! People with mental illness such as OCD, Depression and Anxiety are well aware that they’re lives are not like the average person. They are in touch with reality but have a mental illness preventing them to be exactly like the average person, they will be just as upset about it as you are.
I really could go on and on with examples and explanations as to why these comments can be annoying, unhelpful or are not factual. I hope this spreads awareness, and helps people who maybe didn’t understand or realise why it is so frustrating to hear these things be said over and over again.
What are you experiences with this subject?