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.