The D in OCD

As long as we’ve been getting into semantics  lately, let’s talk about the D in OCD.  As Dr. Jeff Szymanski, Executive Director of the International OCD Foundation points out on this blog about OCD, the word disorder connotes an intensity or  seriousness. Just think about it. Saying “I’m in a bad mood,” implies something much less severe than “I have a mood disorder.” Likewise, having eating issues or stomach aches is by no means the same as having an “eating disorder” or “digestive disorder.”

The same goes for OCD. Being obsessive, compulsive, or both is not the same as having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I like Dr. Szymanksi’s comparison of himself, who he considers to be somewhat compulsive, with someone who has OCD:

When I park my car in the morning and walk away, sometimes the thought occurs to me, “Did I lock the doors?” Though I might feel a little anxious and I might even go back and check the car, I am not suddenly overcome by fears, doubts and catastrophic images. This, however, is the experience of someone with OCD. My doubts and anxiety were minimal to begin with. The thoughts and worries about my car actually go away without me doing anything. Talk with someone who has a diagnosis of OCD. No matter what they do, they are plagued for hours every day, day after day, with unrelenting, crushing anxiety.

This is what so many people fail to understand – how debilitating OCD actually can be.  When Dan was not able to eat , and essentially not able to function, I thought, “Okay, I know he has OCD, but what else is going on here?”  I had no idea that OCD could be so crippling.

If those around us don’t understand OCD, how can we expect them to offer the appropriate support? In my experience, most people want to understand, and they want to help.  This is why it is so important to educate family, friends, teachers, peers, and co-workers.  The D in OCD can be devastating, and everyone needs to know that.

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6 Responses to The D in OCD

  1. So few people actually really understand what OCD is. I don’t really tell anyone that I have it, mostly because I don’t want people to form their own uninformed opinions, and treat me differently because of it. If it was as simple as reading a “brochure” and understanding it – maybe I would give it a a try, but it’s not. It doesn’t really bother me when people say “I’m so OCD” because they really don’t understand. What DOES bother me is people who judge ANYONE for any type of mental or physical disability. I’ve come to realize that everyone has “stuff” so who are they to judge?

  2. ocdtalk says:

    You are so right that everyone has their own “stuff”. We have the same reasons for not telling everyone we know about Dan’s OCD. It’s not that we’re ashamed (actually it’s the opposite; we are very proud of him), it’s that we don’t want people to treat him differently. Maybe as the years go by, we’ll all get more comfortable in that department (right now I’m using a pseudonym to protect his privacy).

  3. ocd3timesocd3timesocd3times says:

    I have suffered with OCD privately for many years. Over the past few years, I have noticed that the term OCD has made its way into many people’s vocabulary as something that they refer to whether they are overly organized or obsessive (in a healthy way) about something.

    At first it frustrated me that people didn’t truly understand the true nature of OCD, but I have changed my outlook. I am happy that OCD is getting so much exposure (even if people don’t understand it) because I believe that the popularization of OCD has made it easier for me to live publicly with the disorder without feeling judged. Also, I am hopeful that this will help bring more awareness to the disorder which will lead to more treatment options.

    • ocdtalk says:

      Gee, I must have missed this comment back in January! Thanks for your input. I guess what your saying is the wrong “publicity” is better than no publicity and I guess you have a point. Still, it sure would be nice if people actually understood what OCD really is!

  4. Mirjam says:

    It’s a two-sided sword: in a way, people who use the term without understanding it are making it easier for us sufferers to speak about it in public, but on the other hand, the lack of understanding also makes it possible for people to pigeonhole us, to see us as persnickety little neat freaks, a personality type which I really can’t identify with.

  5. ocdtalk says:

    Thanks for commenting, Mirjam. I always chuckle a bit to myself when I hear people describe those with OCD as “neat freaks.” My son is the messiest person I know!

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