hello, blog! this month, i’ll be talking about something extremely important to me–ocd awareness. for those who don’t know, i’ve suffered from severe obsessive compulsive disorder my entire life. it’s not something that i talk about very much–not because i’m embarrassed or ashamed, simply because i don’t always feel the need to share that part of me with everyone. if and when i do share with someone that i have ocd, it’s typically because i think they deserve an explanation for certain behaviors or because i trust them a great deal. with this post, though, i’m breaking that habit, that subconscious secrecy, because i need to address something that’s been weighing very heavily on my heart and mind–the use of ocd as a punchline or buzzword.
we’ve all heard it at least once. can you straighten those books? i’m ocd about that. sorry, i’m so ocd. i love to clean, i must be ocd. typically, these words are harmless. there’s no ill intent behind them, no malice or offence to be taken. for people with the disorder, however, (or at least me, personally) these words can feel like a gut-punch. i cannot accurately describe how hurtful it is to me to hear someone talk about this disorder like it’s a trivial thing or a personality trait. ocd is not all about tidiness and cleaning. it’s not all about tapping and light switches and numbers. yes, those can be and often are parts of it, but that’s all they are–parts. a person wouldn’t say i lost my keys, i’m so alzheimer’s. in fact, just reading that sentence probably made you angry, or, at the very least, cringe. i know i felt that way writing it. that is akin to the feeling of hearing someone use ocd incorrectly. ocd is not and adjective. your words matter. they have the power to empower and to invalidate. it’s your choice.
now that we’ve established what ocd isn’t, let’s talk a bit about what it is. in my own words, obsessive compulsive disorder is a crippling, life-threatening mental disorder. it is a stealer of joy, peace, and wellness. it’s a daily battle. a horrific disease that takes your sense of security, your trust in others and yourself, your faith in humanity and, sometimes, even God. it’s your worst fears playing on an eternal, repetitive loop in your head. by no means is it a cute personality trait or quirk.
Melinda Smith, M.A., Lawrence Robinson, and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. on helpguide.com gave this description, which i find super accurate and helpful:
“It’s normal, on occasion, to go back and double-check that the iron is unplugged or worry that you might be contaminated by germs, or even have an occasional unpleasant, violent thought. But if you suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors become so consuming they interfere with your daily life.
OCD is characterized by uncontrollable, unwanted thoughts and ritualized, repetitive behaviors you feel compelled to perform. If you have OCD, you probably recognize that your obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors are irrational—but even so, you feel unable to resist them and break free.
Like a needle getting stuck on an old record, OCD causes the brain to get stuck on a particular thought or urge. For example, you may check the stove 20 times to make sure it’s really turned off because you’re terrified of burning down your house, or wash your hands until they’re scrubbed raw for fear of germs. While you don’t derive any sense of pleasure from performing these repetitive behaviors, they may offer some passing relief for the anxiety generated by the obsessive thoughts.”
to sum all this up, i’ll leave you with this–no one is perfect, and we all say the wrong thing from time to time; but the next time you catch yourself wanting to say something that could potentially harm or invalidate others, please, please, think twice.
if you made it this far, thanks so much for reading! here are some helpful resources and links for those who want to further educate themselves (which i highly encourage):
@obsessivelyeverafter on instagram
@the_ocdproject on instagram
@ocd_strong on tiktok
anthony padilla video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsjHaC1q4OA