I have written about OCD before…quite a bit, since I have lived with it in varying degrees since I was a child. I’m not talking cutesy perfectionist shit. Real obsessive compulsive disorder requiring real treatment.
I came across this article on Facebook today, and I only hope it gets the reads it deserves. As I have mentioned before, and what is concisely stated in the article by an actual doctor (if my word isn’t enough): OCD differs from idiosyncratic quirks and/or having an obsessive personality in that it causes actual distress to the sufferer and oftentimes interferes with their ability to function on a day to day basis in a normal fashion. (One example-which is not to say all people with OCD would manifest in this way: have you ever been late to work because you wanted to be sure the stove was off even though you stood there looking at the stove knob clearly in the off position? Your brain still sends you signals of doubt and stress so much so that you can’t even believe your eyes.)
“‘Obsessive’ is a personality trait. It doesn’t get in the way of your functioning, it’s something you prefer. What people are meaning to say is, ‘I am obsessive rather than OCD,’ ” says Jeff Szymanski, executive director of the International OCD Foundation. “You’re now mixing a distressing psychological disorder with a personality preference, and when you mix them, you lose the severity of the disorder.”
With OCD, there are obsessions (unwanted thoughts, impulses, or images that repeat in a person’s mind) and compulsions (acts that a person repeats in order to “get rid” of these obsessions). These compulsions are often done in a desperate attempt to protect oneself from the wave of anxiety the obsessions bring, not because the person actually wants engage in the compulsion. (source)
It’s not even about being oversensitive (although it is insensitive to downplay someone else’s suffering.) It’s also about awareness. As stated, there are varying degrees of this illness, and some people can live with it untreated (although they likely have their own personal rituals or adjustments to their lives that allow them to do so, some people may benefit from behavioral modification techniques (supervised by a professional,) and some, like myself, may never feel comfortable enough to be off medication. Some people suffer in silence for years, ashamed, afraid…generally miserable captives of their own runaway anxiety and relate compulsions designed to alleviate said anxiety. Howard Hughes, American aviator, engineer, industrialist, film producer and director (1) (2), was notorious for his bizarre behavior which was eventually attributed to OCD.
People with OCD, we’re not crazy (although we certainly feel like we are going crazy sometimes.) There is nothing “wrong” with us, at least nothing that should be stigmatized or judged. I really view it as no different from someone who must take insulin everyday to survive. My body lacks a specific chemical/chemical reaction that most “normal” people have. It may not be preferable, but it’s how it is, and I feel lucky to live in a time where there are medications to help me manage this issue. However, even in this age, there are some people that have a startling lack of knowledge about a fairly prevalent illness.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, OCD affects about 2.3% of the United States population age 18 to 54 years (ie, approximately Americans). An additional 1 million children and adolescents have the disorder. (source)
The point is that, undiagnosed people who suffer from this likely feel alone, confused, and afraid, so instead of people being glib or using OCD as the punchline in some kind of joke, wouldn’t it be better to try to help by spreading awareness and offering assistance?
I’d also like to point out that as with many “mental illnesses” in this country, people who suffer from OCD are not usually a danger to anyone, except for maybe themselves if they feel they can no longer handle their anxiety and the resultant compulsive behaviors.
Anyway, I can’t think of a neat way to wrap this up so I’ll just say, unless you’re feeling particularly distressed by your obsessions or quirks, (in which case, I feel for you and the are people who can help,) you don’t have OCD so stop telling people you do.