OCD or Just a Quirk?

by Master isolated images freedigitalphotos.net

by Master isolated images freedigitalphotos.net

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.





This entry was posted in Mental Health, OCD and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to OCD or Just a Quirk?

  1. That last paragraph really spoke to me. Wow. What an incredibly powerful, raw and honest way of putting it. I would love to quote you to keep spreading the word.

  2. Okay, I’m guilty of ranting about that phrase!
    But the thing that frustrates me is that, you aren’t “so OCD” … because you don’t see yourself liking to have your clothes colour coordinated as problematic. You aren’t anxious, you aren’t so emotionally distressed you’re crippled.
    It just normalises the illness. And I’m almost certain if I told a friend that I had OCD without telling them what aspects make me anxious, they’d say “oh my god, same!!1!1! I’m so organised!!”
    Teachers in my school use it too!
    I feel that OCD really needs more awareness raised for it. So many people still think it’s an addiction to cleaning, it’s a synonym for tidy, it’s liking your pens in a line; the list of misconceptions goes on. We need to beat the stigma one post at a time!

    • I agree, Melancholic Madness, and the media certainly doesn’t help our cause. And it’s even more frustrating when teachers and other professionals who we hope would know better, don’t. We need to keep spreading the word and educating others as to what OCD really is. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Jim Buchanan says:

    Right! It bothers me, and I’ve blogged about it.

    Naturally I’m going to be sharing this on at least Twitter…

  4. lorreleon@bellsouth.net says:

    I think a lot of the confusion lies in the diagnosis of OCD as one disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder as a completely different disorder. Also, to say you (or I) are so OCD is demeaning for those of us who have OCD in my opinion and minimizes how we are feeling. It views symptoms as behavior rather than a medical condition symptom. For instance- we would never say, “someone is so cancer”.

    Thank you again for shedding more light for understanding. Sincerely, Lorre

  5. Grace says:

    i agree, OCD is totally debilitating and people should not say it so lightly because it hurts. People with OCD cannot dare say they are so OCD. they are paralyses. My son was normally acting and we never saw anything until things got really really bad. Now I understand how much my son suffers internally. My son told me he had symptoms since 6th grade and we did not see anything. When he told us he was a high school graduate. All that time he was silently suffering. Janet please continue to educate people about this disease, because it’s really complicated.

  6. Karen says:

    I’ve blogged about this too! Another thing I notice frequently is that often those that comment, “I am so OCD”, enjoy organizing, cleaning, tidying up and those types of things. An important thing for people to understand is that people with legitimate OCD do not enjoy their rituals in any way, shape or form. As you stated, they are tormented by their thoughts. Another interesting avenue would be to wonder if some of these people might have more of an OCPD rather than true OCD .

    • jbuchana says:

      One of my therapists, the one who did the most with my OCD, said that the one of main differences between OCD and Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder is indeed whether you enjoy what they’re doing and that people with OCD are tormented by them. He also asked me about intrusive thoughts and whether I was worried I’d ever do one of the things that came into my head. He asked if the thought of doing these things seemed enjoyable or absolutely horrible. I told him absolutely horrible, and he said that meant two things, it was OCD, and that I would never actually do one of the things that intruded into my mind. I was quite relived…

      • Thanks for sharing, Jbuchana and for pointing out that those with OCD find their obsessions horrifying and would never act on them. That’s one of the reasons they are so tormented!I appreciate your comment.

    • Thanks for your comment Karen, and I agree these are important differences. Some people think OCD and OCPD are the same, but the truth is they are distinctly different disorders. Another common difference between the two is that those with OCD will typically realize, on some level, that their obsessions and compulsions do not make sense, while those with OCPD tend to believe how they think and act is indeed the”right” way. Maybe those with OCDPD might be more likely to say, “I’m so OCD?” I don’t really know; I just know they shouldn’t be saying it :).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s