Stop Saying You’re OCD – You’re Probably Not

OCD cycle

I feel the urge to correct people’s spelling, especially when they use incorrect homophones.

The volume on my radio has to be set to particular numbers: 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 13, 15, 17, 18, 20, etc.

I take odd (the first, third, etc) steps using my left foot, and even steps with my right foot.

I’m admittedly a perfectionist, and will often do things over and over again if I’m not happy with the outcome.

But I do not have OCD.

Far too many people claim that they are “so OCD” because they like to double-check things or like things in a certain order. Maybe they, too, like to have the volume set to particular numbers. But the reality is that less than 2% of people suffer from OCD, and it goes much further than these little quirks.

I’ll be honest: I thought for a while that I was OCD. But the reality is that I can deal with spelling mistakes, the volume being on 14, or taking an “even” step with my left foot. It’s more of a preference rather than a compulsion; a form of repetitive behaviour that I find comforting.

People with OCD suffer with intrusive thoughts plaguing them with horrific scenarios that could happen. These can leave them feeling mentally uncomfortable or even anxious, to the point that they have to do something about it. These activities can reduce the anxiety temporarily, and thus a downward spiral of these repetitive behaviours – compulsions – begins.

The worst thing is probably that a lot of people who struggle with OCD realise that these obsessions are ridiculous. However, no matter how irrational these thoughts become, they cannot control them.

Whereas I may check the door is locked and then later double-check it, someone with OCD may triple-, quadruple-, and even quintuple-check the door because they keep imagining a burglar or murderer breaking in. They might even dream about someone breaking in and killing them or their loved ones in their sleep. This can cause insomnia, a fear of answering the door or the phone, and can severely affect their quality of life.

Know someone who struggles with OCD and is constantly cleaning? They might be in constant fear of germs and becoming really sick and dying. They know that the chances of that actually happening are significantly low, but their thoughts are so strong they have to clean. Just in case. Again.

It doesn’t seem such a funny quirk now, does it?

OCD can have such a huge impact on their quality of life. And yet they may be reluctant to seek help because they feel ashamed.

And yet treatment can be very effective. GPs will prescribe a type of antidepressant known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These help by slowing down the chemical messengers that are racing through the brain, and thus stop the flood of anxious messages.

They will also suggest therapy, most commonly cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT will help to challenge and manage the negative obsessions in the brain, and can start taking effect instantly. Once the SSRIs kick in (which can take several months), the two treatments can work together to kick OCD butt.

It’s important to note that everybody is different; one type of SSRI may work for one person and not another. You may be offered an alternative SSRI if one treatment isn’t working for you. Alternatively, you may benefit being referred to a specialist mental health service for further treatment.

OCD sucks, and it can leave the sufferer feeling alone and ashamed. I’m here to tell you:

You are not alone.

Although only 2% of the population suffer with OCD, that’s still more people than just you alone. There are a number of sites that can help you to understand better what you are going through, one being Mind. They have links to resources and forums that can help you.

And for those who have been unknowingly adding to the stigma surrounding OCD: please stop. Let’s work together help raise awareness of this illness, and support those who are fighting it.

11 thoughts on “Stop Saying You’re OCD – You’re Probably Not”

  1. Great article, very well written. It’s a nasty beast to live with when it consumes every second of every day.

    1. It is horrible, Twinkle. Hearing some people’s stories about their lives with OCD breaks my heart. I wouldn’t wish that disorder on anyone. Thanks for your comment 🙂

  2. Great article, thanks for sharing. I suffer from generalized anxiety disorder, and though I’m a perfectionist, I know I don’t have OCD. I know someone with the disorder, and wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

    1. I completely understand that. A lot of us who struggle with anxiety do still have compulsions that relieve our stress. And as much as I hate it, I would take anxiety over OCD any day! Thanks for your comment, Christine 🙂

  3. THANK YOU! It drives me crazy when people refer to themselves as OCD and will argue me down to ensure me that they are. I don’t buy it, of course, because I have grasped a complete understanding of OCD. People consider the compulsion, but they ignore the obsessive and anxious element of OCD. They don’t realize the dark thoughts that people have with OCD. They don’t understand how severe the anxiety has to be for a person to be officially diagnosed as OCD. I have relatives who are clinically diagnosed OCD, and it drives everyone around them crazy, but they cannot help themselves. I will be the first to admit that I have abnormally high anxiety, I have to click the car alarm button a certain amount of times, I have to start walking with my right foot, I have to have my staples on my paper a certain way or I cannot function, etc. I will never take away the seriousness of OCD even though I tend to display some of their tendencies. (FYI, even if I were, I would not brag about it. A lot of the patients feel terrible about it, and they have no control over it. I have control, and so does a lot of others.)

    1. AmberLynn, you hit the nail on the head! It’s as though OCD became a trend in society, and everyone starting going around BOASTING about their supposed OCD. Sure, we all have compulsions. A lot of us like symmetry, or things to be in order of size; it’s visually appealing to us. As you say, they completely forget a big part of OCD is the obsessive nature of the disorder. It’s a whole different ball game that leaves you losing every time.

      And I totally understand that people with anxiety have compulsions that help them cope, as you mentioned. I have dermatillomania, which means that I pick at my skin to relieve my anxiety (not pretty, trust me!). It’s just that we go straight to anxiety and luckily skip the horrible thoughts that something bad is going to happen if we don’t do it. Thank you for your comment 🙂

  4. I was just talking about this the other day. It’s frustrating when people toss around mental health terms that they don’t really understand

    1. I completely agree with you, Megan. People need to learn to educate themselves before throwing their opinions around.

  5. Wow very informative article. I am, like to have my clothes folded in certain ways, and everything to be even, but if they are not I am not dealing with anything major. Really enjoyed it!!

    1. Thank you, Dan 🙂 I really feel for those who struggle with OCD alone. The disorder is still not properly understood by the public, and I hope this post will help to combat the stigma.

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