How My OCD Isn’t Like Someone Saying ‘I’m So OCD’

As someone who has obsessive compulsive disorder, I sometimes get tired of hearing people say the phrase, “I’m so OCD.” A majority of these people, if not all of them, don’t actually have the same illness I do. When I hear people utter this phrase in dramatic exasperation, sometimes combined with laughter, I can’t help but wish to correct them. I know it’s not their fault — the media has a lot to do with this false portrayal — but it still bothers me.

To bash some stereotypes, I thought I’d share some examples of times I’ve heard someone say they’re “so OCD,” and times I’ve experienced OCD. Keep in mind this disorder can come in multiple forms and this represents just some parts of my experience.

“I’m so OCD”: “Ugh, I don’t like when my blanket and clothes are the floor. I can’t do my homework until I’ve cleaned. Now that I’ve put everything in its place, I can focus. I’m so OCD.”

My OCD: “I can’t stop seeing horrible things happening in my mind. I can’t stop seeing it and it hurts. If I keep seeing violent and disgusting things, does this make me a bad person? Does it? Does it? Does it? Does it?” (I have to ask myself four times because even numbers are good luck.)

“I’m so OCD”: “I like my hair to be perfect. Like if I don’t have conditioner, I totally freak out. I’m so OCD.”

My OCD: “Oh my God, my car just ran over a bump. I know it’s a pothole, but what if it’s not? Should I go back and check? I have to look in the rear view mirror a few times. Just in case, I need to knock on the window a couple times. Two times exactly. I still feel anxious, because even though I know I didn’t hit someone, what if I did? Am I a bad person? How can I know? I should never drive again.”

“I’m so OCD”: “I always have to be on time. My brother says I’m so OCD.”

My OCD: “I just ate two cookies. That’s so unhealthy. I’m going to get fat and become really unhealthy because I ate those two cookies. No, that’s only what my brain keeps telling me. But what if it’s true? I have to make myself throw up so I can be healthy again, by removing the bad stuff from inside me…even though I rationally realize this will probably hurt my body, too. But I have to make the thoughts stop.”

“I’m so OCD”: “I like even numbers so much better than odd numbers. They just look better. That’s so OCD of me.”

My OCD: “I must replace bad thoughts with good thoughts. I must visualize good things on top of bad things. I must knock on wood in increments of two and rub the poster on my wall until the thoughts stop. Except they don’t — they don’t stop. I must check the Internet, scouring unreliable sources for answers to my obsessions. I must ask my mom if I look OK, if I look thin, if I’m a good person, if I’m doing things right, if I am OK… And even after she answers, I ask one more time. Then I ask her if I’m annoying her. She says no, but what if she’s lying? How can I know? How can I know anything? I’m so anxious, I feel sick. I wish I could think less. I wish I wasn’t so OCD.”

The scenarios above of my own OCD occur for hours, days and even weeks on end. That’s part of what makes it so torturous — not necessarily the content of the thoughts, but how much they persist. Luckily, with medication and therapy, I’ve learned to not feed into my obsessions. It’s difficult and at some point every day I have to battle it. But the way I feel now compared to last year (when I experience obsessions and engage in compulsions, including an eating disorder, every moment of the day) is incredible. I didn’t always think so, but recovery is possible. And you never know who is experiencing OCD; someone who keep their room clean may not have the disorder, while other individuals who appear fine might be experiencing obsessions and subtle (even invisible) compulsions right before your eyes. So next time your roommate is taking forever to decide what to wear, or you get stressed when someone knocks your textbooks over, maybe hold back on calling them/yourself “so OCD.”

This Post was originally shared on The Mighty here.
Kelly McNamara is a college student at American University. She has passions for creative writing, psychology, Spanish and working with children (and dogs). She is learning the ways of navigating young adult and college life while keeping herself balanced and healthy. Kelly strives to take down the mental illness stigma through her love of writing.

2 thoughts on “How My OCD Isn’t Like Someone Saying ‘I’m So OCD’

  1. Anytime anyone compares things to Bipolar, I get super annoyed as well. People use real mental health conditions as some way to describe things non relates and it needs to stop.

  2. I have Bipolar, OCD, and PTSD. I’m 100% with you on this! My OCD is similar to yours, except I also like to obsessively organize things. Although my entire apartment will be fairly organized, I will find ways to continue to organize. I will believe it’s better and better. The reality is, it just comforts me to know I have control over it and know exactly where everything is at a moment’s notice. It comforts me to know there are no piles of things that I am unaware of and now objects that just take up space for no reason. I just moved to an efficiency apartment and for the first time in years, I’m very very happy with my living environment. I think it is because there are no walls dividing my stuff. I can literally look around the room and know where everything is and that everything is in it’s place. Even if things are slightly messy, I won’t be able to lose them because there is only one option for where they could be. It’s amazing! So while everyone else my age is enjoying their homes, I’m very very grateful to be here. It is also comforting to know I have less stuff to organize. Where I am very similar to you is that it is more of a mental process than something people notice about me right away. I am still pretty relaxed and there are piles of things so no one ever immediately assumes I have OCD. But if they begin to question me about how I organize things, it can get awkward because they begin to meet my thought process.

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