NOT A GENERIC TERM
A migraine is not a generic term for a bad headache.
The flu is not a generic term for a bad cold.
There is no such thing as a “stomach flu.”
And, OCD is not a generic term for an eccentric person who likes things neat and orderly, or for someone who is meticulous or particular, so stop glorifying it.
OCD is more than being a perfectionist. It’s more than excessively worrying about real life problems. OCD is irrational. It's not real world problems.
I cringe when I hear or see people say things akin to, “I’m sooo OCD!” When did OCD become a social norm, or something to strive for? I find myself having to justify my OCD diagnosis by saying things like, “I TRULY have OCD,” or “I LEGITIMATELY have OCD.” As in, I take medication for it and it disrupts my life.
That’s the thing about OCD – it’s an intruder…a villain, and an enemy. It’s distressing. It’s debilitating. It’s not fun and it’s certainly not funny.
OCD IS AN ANXIETY DISORDER
Some people may have OCD tendencies or characteristics, but unless those tendencies interfere with your quality of life – then you likely don’t have OCD. And I can’t think of any reason why someone who truly has OCD would glorify it by throwing around the term as if it’s something to be proud of.
People with OCD don’t do the things they do because they ENJOY them, they do them because they HAVE to…to reduce their anxiety. So, if you separate your M&Ms by color because you think it's fun. You likely don't have OCD. If you separate them because, for example, it makes you anxious to have the colors commingling, you might have OCD. If you like all the labels on the cans and boxes in your pantry facing forward because it's easy for you to see what's on the shelves, you likely have good organization skills, not OCD. If you have to have all the labels facing forward because it makes you anxious otherwise…regardless of the source of the anxiety, you may have OCD.
OCD takes on many forms. There are many OCD tendencies. Many behaviors. Many things to obsess about. Many compulsions.
OCD is exhausting. It can consume a great deal of your day.
There’s a vicious cycle to OCD and it looks like this:
WHAT DOES OCD LOOK LIKE FOR ME
As a child I used to have sensorimotor OCD – I’d blink my eyes tight. ALL. THE. TIME. And, if I wasn’t blinking my eyes, I’d wrinkle my nose. OVER. AND. OVER. AGAIN. For hours on end.
My parents were often scolding me for it – they didn’t understand. How could they? I didn’t understand. I couldn’t vocalize the NEED to do it. I was teased incessantly. I wanted to stop, but I couldn’t.
It means I get a word or phrase stuck in my head. I say it OVER AND OVER AGAIN to myself to the point that my mouth and jaw start to hurt, and I get a headache because I’m partially mouthing the word(s). I try to say the word faster and faster and faster….picturing a washing machine on spin cycle, and if I say it fast enough maybe, just maybe, the word will fly out of my head into an abyss, never to enter my head again. It never works.
It meant waking up in the dead of winter with the idea that the furnace was going to blow up…going downstairs to check on the furnace, make it up the stairs, and turning right back around to go check OVER. AND. OVER. AGAIN.
What was I checking exactly? To this day I don’t know, but I can tell you after more than an hour of trekking up and down the stairs, I turned off the furnace and grabbed extra blankets to put on my children so they wouldn’t freeze during the night – which in itself presented a whole new set obsessive thoughts followed by compulsions.
It means having disturbing thoughts – that haunt me. Where do they come from? I don’t know. If I did, I’d stay away from the source. I beat myself up and start praying…asking God to forgive me for such thoughts…thoughts that I have no control over, so why am I asking for forgiveness for something I can’t control? Because the compulsion to ask for forgiveness is the only way to get any relief from the disturbing thoughts.
It meant after using the bathroom, flushing, washing my hands, that I’d trek back to the bathroom to be sure that I REALLY flushed the toilet. Back and forth I’d go…sneaking out or making an excuse as to where I was going. OVER. AND. OVER. AGAIN.
This was a particular problem when I used the bathroom at work.
A part of me always knew that I’d flushed, and wondered, “so what if I didn’t?” And yet, I couldn’t stop myself. I had to check…knowing that someone else likely used the same stall I did sometime between my ‘checks’ didn’t matter.
I worked 12 hour shifts at the time so using the bathroom couldn’t really be avoided, but it might be why I can hold it now for more hours than is likely normal or healthy…all so I can stay out of the public bathrooms and keep the obsessive thoughts and compulsion to check at bay.
NO LUCKY NUMBERS
It never meant that a particular number for me was ‘good’ or ‘lucky.’ It does for many people with OCD, but not for me. I didn’t, and still don’t, count the number of times I lock the door, turn off the stove, or set the alarm clock, but instead rhythm is important to me. It’s about the turning the deadbolt back and forth in a rhythmic pattern and finally pushing it to the closed position at the end of the pattern so it ‘stays put.’ Alarm clocks are similar. Whether it be a big ben wind up type clock or a clock radio….I pull the pin or push the button back and forth in a rhythmic pattern, pulling the pin out or pushing the button over at the end of the pattern so it gets stuck on the “set” position.
Scott now keeps the clock radio on his side of the bed and sets it. I use my cell phone as an alarm and I can’t rhythmically set it, but I lose sleep over constantly checking to make sure it’s set. OVER. AND. OVER. AGAIN.
It meant that I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 37 (with private lessons thanks to the VA) because I’d put my foot on the break to get ready to start the car and have to move the seat back to visually check to make sure my foot was on the brake and not the gas. Then, I’d slide the seat forward again…get ready to start the car, and uncertain if my foot slipped off the brake pedal and made its way to the gas pedal, I’d have to slide my seat back again. OVER. AND. OVER. AGAIN.
It meant that I’d clean the same thing OVER. AND. OVER. AGAIN. It meant that my children learned to clean instead of play, when they were finished with normal childhood chores or homework because they misunderstood my intentions and my compulsions.
OCD AFFECTED MY FAMILY
It wasn’t until I came home from work one day, and my two oldest children at ages 9 and 5, who were admittedly latch-key children, were on their hands and knees washing the floor. When they came home from school, they always called me to let me know they were home and that the door was locked.
They were permitted to get a drink of water out of the plastic cups on the first shelf of the cupboard. They weren’t permitted to eat anything out of my fear that one of them would choke. They could do their chores, but they couldn’t open the dishwasher – because something might break and harm them or a knife might cut them. I was on active duty in the Navy at the time and everyone knew that no matter what I was doing or where I was, that if my children called, I was to be notified right away because they were home alone.
So, what possessed my children to think it was ok to get cleaning agents, a bucket, and rags, and get on their hands and knees to wash a floor that wasn’t even dirty when I wouldn’t let them eat or even open the dishwasher?
That’s when I knew it was time to talk to the psychiatrist that I was already seeing for Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and trauma, about these quirks that I had. That’s when I first heard OCD.
I have and had many other OCD symptoms. I take medication for my OCD and I talk about it in therapy.
OCD is not something to be glorified. OCD isn’t something to strive for.
If you think you DO have OCD contact your primary care provider or mental health provider. There are treatments available.
The term OCD shouldn’t be used flippantly. It's hurtful and harmful, and if you do so, you’re minimizing the effect OCD has on people like me and my family. Name one other illness that someone would say he or she had with such complacency.
Cancer? Muscular Dystrophy? Multiple Sclerosis?
Would you say, “I'm sooo cancer?”
No. No, you wouldn’t.
Stop saying you’re OCD. People aren’t OCD – they have OCD, and it’s not a joking matter.
SO. JUST. STOP.