I’m a Little OCD

woman reading bookI’ve been busy going into bookstores and libraries to promote my book, and there has been a strong interest in it. I chat with the appropriate people, tell them a little bit about the book, and hand them a promotional flyer. I’ve been surprised at the number of times I’ve heard this comment, or something similar:

“Oh, I have to read your book, because I’m a little OCD myself.”

How do I respond? It’s a tough situation, because I don’t really know whether the person in question actually has OCD or not. My gut feeling is they probably don’t, because if they did, they wouldn’t be saying “I’m a little OCD.”

The first time it happened I was in a rush, and I’m embarrassed to admit I just smiled and left. But it kept happening, always in situations where either I or the person talking with me didn’t have a lot of time to spare.

I wanted to be respectful, but I also wanted to tell the speaker that OCD is a noun, not a verb, and my guess is their saying they are “a little OCD” is likely comparable to someone saying “I’m a little Crohn’s” when they are dealing with a stomach ache. Crohn’s, like OCD, is a disease, whereas a stomach ache or some compulsive habits you might have are symptoms which may or may not indicate you suffer from the illness.

Then again, I’m just speculating. Maybe these people I’m meeting really do have OCD.Β  It’s possible, right? After all, who am I to discourage anyone from reading my book? πŸ™‚

So my response has been something like, “OCD is suchΒ  a misunderstood and misrepresented illness, which is one of the reasons why I believe this book is so important. I hope you’re getting the right help if you do have OCD.”

They usually just smile and shrug my comment off, saying “It’s not that big a deal,” which again leads me to believe they don’t actually have OCD.

Many of those who blog about OCD, myself included, have written at least one post about how upsetting this can be to hear OCD thrown around so lightly, and incorrectly, so I’m not going to get into that again here. But I did want to mention how much it’s been happening to me, as it shows we still have such a long way to go in raising awareness and understanding of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

So I will continue my door-to-door sales approach and respond as I have been to the “I’m a little OCD” comments. And I do hope all these people, whether they really have OCD or not, will read the book. If they have OCD, I hope the book will encourage them to work as hard as they can toward recovery, and if they don’t have OCD, they will certainly learn what it really is.

If anyone has any suggestions for a response, I’m all ears!


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27 Responses to I’m a Little OCD

  1. lorreleon@bellsouth.net says:

    Congratulations on your book. It must be fun to travel and promote it. When someone discloses something we or they consider small, it is no small feat to tell a stranger you are a “little OCD”. Or ” I have OCD light”. They are opening a door for trust and possibly seeking help. Usually when someone tells us a small comment, there is a much bigger story behind it. What an honor to be told by someone they have OCD as well. Wether they believe they have OCD, or like everything clean and may have OCD personality disorder (dif than OCD), I always take it seriously. I tell them thank you for telling me, that took a lot of courage to come up to me and tell me this. Do you have the support/therapy you need to help with the symptoms. Then my way to handle it (not everyones) is to give the person my card and tell them they are welcome to contact me if they want some resources.

    I loved your analogies. Also, when someone says “you are being so OCD” it is an insult to us. We don’t tell people with cancer they are being cancerous etc. Taking people seriously and setting a great boundary and speaking out at foolish comment about people with OCD is a wonderful way to help end the stigma of OCD and false information.

    Keep up the great work!

    Sincerely, Lorre Leon Mendelson,
    Disability Warrior

    • Hi Lorre, Thank you for your kind words and thoughtful post. I’ve only been traveling locally so far to promote my book, but it has been enjoyable. I like everything you have to say, especially the part about always taking people seriously. Thanks for giving me a different perspective!

  2. Thank you so much for the very helpful information. I do not have OCD, but I do have mental illness and I probably have at least one person in my life who does have OCD. So, I am following you because I want to stay informed and you write very well! Thank you. You are providing a great service! πŸ™‚

  3. Karen says:

    I don’t have a good response for you to give others, since I really do have OCD. But I think you sentence about OCD being a noun, not a verb, is spot-on! OCD is not a personality trait or a quirk, as you well know. I think the important thing to do is to keep spreading awareness and educate, which you’re doing a great job of

  4. Betsy S says:

    As the mother of someone with OCD I share the frustration with “a little OCD” meme, but I think it can be an opportunity to reach out. “It sounds like you’ve experienced feeling stuck/worried/whatever. Imagine having that experience be so overwhelming that (depending on what they’ve shared) you find yourself scrubbing the countertops until your fingers are bleeding, and your brain is still looping, telling you that there might still be germs that could kill someone, so you can’t stop even though you’re missing work.” or “you know that feeling when you’re about to step out of the house and you realize you’ve forgotten something , and when you stand still for a minute you remember what it is? Imagine that feeling looping for hours, and feeling that you can’t walk through the door because there is SOMETHING VERY IMPORTANT that you are forgetting”.

    A lot of times the difference between normal and illness can seem like a matter of degree, even though there’s more going on. If you have a sensitive stomach and can’t eat fried foods, you can have a normal life, but the illness you might experience for a few hours is what someone with Crohn’s disease has to live with every day, plus they are suffering internal damage. If you find yourself forgetting names or where you parked the car, that’s normal; but someone with Alzheimer’s might not remember who they are or where they are. People who have quirks or compulsions, similarly, may be experiencing just a very small taste of part of what people with OCD experience to an overwhelming degree. We can use that as a starting point of empathy, but then empathize how very different it is for an OCD sufferer.

    • Thanks so much for your thoughts, Betsy. What a good point: Even if someone says they have OCD, and they don’t, they still might be able to relate somewhat to what the disorder entails once they understand the severity of symptoms for those truly suffering from OCD. I agree it is all a matter of degree. Many of us without OCD have dealt with obsessions and/or compulsions to some degree during our lives. Thanks so much for sharing!

  5. myocdvoice says:

    Congratulations on your book! and I love your response!
    Thank you for all you do to raise awareness πŸ™‚

  6. maekaye says:

    I have come across so many people who’s first response to my disease is, oh yah i have a little of that too. i feel so small, not knowing what to respond with. Thank you for writing this post, i love the response that you have and i will be copying it next time i get that response, hopefully as time goes on we won’t need to explain ourselves, or fight against this stigma. i just started my own blog http://unapologeticallymyselfblog.wordpress.com/ and it’s funny that you mention about writing blogs and how we as fellow ocd sufferers always have one post about “oh i’m a little OCD too.

    Thank you for sharing your book, i will be ordering it.

    • Thanks for sharing, maekaye, and I look forward to reading your blog. Yes, it would be great if the general public had a better understanding of what OCD really is…hopefully one day in the not too distant future! We just have to keep educating people, and I’m sure your blog will help with that as well.

  7. C says:

    Hi Janet!
    I did a post on this a while back, but months ago I decided that if someone said something along the lines of “I’m so ocd” that I would bring that to their attention (because if we don’t, who will? And won’t that just perpetuate the stereotype if we don’t say anything?) I’ve let it slide two particular instances in the past few years and I regret it. I think many times, people say it just to be able to have a conversation under the premise that they are relating to us in some unique way. I’ve started saying something like, “are you sure you have been diagnosed with OCD?” I like that approach so far.
    Good luck with your book travels! Are you traveling on the east coast at all?

    • Hi C, I’m glad you found a response that works well for you. I do find it’s easier to have some type of a plan of what to say, or else I always feel as if I’m taken off guard.
      Right now, I’m just traveling locally, which means New England, though I hope to be able to branch out after the book is published.

  8. Eddie says:

    Having OCD for over 35yrs,do you have any questions for me?
    ,just one thing…..if my OCD won’t let me read your book what then?
    In my time of having my WONDERFUL FRIEND! I have heard just about all of it but always open minded about anything anyone has to say on the matter.
    I have learnt to just go with them and listen to what they have to say about how their life is affected by OCD,which in the end turns out to be that they just can’t go without their morning coffee!
    Wow really! Is my usual response followed by that must be terrible for you!as I have already picked up on that they have absolutely no idea what OCD really is/means or how bad it can really get!
    The 2 that’s right the 2 times in 35 yrs have I not done what I was told to do……I took some advice when I was younger,to just say no I’m not doing what you ask!…….only to be told by my OCD friend in me that,that is not a good idea you will pay I will hurt you……..received a phone call the next moring from my dad to tell me my uncle had died threw the night……see I told you!it said now never do that again!
    So for many years I did what I was told,only to be told by many doctors, oh that’s just pure coincidence!?
    So I had another go at it,your not going to rule my life!i told it…….the next morning received yet another phone call to tell me one of my best mates had been killed in a one in million car accident!
    So now I DO WHAT IM TOLD WITHOUT QUESTION,it is me,it is mine,no one else will die because of my lack of discipline.

    • Hi Eddie, I appreciate your sharing and I am sorry you have been suffering with OCD for so long. I doubt I have any words of wisdom that you haven’t already heard, but I will give you my thoughts.
      First of all, yes, bad things happen to all of us. That is simply a fact of life. But good things happen as well. Unfortunately, letting your OCD control you because you feel that will prevent bad things from happening, pretty much rules out any good happening in your life. And….the bad stuff is going to happen whether you listen to your OCD or not.
      I do hope you reconsider, and try to find a specialist who deals with OCD, so that you can learn to embrace the uncertainty of life, and break free from your OCD. I wish you all the best.

  9. I think your response is great! It’s respectful and gets the message out there. I am going to try to remember this when I encounter the “I’m so OCD” phrase.

  10. I often hear this comment when I tell people that I work with people with eating disorders. They always say they wish they could be a little anorexic. I tell them that they were anorexic, they wouldn’t think so.

  11. 71 & Sunny says:

    Oh I hear this ALL THE TIME! Now, when I hear that, I always get a concerned look on my face, and say something similar to this, “Oh wow. Do you really have OCD? I’m so sorry. I have it myself and it is awful, but there is really good treatment available. I’d be glad to give you some information.” That usually shuts ’em up! But one time, I about fell off my chair when the person said, “Yes, actually I do.” I was able to refer her to my blog so she could find resources. So the great part about this approach is that it was not insulting to the true sufferer, and yet it (hopefully) puts the jokster in his or her place, but not in an impolite way. My mom is the one who started doing this a few years ago, and I thought it was a great idea.

  12. Bridget Traynor Whittington says:

    I just wanted to express that tough situation is a pet peeve for me. I handle it more bluntly,I think. The door-to-door approach is a great way to describe my “M.O.” also. When someone comments to me that, their,A little OCD,I generally say,really,because I have the actual psychiatric disorder. I often find this is met with a somewhat blank stare. If no one is waiting behind me,say in a line,a give a “lecture” on OCD,the illness. I have found people to be either speechless or interested. I’m very nice (I certainly hope)
    but am not going to just accept ignorance passively. A person doesn’t have “a little
    cancer,” and I don’t have a” fictional form” of OCD.

    • Hi Bridget, Thanks so much for sharing. I think each one of us has to find our own way to deal with these situations, and it sounds as if you’ve found what works best for you. I know it is a slow process but hopefully the more we are open about what OCD really is, the more chance we have of hearing the statement “I’m so OCD” less and less. I know it can be frustrating! Wishing you all the best.

  13. Jane says:

    Thank you for the time you’ve invested in educating and making awareness about mental illness. As for when people comment: I usually explain the difference between OC tendencies and full out OCD. I used to get frustrated and upset about people always making these comments or asking questions about my service and my illness, but I’m trying to see it as an educational opportunity. It depends on how I’m feeling, if I’m busy and don’t have time to begin a conversation.
    Congratulations on the book.

  14. I totally agree with you, I get lost when someone tells me they have OCD due to some OCD tendencies. I will then explain to them about all the feelings I go through, especially the intrusive thoughts and how depressed it makes me, and they will probably change their mind about “having OCD”. Anyway, this post is great! Great job on raising awareness for Mental Health πŸ™‚

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