Almost everyone I know who blogs about obsessive-compulsive disorder, myself included, has written at least one post expressing frustration over the use of the phrase, “I’m so OCD.” Aside from being grammatically incorrect – nobody is OCD – it trivializes the disorder and lends misunderstanding to an illness that is already often misrepresented. I don’t believe anyone I know who actually has OCD has ever said, “I’m so OCD.”
But let’s face it. Obsessive-compulsive disorder can be confusing – tough to figure out. For example, some people noticeably obsess a lot. So do they have OCD? Maybe, or maybe not. A friend of yours has to line up his shoes in a particular order before he goes to sleep at night. That’s a compulsion and means he has OCD, right? Well, maybe, but not necessarily. And what about that nice lady you work with who seems calm, cool, and collected all the time, no matter what? Guess what? She has OCD!
How can we even begin to sort this all out? Understanding the definition of OCD can help. Also, in this wonderful article, Annabella Hagen, LCSW, RPT-S discusses how we all inadvertently condition ourselves in certain ways, thereby developing unique habits, routines, and behaviors. You might even call these quirks, but they are not the same as having OCD.
So when is it OCD?
The article says,… according to the International OCD Foundation, unless this behavior is triggered by a fear or anxiety and completed with a series of compulsions that relieve you of these feelings, it’s not a sign of the disorder.
If we don’t have OCD, our behaviors are performed freely. If we do have OCD, left untreated, we are captive; tormented by our obsessions until rituals are completed. As Hagen explains: OCD sufferers realize these thoughts are irrational, but their fear and anxiety is the driving force when doing compulsions,” she says. “ They do their rituals because they don’t want to take a chance of the possibility that their thoughts and fears may come true.
Ah, good ‘ol uncertainty.
In a nutshell, those with OCD are tormented. But the torment isn’t always obvious to others. What about that nice lady you work with? You’d never know! Because most of my son’s compulsions were mental, my husband and I didn’t even know he had OCD until he told us. And we were living together! To me this is one of the cruelest aspects of the disorder. It can torture someone from the inside, and nobody else would ever know (until things got really bad).
So for all those out there who still say, “I’m so OCD,” unless you are trying to tell us you are tormented, have paralyzing fear, and are living in an almost constant state of distress and anguish, please stop. Chances are you just have quirks.