“OMG, I’m so OCD!”

We all know that OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) is a serious mental disorder that affects people in very detrimental ways. So why do people think it’s alright to say things like “I’m so OCD about stuff like this!” when they don’t have this disorder?

I’ve noticed a lot of people tend to use this term to describe either themselves or even me. They throw the acronym around when they talk about their colourful agenda, the need for things to be tidy or because they’re a germaphobe. As someone who tends to be a ‘perfectionist’ or pedantic, I often get labeled as “OCD” by my peers. I will admit I used to be guilty of this as well a couple of years ago- until I decided to do more research and educate myself.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder does not directly translate to being neat and tidy, or wanting things to look aesthetically pleasing. Having a spotless room or enjoying organising and cleaning does not mean you have OCD.

This disorder usually has two aspects: the Obsessions and the Compulsions. Obsessions are recurrent, persistent thoughts that penetrate your mind no matter how much you try to ignore them. Patients can get trapped in cycles of these thoughts, which vary depending on the person, but usually correspond to a distressing fear or image. The anxiety caused by these Obsessions is then manifested in Compulsions. These are rituals or repetitive actions people perform because they feel they need to, and often they can’t control it or stop themselves. These compulsions are in an attempt to rid the obsessions from their mind, but can cause more physical and mental harm. Common forms include skin-picking, nail-biting, hair-pulling, repeated hand-washing and counting, however there is an endless list of compulsions as many are specific to the person and the obsession they face. OCD is often linked with other disorders such as different types of anxiety disorders, bipolar, anorexia nervosa, Tourette syndrome and many more. Specific causes are not entirely understood, but studies exhibit that both biological and environmental factors can influence it. Like many mental illnesses, OCD can be seen on a spectrum and there are many different forms. But having a specific daily routine, or staying organised and even being a ‘perfectionist’ does not equate to a crippling, hindering illness. This is a very superficial and surfaced summary of what this condition is, but all the information is on the internet if you would like to know more.

When people who are not diagnosed with this condition say things like “OMG, I’m so OCD”, in addition to being grammatically incorrect (you can’t be a disorder, you have one), you are belittling and undermining a very serious mental condition that plagues many. To say you suffer from it when you don’t is to invalidate those who actually battle it every day. It’s not trendy, nor quirky, it’s dangerous and can be life-threatening. Mental illness is already so stigmatised everywhere, and to toss it around as adjectives contributes to the mentality that it’s okay to trivialise its severity.

2 Comments

  1. Thank you for this wonderful post and good for you for educating yourself about OCD, which as you say, is so often misrepresented. The good news about OCD, however, is that it is treatable. My son had OCD so severe he could not even eat, and thankfully exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy, the first line psychological treatment for OCD, literally saved his life.Today he is a young man living life to the fullest. I recount my family’s story in my critically acclaimed book, Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery (Rowman & Littlefield, January 2015) and discuss all aspects of the disorder on my blog at http://www.ocdtalk.wordpress.com. There truly is hope for all those who suffer from this insidious disorder!

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    1. Thank you for your comment and we are glad you like this article! It is wonderful that this disorder can be treated and we hope everyone who battles OCD can get the help they need. Congratulations to your family and your son!

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