The Nicest People

I have resisted writing this post for quite some time, as I feel it is politically incorrect to stereotype any one group of people. But for some inexplicable reason, I’ve recently mustered the courage to say what I’ve wanted to say for a long time:

People with OCD are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.

I base this statement on my own experience. I know what you’re thinking: “Of course she feels that way. Her son has OCD.” But really, everyone who knows him will tell you; he is thoughtful, gentle, sensitive, and kind, and would do anything for those he cares about. He wouldn’t hurt a fly, literally (any bugs found in the house during Dan’s formative years had to be lovingly placed outside, not stepped on or squashed). And it’s not just Dan. I personally know quite a few people who have obsessive compulsive disorder and I would describe them all the same way. The blogs I read as well as the people I’ve connected with via the internet only reinforce my belief.

It’s not unusual for those with anxiety disorders to avoid conflict. They may be described as “people pleasers,” and have trouble saying “no.”Β  They may avoid hurting anyone’s feelings at all costs, and almost always put others needs before their own. Not surprisingly, this type of behavior often exacerbates anxiety and the sufferer can easily lose his or her sense of self.

But that’s not what I’m talking about when I say those with OCD are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. I’m talking about their core, their essence, the people they truly are, not a specific way they feel they have to act.

Thinking about it, I wonder if really “nice” people who are predisposed to OCD are more likely to develop the disorder than others who may be predisposed. Let me give you an example. When I was a first-time mother, I remember having the thought, more than once, that I could drop my baby at anytime; just let go and she would fall. I remember thinking it was odd that the thought kept popping into my head, but beyond that I put no weight on it. It was just a thought that floated by. But maybe, if I were “nicer,” (as described above), the fact that I could even “think” of hurting my baby would have been so upsetting to me that maybe I would have gone down a different path: “How could I think such a thing? I must really want to hurt my baby. I’m not fit to be a mother. I shouldn’t even be allowed to be around my baby.”

As I’ve learned about OCD and how all of our brains work, I know that we all have these types of thoughts and they mean nothing. Our minds have minds of their own; that’s just how they work. But when these thoughts weigh heavily on us, even horrify us, we begin to attach meaning to them that doesn’t really exist, thereby opening the door just enough for OCD, which plays on the sufferer’s deepest fears, to sneak in.

Does this make sense to anybody, or am I way off base?

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29 Responses to The Nicest People

  1. You bring up something interesting to think about. I do see what you are saying. I see my daughter’s essence- who she really is- as a very caring, generous and kind person.
    Unfortunately when OCD takes over, it can appear that she has the opposite personality.
    Maybe this makes things worse for her because she probably does not like being that way.
    I would not describe her as a people pleaser. Yet, she enjoys playing a game where everyone wins unlike her older brother who is all about following the rules. I have always seen that as a Meyers- Briggs Personality difference (feeling vs. thinking)
    I do see how the OCD has undermined her confidence.
    It does provide me with something to think about. Because she was only 8 when OCD “took over” or took hold, she has not been able to share what it is like for her and still has a very difficult time talking about it. We have found an ERP therapist and have been several times. I am so happy that she is finally at the place to be able to do that.
    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and experiences with your writing. It really does help me.

    • ocdtalk says:

      Thanks for your comment, Gina. It’s so true that OCD can make the sufferer seem completely opposite from their true personality. So glad your daughter is becoming familiar with ERP Therapy and I hope that as she gets older she will be able to share more of her feelings with you.

  2. I think we tend to be very contientous people…..and like to do what’s “right”, and very true – we don’t like to hurt people’s feelings. And I would also agree with you – we are in general very kind people.

  3. Tina says:

    I agree with POC–we tend to be very conscientious and want to do the right thing. Perhaps we get mired down when we want to feel the “right” thing when we do the right thing. And I think you make a good point with the way we may attend to negative thoughts more than someone not predisposed to OCD and may make judgments about ourselves based on those thoughts. I’m just really learning how much I’ve lived based on my thoughts and not my actions.

    I think, too, that when you suffer a great deal internally, it affects you. I can’t stand to think of anyone else feeling lonely or in despair. I have felt lonely and despairing so much. I was like that as a girl, too, even with animals. I hated to hear one of our puppies crying from loneliness. I would sit beside one puppy we had and sing hymns to her to make her feel better. πŸ™‚ Of course, the poor puppy just wanted companionship.

    All people suffer, all people have burdens. But I think when people suffer so much inside, and many people can’t even tell that anything is “wrong,” they end up sensitive to and empathic with others because they know there’s more to people than what’s on the surface.

  4. Suzane says:

    As ocd sufferer, I realize I’m a people pleaser, that example you gave of bugs……Always I find a bug inside my house, I put it outside carefully, and I care that much not only with the insects, but with all the animals…

  5. Nice post. OCD is considered one of the anxiety based disorders. But you knew that didn’t you? I think fear doeth plant the seeds of kindness in our hearts. Those who bully, sadly probably had their kindness seeds squashed and like a poorly trained or un-socialized dog when they sense fear it means “intimidate and attack.+

    All very complicated. Glad you spoke up. Labels are not the people, just part of the the story. Most useful for file folders, but not without other uses.

    My mother in law and her son and her son’s daughter are OCD. Not diagnosed–can’t be so imperfect as to have a mental disorder. They cannot go to another person’s house without re-arranging things to their liking.

    My guru Kagan says it is the inability to deal with uncertainty combined with a personal idea about how things should be. I tolerate my in-laws, but Kagan has described the stuff of religious wars.

    This was also family that didn’t believe in manners, or kindness or showing affection. My husband is a mutant.

    All this to say, you have taught kindness and toleration of others. Something all should learn no matter what label is stamped on their heads.


    The son–not the one I married praise the powers–drove some contractors crazy over a squeaky floor board no one else heard.

  6. Tony Ray says:

    Hi – I just found your blog and I am enjoying reading your posts. I am an OCDer. It kicked in hard when I was 18 and I suffered for 25 years before having a meltdown 3 years ago and then getting help and discovering what this junk was in my head. I am happier now than I have been in my entire adult life!

    Anyway, to answer your question regarding kindness in OCDers – I agree with you. I think one of the things that predisposes someone to OCD is that they are too sensitive and maybe care too much. I think most people would use “sensitive and caring” when describing someone they think of as a kind person, and caring and worrying too much about something is part of the very definition of OCD. I remember after my parents divorced when I was 10 I would feel terribly guilty going out to play because I was leaving my dad alone in the house; I didn’t want him to be lonely. Looking back, I don’t think it’s very normal for a 10 year old to feel guilty and worry about playing outside.

    On another note, you just enlightened me to some other OCD aspect of myself I was not aware of when you mentioned in another of your posts that your son could not watch a basketball game but constantly wanted to know the score. My friends and family give me a hard time because I am a college football fan and will often leave the TV to walk around the block during a close game my team is involved in. There could be 30 people at my house watching the game and I will leave to walk the neighborhood. The strange thing is I will take a headset to listen to the game on the radio but only turn it on occassionally or I will call a friend to tell me what is going on in the game while I walk. You can guess that I have irritated quite a few people by having them give me a play by play of a game over the phone that is easily viewable in high def within the house I just walked out of. Didn’t know this could be my OCD until I read your post. Since I am the only one of my friends who does this, it now makes sense – that’s funny. Thanks!

    Also, I plan to comment at a later time in your ADHD post as I have some thoughts/questions about that topic.

    • ocdtalk says:

      Hi Tony, Thank you so much for commenting. I am sorry that you suffered for so many years, but am happy to hear you are doing well now. I really appreciate your insights. That is interesting about you not watching sports on TV….I’ve never heard of anyone aside from my son doing that. Thankfully Dan is doing very well, and now watches all the sports he wants! Thanks again for commenting and I look forward to hearing more from you.

  7. douglaslisa says:

    I believe you make an excellent, thought provoking point. I don’t think your stereotyping, your simply making an informed observation about the similarities of personality types found in people suffering from OCD. An observation which I have found to be right on target. My daughter, as you know, is afflicted with severe OCD. She has always been the most kind, sincere, considerate child one has ever known.
    Additionally, spending a lot of time learning from other OCD sufferers over the internet, it’s clear that there must be a correlation between OCD and kind dispositions. I’ve never before met a more patient, helpful, concerned group of people.
    I really think your question about personal disposition and predisposition to OCD is intriguing. I’ve never thought of it in such a way.
    5 generations of OCD: My daughter is severe and overly kind, I have moderate OCD and consider myself to be very kind but less than Julia. My father is nice but not nearly as kind as either Julia or myself and has very, very minor OCD. His father, my grandfather and his father, my great-grandfather were exceptionally, overly, even naively nice and both exhibited severe OCD.
    Interesting isn’t it? I think you may be on to something!

    • ocdtalk says:

      Hi Lisa, Thanks so much for your insight. Gee, you certainly have enough people in your family alone to conduct some top-notch OCD research :)! It is great to hear from you.

  8. 71 & Sunny says:

    Well I’m certainly glad that you like us! It’s ironic though because just this morning I was angry with myself because I think I am such a selfish person.

    I do think Tina has a point – when you have suffered terribly in silence it sure does make you look at people differently. I’m always wondering what kind of private agonies others may be living with and I try to remember that in my dealings with them. Not always successful with that but I’m trying!

  9. ocdtalk says:

    Thanks for sharing, Sunny. You bring up another good point…..those with OCD are often their own worst critics….you are way too hard on yourself! And yes, I definitely like you πŸ™‚ !

  10. Ruby Tuesday says:

    At 19, I was a full-time nanny to the most wonderful 14-month-old-girl that has ever graced this earth. But within the first week, I was in the kitchen, sobbing on the phone to her mom.

    “She keeps hitting her head! What am I doing wrong?”

    “Ruby, it’s alright. She’s a toddler. She’s still mastering walking. This is totally normal. You aren’t doing anything wrong.”

    And she’s now a beautiful young lady, no lasting scars. I must have done something right. πŸ˜‰

    Though my anxiety disorders didn’t show up until my late 20s, I somehow felt that this vignette was pertinent. And not because I want to claim a ‘nice person’ tag, either (I already know that I’m a very nice person. . . mostly).

  11. ocdtalk says:

    Thanks for the comment, Ruby…….you illustrate exactly what I was talking about in my post!

  12. My OCD brain would always carry things to an illogical and over-the-top conclusion that I would scar someone for life or make them commit suicide if I were too terrible. BLAH! Not likely!

    So, would it be a *good* thing if I said I feel a little more freedom to be a jerk these days? πŸ™‚

  13. ocdtalk says:

    Absolutely! And I’m guessing your definition of “being a jerk” isn’t really being a jerk :). Thanks for commenting!

  14. What you have said in your blog makes perfect sense. I agree with you.

  15. Hi Sofia, Thank you for sharing and I am so sorry you are suffering so much. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried ERP therapy, but if you are committed to it, it works. You really can beat OCD! If you don’t have access to a good therapist, you can begin by utilizing other resources such as web sites and workbooks that can help you get started on ERP therapy. I wish you all the best and please do not lose hope!

  16. JH says:

    I’ve heard this from at least two experts on OCD now. My dad was crippled with OCD and he was a very gentle, kind person. People say I’m like him and they also describe me as kind, gentle and nice. I think it’s true.

  17. Val says:

    You are absolutely right. My son is so very thoughtful and kind. He is the same way with insects and house spiders. In fact, this opens my eyes to what my son who has severe OCD might be thinking. Thank you for this blog. πŸ™‚

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