“I’m So OCD” – My Pet Peeve

Okay, I’ll just get right to it. I can’t stand it when people say “I’m so OCD.”  And I’m not sure why, but it seems as if  this phrase is being used more than ever these days. It’s not just the fact that OCD is a noun and not an adjective, and therefore the statement is grammatically incorrect. No, there are other reasons why this expression makes me cringe every time I hear or read it.

For starters, OCD is a neurologically based anxiety disorder marked by obsessions and compulsions that are beyond the sufferer’s control. It has the potential to lead to total disability.  So for someone to say “I’m so OCD”  in reference to some anal retentive behavior such as keeping one’s apartment neat trivializes the true meaning of the disorder. OCD is already misunderstood in our society, and this misuse of the acronym only makes things worse. Yes, as an advocate for OCD awareness, I may be more sensitive than others in this regard, but hey, it’s my pet peeve.

To complicate matters more, what most people mean when they say “I’m so OCD” is “I’m so OCPD.”  Yes, they are both still grammatically incorrect, but OCPD, or Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, is marked by the same anal retentive behavior that most people are referring to when they say “I’m so OCD.”  OCD and OCPD are two distinct disorders, and one of the many differences is that those with OCD know that their behavior is not rational, while those with OCPD believe their way is the right way. More on OCD vs OCPD in another post.

But what bothers me most about “I’m so OCD” actually goes back to the improper grammar of it all.  Not because I’m a stickler for grammar, but because of the connotation of the statement. To me, it’s like saying, “I’m so cerebral palsy” or “I’m so cancer.”  We all deal with diseases or other differences in ourselves or our loved ones, and I think the last thing most of us want is to be defined by our disorders or illnesses. They are but a small part of who we are. My son has OCD. It is something he has, not something he is.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. And thanks for letting me vent.

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66 Responses to “I’m So OCD” – My Pet Peeve

  1. Sparky says:

    I have often thought the same thing! In fact, I have often wanted to slap someone on the side of the head and roll into a litany explaining exactly what it means to “be OCD!” The grammatical aspect only bothers me some, like you. What really makes me see red is when someone uses this dreaded phrase as they wash their sticky hands for the second time in a day, while I ponder over the hour I spent this morning frozen by thoughts that I “know” are irrational and useless…
    A very good vent…bravo!

  2. ocdtalk says:

    Thanks Sparky………and your comment hit the nail on the head!

  3. bobbijaye says:

    I’m SO glad that I’m not the only one who feels this way.

    My research this fall is actually going to be in language and disability identity, because I feel so passionately about this.

    If you say “I AM OCD” (or disabled) then you make OCD something that defines you. If you say “I HAVE OCD” it makes OCD something that you own. You have power over it. I’m curious if there are differences in self-esteem between people who say “I am” versus “I have.” Or if there are differences in others perceptions between the two groups. If you present two people to someone and one says, “I am,” but the other says, “I have,” are they perceived differently?

    I’m a language geek.

    And having OCD does mean that the improper grammar drives me nuts. *grin*

    • ocdtalk says:

      I would think that most people who say “I am OCD” actually don’t really have the disorder, but it would be interesting to know if that, in fact, is the case……please keep me posted on those research results!

      • bobbijaye says:

        I used to think that too, until I started facilitating. You wouldn’t BELIEVE how many people with legitimate OCD show up to group saying, “I am OCD.”

        Personal observation leads me to think there is a cognitive difference. The “I am” people tend to place more value on their OCD and seem to have a harder time seeing it as something that can be overcome. My thought is because they’re using it to define themselves, they see it more as an inherent personality trait.

        Unfortunately, my observations aren’t really peer-reviewable. *grin* So, research, here I come!

      • Hope Vandervort-Kulish says:

        I agree and love that you addressed this. I have experienced that some think the term OCD is a complement to themselves. Something akin to going to an interview and answering the question, What is your greatest fault” by saying, “I’m a perfectionist.” Instead, they feel that saying they are OCD is the same (and more), and puts them in some category that people aspire to. It is very common for people to distort language, rather than find out the meaning, they mimic the misinterpretations they hear.
        There may be other reasons. This is just my experience. I did not know of a variation called OCPD, but it sounds interesting. Thank you.

      • Thanks for sharing, Hope, and you bring up some interesting points I hadn’t thought of. Also, OCPD is a personality disorder and not the same as OCD, though their names sure sound alike!

  4. ocdtalk says:

    Hmm, very interesting……I am curious to see what your research uncovers. Your hypothesis sure makes sense to me!

  5. I wrote about this, too! Thanks for finding my blog– I’m going to keep an eye on yours!


  6. Lolly says:

    I cannot agree more with this post! When people say this it drives me bananas… They really have no idea what they’re saying.

    • ocdtalk says:

      Now I know it’s not just MY pet peeve 🙂 ……it does seem to bother a lot of people who know anything about OCD. Thanks for reading!

  7. PinkMom07 says:

    I also have been diagnosed with OCD, and this is a pet peeve of mine too. Thank you for expressing what many of us are feeling. As the saying goes, “I have OCD, but OCD doesn’t have me.”

    I invite you check out my blog: http://www.myocdchronicles.wordpress.com

  8. I so agree with you! I see people who have obsessive or usually just compulsive habits but it is not a full blown disorder. People misunderstand that those with OCD have a disorder. One person I told about my daughter’s OCD asked me, “So does she clean her room all the time?”
    Far from the truth….my daughter has always had a messy room and with OCD it is even messier!
    there is such a misconception about what OCD actually is and so when people call themselves “OCD”, they are perpetuating that misinformation.
    I watched an old episode of Gray’s Anatomy yesterday where someone came in who had OCD. He was repetitively counting and repeating phrases and he would say things like, “I know it’s annoying but I can’t stop. It was more like he had a tic disorder.
    Most people who meet my daughter would have no idea that she has OCD.
    Thank you for this blog post to educate others. I have begun to say my daughter has a severe anxiety disorder rather than say OCD because I think it paints a better picture of the problem.

  9. Ally says:

    So true! I’m not crazily messy or neat. I’m just normal in that regard. But I have OCD. And I hate it, too. It’s like saying “I’m so depression” when you’re having a bad day. To someone suffering from depression. Every time someone tells me “I’m so OCD” because they’re neat. Every time it’s trivialized, it feels like someone’s trivializing my worst fear, because that’s what OCD is to me. My worst fear. I’ve never told anyone except my best friend, whom I properly educated beforehand, but I can just imagine the reactions. “Yeah right. You’re too messy to be OCD.” and “Then why don’t you clean your hands?” and even the “nice” “Sweetie, I don’t think you have OCD because people with OCD are neat and clean themselves and their surroundings a lot. I’m sorry you tricked yourself so badly.” I’m so happy it’s not just me that it annoys.

  10. I’m so glad you sent me the link to this– this post and all the comments are EXACTLY what I was trying to say! I am so glad to see that I am not the only one (by far!) who feels this way!

  11. ocdtalk says:

    You are definitely not the only one!

  12. ocd3timesocd3timesocd3times says:

    I have suffered with OCD since I was a child. I agree that in recent years it has become fashionable for everyone to use the phrase, “I am so OCD” and it used to frustrate me beyond belief. I have now accepted it, and do see some positives out of this bizarre phenomenon. Although most people who use this phrase have no idea what OCD truly is, it has brought a lot of attention to the disorder. I feel as though it has made it easier to live openly with the disorder without being judged. Also, I hope that the added attention leads to additional treatment options. Just my thoughts… Thanks.

    • Sorry (don’t take offence) but I couldn’t disagree with you more, People now think of OCD as being a trivial matter. You say that people can live openly with the disorder without being judged, but in my personal experience, this phrase (“I’m so OCD”) has made it more difficult to be open about it. The reason being is because people are not aware of how disabling this illness can be and often associate it with tidiness or cleanliness but there is a great variety of types of OCD. Someone like myself with OCD (nothing to do with hand washing or anal retentive behaviours) will be misunderstood and chastised for not being able to cope day to day with what they perceive as a trivial illness about matters of cleanliness or similar type of anally retentive behaviour. When I told people I had been diagnosed with OCD, they did not believe it because to them my mental health and behaviour was too severe to be OCD. They didn’t realise that OCD can be as severe as any other mental health problem. It is great that you have found this phenomenon to be beneficial for you and that you feel less judged and can live openly with the condition. I too, hope that the extra attention leads to additional treatment options that definitely would be a bonus.

      • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Andrew. I do agree with you, especially your comment about people not realizing how severe or debilitating an illness OCD is. I thought the same thing about my son before I really understood the disorder. I figured he was way too sick for it to be “just” OCD. Boy was I wrong!

  13. ocdtalk says:

    Thanks for the comment, and you seem to be more tolerant than many about the misuse of the term OCD 🙂 As you say, maybe just getting the disorder out there is a positive thing, and we can continue to try and educate the public as to what OCD really is.

  14. NP says:

    I really appreciated this blog, and especially everyone’s comments that have followed. I suffer from bipolar, and I think we all have heard the phrase “I’m so bipolar” improperly used in ignorance or to hurt others. This still irks me, and to the extent that I will be doing a project in my master’s program to reform it on my campus. Wish me luck! I believe that getting the word out there like ocdtalk said, and informing people of their false word-usage may open some eyes and minds, and close some mouths!

    • ocdtalk says:

      Good Luck! I would love to her more about the project……sounds interesting!

      • NikiPizz says:

        My project is almost complete! I’ll let you know how it goes! It’s been a great experience though, and I was able to reach a lot of undergraduate students.

  15. ocdtalk says:

    Congratulations! Will you be presenting this before a committee?

    • NikiPizz says:

      Unfortunately not! It’s not that high-level yet. Just a final assignment for one of my courses. I did, however present to two undergrad psych classes, and involved two student clubs. The students and I worked together to make sticky-notes that mimicked the Operation Beautiful campaign. It was great! We wrote phrases like “You’re just so OCD!”..then would cross out OCD and write an alternative adjective like neat and tidy. We posted them all over the bathroom mirrors on campus. As well, I had a student who has ADD be interviewed in the student paper. He discussed how others perceive his ADD and his annoyance with the de-trivializing of it and other disorders. All and all quite successful! The two student clubs will continue in advocate for more awareness on this issue in the fall semester.

  16. ocdtalk says:

    Sounds like you have really raised awareness of mental health disorders…….wish there were more of “you” out there!

  17. Danielle says:

    Love love love this. My husband has severe OCD and our family is currently in a state of crisis as he has reached a critical point. OCD is not having to put your clothes in the closet a certain way and that’s all it’s a disease that makes you so scared you won’t even hold your children for fear of hurting them. I hate when people use this phrase.

  18. ocdtalk says:

    Thanks for commenting, Danielle. I am so sorry things are so bad for your husband and your family right now. I hope you have been able to connect with good health-care professionals who can help your husband get on the road to recovery. You are in my thoughts.

  19. Tiffany says:

    I agree. It never bothered me or occurred to me before. I had even been guilty of using this slang phrase. This was before I knew anything about it, before I knew my son was suffering with OCD.

    • ocdtalk says:

      Thanks for commenting, Tiffany. It’s amazing what “experts” we can become when our children are suffering from an illness, isn’t it? I see things so differently now……..

  20. I struggle with this one. . .but I really see two sides of a coin here. Really, it does trivialize what OCD is so that’s frustrating for those of us who do struggle or know someone who really does have the disorder. On the other hand, the FACT that it even is mentioned and bandied about by people in general society means that there IS a starting awareness about this disorder and some of the things it involves. When I was a kid people used to make fun of cerebral palsy people, at least kids did about 30 years ago, now because of awareness of it, people take complete compassion and you never see that anymore. My take is that unlike “back then” when people did make fun of cerebral palsy, they are not saying, “I’m so OCD” to make fun of it, In many ways they may, in a basic way, are trying to understand and make some sense out of what they see on TV and don’t quite understand. So unless they’re being outright insulting, it doesn’t bother me that much. To me, the positive side of this outweighs the negative because we are now in an environment where we can ENGAGE in a discussion about OCD and we talk to these people and we can “set them straight” because there is a base foundation of knowledge; however primitive, that has been created about OCD by media awareness. I may be swimming upstream here in the tide of OCD opinion but I’m a believer that we have to look for the opportunities on the horizon wherever they appear. https://www.facebook.com/AttackOcd?ref=hl

  21. Isobe says:

    People don’t get that it’s actually a mental disorder. Once one of my friends said ‘I am SO OCD!’ to which my response was, ‘oh really. I’m so sorry. So what obsessions do you have that lead you to perform overwhelming and time consuming rituals that fill you with a sense of dread even after completion?’
    She knows about my OCD, so I didn’t talk to her for a week after that. You don’t hear people saying that they are ‘so depression’ or ‘so Bipolar’. Yes, the personification of the illness makes me angry, but the main thing is that people don’t understand how hard it is to live with OCD. This is why I found it so hard to seek help, because I was afraid of the stigma and misunderstanding that a diagnosis would bring.

    • Thanks for sharing, Isobe. Obviously this issue bothers you, too. In my experience over the years, people aren’t usually acting this way to be mean, they are just ignorant, and in many cases, happy to be educated about the disorder. So we’ll keep on educating them! I hope you did end up seeking help for your OCD.

  22. hs says:

    I just had this rant to my husband about 30 minutes before reading this. To me it minimizes the hell I live with daily due to OCD. It’s like so what get over it everybody has it. I’m glad I’m not alone with your pet peeve

  23. Alicia says:

    I’ll admit I have said that a few times, but I actually HAVE OCD, so I hope that it’s not as bad when I say it haha.

    Mostly, I say it to people when they notice my compulsive checking, just to diffuse the situation and make a joke of it at least in their eyes. Obviously it’s not something to laugh off, like just chuckling and saying “I’m so OCD” – quite the opposite, it’s something that’s ruined my life. But I’d rather have people see me as quirky and joking about my rituals than someone who avoids leaving the house because of the crippling anxiety caused by my OCD.

  24. Alicia says:

    That being said, I do understand the ignorance that you’re talking about. I mentioned my OCD to a close friend and how it was preventing me from living my life, and she just brushed it off and said it wasn’t a real problem and I shouldn’t be whining about it, because all having OCD means is that my apartment will always be clean and my alarm clock will always go off when it should. I know she didn’t mean any harm by it, but I was so upset that I couldn’t even talk to her for over a month after that. I literally am housebound, and for people to trivialize it like that is just too much to take.

    • Thanks for sharing, Alicia, and I’m sorry things are so tough with your OCD right now. I totally understand everything you are saying and unfortunately there is so much ignorance as to what OCD is and is not. It’s not easy, but at times I think these types of exchanges that you mention are a great time to truly educate people about the disorder……of course there are those who just won’t listen, but there are also many others who are open to being educated about OCD. I wish you all the best as you move forward with your therapy.

      • Alicia says:

        Thanks for your response! I tried to tell my friend about how it is so much more than keeping everything clean and checking alarm clocks. In my case, cleanliness really doesn’t even have anything to do with it – I’m actually a slob. I tried to explain that my fear is so paralyzing that I can’t walk through doorways, leave the house, etc. She wouldn’t really listen, kept saying OCD is not a big deal, and even said that she has OCD too, because she keeps thinking and talking about some guy…it was at this point where I just really needed to hang up before I said something I would regret.

        In her case, she really wasn’t meaning to be rude or harmful at all, it was just cluelessness. I don’t know what’s worse, the malicious ignorance that involves ridicule and name-calling, or ignorance from people who mean well and just can’t understand.

      • Well, at least you tried to enlighten your friend, Alicia. Good for you!

  25. leyaloves says:

    I came across your post because I was curious about the difference between having OCD and being anally retentive; although, I knew the general difference. I just wanted to say, while I do not have OCD, I correct people quite often when they say this (especially my students) because it seems people say it to “seem cool,” as if having OCD is something catchy and trendy. Whereas, I can only imagine, if they were to really have OCD, they may feel otherwise. Anyway, just wanted to share. Thanks.

    • Thanks for commenting! I really appreciate when those without the disorder take the time and energy to learn what OCD really is, and you’ve also taken the extra step of helping to educate others. Thank you!

  26. OMG…drives me absolutely crazy as well. I don’t have much experience with the disease but what really bother’s me is when people are essentially saying that they are neat, clean and orderly when they say “I am so OCD”. I am actually NOT the neatest person in the world. I can manage a lot of tasks have four kids, work full time and a second job and manage to got to school at night towards my master’s degree. A lot of times laundry gets overflowing and dishes wait. I do the best I can. I have tried to tell some of my friends that I would never say in a complimentary way that I am OC Sloppy which is really what they are trying to say when the use OCD. They are trying to say I am OC neat. I feel any thing in the obsessive/compulsive range isn’t where you want to be if you can help it. Moderation is key. So to all the people who are “OCD” – you are misunderstood although people like to use I as like a good personality quality. The are the same people who often say cleanliness is next to godliness…????

  27. JJ says:

    Thank you for writing this, I completely agree with you. I often get really really angry with people when they are saying they “are sooo OCD”. And I just can’t get them to understand that first of all you don’t ‘are’ OCD, you ‘have’ it and also that it’s not just being neat and particular about things.

    My OCD often is not taken seriously because it’s been so trivialized, and even famous people like Katy Perry (mis)use that awful sentence, while they have no idea what it’s really like, to have this constant loop of intrusive thoughts and pictures in your head, to have to do something over and over again, just in order to get some peace.

    Being neat or a perfectionist is not “being OCD”, I wish people would educate themselves on the subject and not get all defensive when I point them out the difference.

    Anyway, thank you for this great post!

  28. Marni Kroeber says:

    My son has OCD, and when I discuss it with other parents, I’ll often hear something meant only as a casual acceptance of the information you just shared, along the lines of “I know, I’m totally that way when I’m cleaning my house.” It takes every ounce of energy not to blurt out, “Really? Your fear of not having the house perfectly clean is so debilitating that you’re afraid to get out of bed, and you cry out in terror when someone says that having a dirty floor isn’t the end of the world, because you hadn’t thought of that before, and now your brain has launched into the process of somehow making that conclusion seem logical, although you know it isn’t?” It just easier to nod, and appreciate that they’re parents too, and are facing their own challenges. Hearing that type of statement really opens my eyes to what public perceptions of OCD are, and I hope that by being honest and open about it with other parents might provide information to parents who might be wondering if their child may have OCD or anxiety.

    • Thank you so much for sharing, Marni, and I agree with you. Being open and honest will likely help others and hopefully educate some people who really do not understand OCD. I appreciate your comment and wish you and your son all the best.

  29. Carrie says:

    This has become a pet peeve of mine. After reading some different blogs and websites about the misuse of OCD, I decided to address this with a coworker after she misused the term when talking to another coworker. Unfortunately, I came off as somewhat combative and angry, which didn’t help. Then today, I was talking about it to another coworker and I proceeded to tell her that she might have the personality disorder (meaning OCPD) rather than OCD. I definitely regret saying that. I think from now on, I’ll just roll my eyes, shake my head, and say to myself “if they only knew.” I would like to know why obsessive compulsive disorder and obsessive compulsive personality disorder were given such similar names.

    • Hi Carrie, Thanks for sharing your experiences. It is a hard topic to address with others, I agree, and maybe at some point you’ll figure out a way to do it that is comfortable and works for you. I agree that OCD and OCPD are too closely named! I’m sure many people believe they are actually the same disorder. Thanks again for commenting.

  30. I hear people say “I wish I had OCD” and laugh. I tell them “I wish I could give it to” and laugh at them

  31. Amanda says:

    Oh lord! I’m SO glad soneone feels as I do! As someone that has been diagnosed I cannot STAND when people say that phrase. It makes my skin crawl and ticks me off. If they really had it, they wouldn’t be running around saying it either!

  32. Laura says:

    Yes, yes, yes! If they really had it, they would never say, “I’m OCD.” It’s insulting to those who actually have the disorder to think that just because you’re anal or super organized, you “are OCD.” Super pet peeve!

  33. Miss Ally says:

    Hello, there. I hope you are fine. Although I respect and understand your point of view, I have to say I disagree with it – and maybe I am the only one here… ;o). As a person who has been diagnosed as having the disease I think this whole thing is much more than semantics. Sometimes, “I have OCD” when I go nuts if I notice I left home without my hand sanitizer and even though I wash my hands everywhere I go, I still have to find a place where I can buy one. And sometimes, “I am OCD”, like when I cannot sleep at night because I keep seeing horror scenes in my head, involving my family and I have to call them several times a day to make sure they’re ok. Sometimes people have something and sometimes it’s so overwhelming they BECOME that very something (so no grammar mistake there). It doesn’t bother me when ppl say they’re “ocd”, whereas they should say they’re anally retentive and don’t know much about actual OCD. Ppl are judgemental anyway and all of us have and/ or will judge others for reasons we do not understand. Our personal hell doens’t have to be other ppl’s hell and I don’t need ppl looking at me as if I were a freak or with condescension. So ppl can “have” or “be” OCD as much as they want. ;o)

    • Hi Ally, Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and opinion, which of course you are entitled to :). I think it’s a good thing you are not bothered by people saying they are “so OCD.” The fewer things that bother us, the better :)! I hope you are doing well and wish you all the best.

  34. Ashley says:

    It’s actually somewhat comforting to know someone else can’t stand it when people say that. I can’t do a single thing in my life it seems without having to perform a ritual (yes, so I may be over exaggerating but it feels that way sometimes) and then people just come along and straighten a painting or something and they’re like “It’s my OCD sorry.” I wanna slap them so badly!

    • Hi Ashley, Thanks for sharing. You are certainly not alone! Almost everyone I know who has OCD shares this “pet peeve.” Hopefully the more people learn about what OCD really is, the more they will stop using it incorrectly.

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