Have you yourself ever said or heard someone say “I am so OCD about organising things,” “I love to clean, I’m so OCD” or “I’m a little bit OCD”? You probably have. I know I have. You just have to type ‘OCD’ into twitter and see all the tweets, that are variations of the above quotes. The thing is, when you have severe OCD and have suffered at the hands of it day in and day out, hearing this can be frustrating. I don’t blame anyone for misusing the word at all, that’s due to what the media portrays the illness as and a general lack of understanding. OCD is perceived as a cleaning and organising disorder, which it can be sometimes, but not for the reasons many people believe it is. OCD can take many forms and many people suffering with the condition, can tell you they are the most disorganised and messy person ever! That is because OCD can take many forms.
Examples of OCD and the cycle it tends to take include:
Intrusive/unwanted/anxious thought- What if I didn’t lock the door, someones going to break in and it will be my fault! -Anxiety- Compulsion- I must check that door 10 times to be sure.
Intrusive/unwanted/anxious thought- If you don’t do (insert task here) in a certain way, someone you love might die! -Anxiety- Compulsion- do whatever the thought told you will keep people safe, even though you know its irrational.
Intrusive/unwanted/anxious thought- I just watched a documentary on criminals, what if I become one? – Anxiety- Compulsion –Hide all knives and list the reason your a good person and would never be a criminal.
Intrusive/unwanted/anxious thought- What if I or someone else gets ill because I haven’t washed my hands enough? -Anxiety- Compulsion- Wash hands until red raw.
Intrusive/unwanted/anxious thought- What if my whole life has been a lie, and I am identifying as the wrong sexuality, when I am in fact gay? -Anxiety- Compulsion- Seek reassurance by asking a best friend if they’ve ever thought you were gay. Then google the subject over and over to try and work out if you’ve labelled yourself wrong your whole life.
Intrusive/unwanted/anxious thought- I feel anxious like something doesn’t feel ‘right’, like something bad is going to happen! -Anxiety- Compulsion- Repeat action until it feels ‘right’ again.
Can you see the pattern here. OCD starts with an negative or anxiety inducing thought or feeling (the obsession), followed by huge amounts of anxiety, doubt and uncertainty. In order to reduce the anxiety they perform a compulsion. You see, no OCD is truly about enjoying being organised and tidy. 9 times out of 10 there is underlying thought, feeling and obsession that compels someone with OCD to perform their compulsions, which then reduces their anxiety. Of course until the next worry and thought pops up and then cycle begins again. People with OCD all realise performing compulsions is irrational, but the anxiety if they don’t is too much to bare and the thoughts intensify, the feelings start to feel more real and more threatening. Some people with OCD don’t even have physical compulsions but almost always have other mental less obvious compulsions. They still suffer with obsessions and intrusive thoughts, but there compulsions are more internal and mental. They may consist of seeking reassurance, ruminating over and over on a subject that distresses them, avoiding situations that trigger them and many more.
A few other comments I have been seeing a lot recently is people saying ‘I would love to have OCD then I would be organised’ or ‘My OCD has its pro’s because at least I’m always organised and tidy’. I think these are some of the worst thing to hear or read when you have OCD yourself. I cannot express how wrong this is, no one with OCD enjoys their compulsions. If that were the case everyone with OCD would be happy, and as far as I know, I have not spoken to someone who sees having OCD as a pro, or a good thing that they enjoy. Yes, being organised and enjoying cleaning etc, is not a bad trait to have, so if you are enjoying what you think is OCD, it probably isn’t! Another comment I have also been seeing is ‘I have CDO, it’s like OCD but the letters are in alphabetical order’, this ‘joke’ is completely ridiculous, I don’t know anyone with OCD that calls it CDO because of their OCD. Lastly no, someone can’t turn their OCD on and off and let it kick in so they do a particular task perfectly, neatly or very organised. Maybe there OCD isn’t that form and if it is, they don’t choose their triggers, they just happen.
So this post isn’t about me being bitter because I have OCD and people think they do when they don’t. It’s about spreading awareness. So next time you hear someone say something along the lines of the quotes above. You can politely correct them so they know that they could be offending someone with severe OCD who is really struggling with it. If yourself find yourself saying these things, maybe just take a second to think is this really OCD or am I just particular, and like to do things my way. If you think you may have OCD or know someone who does then please get help. Here you can find more information on whether you have OCD and what help is out there for you http://www.ocdaction.org.uk/.
Thank you for reading,