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.”