How many times can you say you’ve heard the phrase “I’m so OCD”? Or “Ugh, this is triggering my OCD”? Are you even possibly guilty of using those types of statements yourself? Perhaps you’ve seen the plethora of memes or quizzes that test you to determine whether you are infact as “so OCD” as you’d thought?
Well sadly, if you answered yes to any of the above questions, then you are among the vast majority of the population who stereotype and dont understand the real meaning of having OCD.
OCD isn’t a trend. It isnt about being overly clean, neat, orderly or picky. It isnt seeing a different coloured tile on the floor, getting annoyed and then laughing to yourself. It isnt colour coding your calendar or organising your desk. These are just a few amongst many tens of examples that people assume of OCD.
OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It is an anxiety disorder that comes under the anxiety disorder spectrum along with other mental health disorders like Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Phobias, Social Anxiety etc. There are many types of OCD, the most commonly known are the top 5 which tend to be diagnosed more often: Contamination, Harm, Religious, Symmetry/Scrupulosity and Sexuality. These are only the very broad top types of OCD, but there are many many others. And what follows beneath them are sub-types, extended branches of that particular type of OCD. For example: Contamination has some sub-types like – germs, bodily fluids, particular types of dirt. Harm has some like – harm to yourself, harm to young children, harm to family. So it’s easy to see how generalising OCD as one umbrella idea or type is incredibly false and inaccurate. One person could struggle with one type and yet be completely unaffected by something another person with OCD struggles with. For example: A person with contamination may not worry about causing harm to others at all, where as someone with harm OCD may not worry about becoming dirty/contaminated.
But even the above types and sub-types are too simplistic. Which just shows how incredibly complicated and intricate OCD is. Although it isn’t unusual for a person to suffer only one type of OCD, it is also common that a single person will experience many types and sub-types of OCD at once. Someone could have Religious and Symmetry OCD, or they could have Contamination and Harm but within their harm OCD, they only fear hurting themselves which is a single subtype. There is an endless amount of possible combinations that can make up someone’s diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and all of them are equally valid and anxiety-provoking to that individual.
OCD being an anxiety disorder has its main basis in the experience of anxious and uncomfortable feelings. The most seen are fear, panic, stress and anxiety. It’s difficult to broadly speak about how each different case of OCD will react or respond to their feared situations, but as a very general rule/idea, OCD is normally based around the idea that if the individual has constant and persistent obsessions/thoughts/feelings (this is where the obsessive part of the name stems) that states that if the person does not partake in certain compulsions (this is where the word compulsive in OCD stems) otherwise known as behaviours/actions or rituals then it will lead to a devastating consequence related to their main fear. Usually the phrase “worrying something bad will happen” is often used. And despite the fact that the sufferer logically and rationally understands and is aware their fear is completely unjustified and untrue and that nothing bad will actually happen, they unwillingly and fearfully continue to perpetuate their illnesses unintentionally by repeating compulsions and engaging in their thoughts which carries on the debilitating cycle of OCD.
So the next time you may go to use a phrase like “I’m so OCD”, hear someone else say it or if you see something online that continues to support the incorrect stigmas and stereotypes of OCD, please stop and call it out. It is wrong, harmful, ignorant and deeply offensive to those who suffer daily with this horrible agonising mental illness. Any support and spreading of knowledge is always appreciated.
Believe me, as an OCD sufferer of 8.5 years, this topic doesn’t get any less frustrating. Thank you for reading!