In recent times, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) has come into light more and more due to celebrities such as Justin Timberlake, Cameron Diaz, Howie Mandel, Leonardo DiCaprio, and many more talking about their symptoms and what it means to have OCD. According to NIMH, OCD affects just over 2% of the adult population; or a little more than 1 in 50 adults. Many people (including some doctors) mistake normal “quirks” as having OCD, such as needing to have something a certain way or being a little more aware of unsanitary practices. This causes even more misconception towards those of us who legitimately have OCD, as it leads to a lot of comments such as “OCD isn’t that hard to live with; I have it and I have no problems with it”, “Don’t be such a baby. OCD is easy to deal with! Just force yourself to stop thinking about it… that’s what I do.” or the infamous “Why does that scare you? I have OCD and I’m not afraid of anything weird like that.”
These comments not only hurt us, but continue to pollute the public image of OCD and anxiety in general. This pollution leads to shame, depression and worsening of OCD symptoms in many of us (including me). We begin to question is there’s something “really wrong” with us, which causes a downward spiral into depression, hypochondria and even “Schiz-OCD” (OCD characterized by obsessions revolving around the fear of being psychotic/Schizophrenic) in more severe cases. All this stress, coupled with the hurtful comments and misconceptions, ultimately hinder our recovery and make the risk of suicide significantly higher.
With all that being said, let’s move on to the list of things OCD sufferers hate to hear.
1.There’s something wrong with you; what you’re doing isn’t normal.
Like I said earlier, this is something I’ve heard way more often than not. It’s really idiotic in more ways than one. Firstly, I warn everyone about my OCD when I meet them, so anyone who has the nerve to say this obviously isn’t worth my time because:
a.) They didn’t pay attention when I was telling them about me
b.) The idea of telling someone something is “wrong with them” in and of itself is a rude and unacceptable comment no matter what.
I seriously hope all my readers out there don’t put up with a comment like this (or any of these). You deserve better, whether you’re classified as “mentally ill” or not. Don’t let your mind trick you, you DO deserve better and you WILL find better.
2. Just force yourself to stop thinking and worrying.
This is one of the most ignorant comments known to mankind. I mean, do you really believe we never thought of and/or tried that before?? One of the biggest things about OCD is the persistent intrusive thoughts/obsessions. That’s OCD Basics 101. If you don’t even know what OCD is, then don’t tell me what I should and shouldn’t do. Instead, go read a book or even GOOGLE what OCD is…then maybe we can talk. Hence the word “maybe”. Just for the hell of it, let’s go over some basics.
OCD Basics 101: Lesson 1, Obsessions
Obsessions are persistent thoughts that are practically impossible to get rid of. All OCD sufferers have obsessions and some form of compulsions (obviously.. It’s in the name). Obsessions are pretty much the base of OCD; as they normally have a big role in what your compulsions are. Some common obsessions/OCD types include, but are not limited to:
Harm OCD (Thoughts and fears of directly or indirectly causing harm to yourself or others; sufferers typically worry that things they do will end up hurting themselves or others)
Sexual OCD (Sexual thoughts about anyone or anything regarded as “wrong” or taboo; typically directed towards fears of secretly being a pedophile, necrophile, zoophile, or of committing infidelity, etc)
Religious/Afterlife OCD (Thoughts and fears about sin, Hell, God, etc. Typically revolves around the sufferer committing some perceived “unforgivable sin” or having sexual thoughts about religious figures)
Health OCD (Thoughts and fears about the health of the sufferer or someone close to the sufferer. Typically is referred to as hypochondria)
Germ OCD (Thoughts and fears about germs and the diseases they could cause. Typically has traits of Health OCD)
Symmetry/Order OCD (Thoughts and fears revolving around symmetry and orderliness in the sufferer’s environment. Typically involves compulsive rearranging and being unable to handle certain patterns or anything lacking order and symmetry)
Hoarding (Thoughts and fears revolving around objects one owns. Typically involves compulsively keeping unnecessary items for future use or for “sentimental reasons”. Isn’t always OCD, but usually is)
For example, if you have obsessions centered around Abrahamic religion, (ex. feeling like God hates you, you’ve committed unforgivable sins, you’re going to burn in Hell, etc.) your compulsions could involve compulsive hoarding of religious paraphernalia, obsessive praying OR avoidance of all things pertaining to that religious group. Sometimes, like me, it’s a mix of two seemingly contradictory compulsions (compulsions can slightly “change” depending on the person’s overall mental state and whether they’re medicated or not). In my case, I started as someone who compulsively read through the Bible, looking for sins I could’ve committed unintentionally. I would pray a lot and beg God to help me somehow; pray for him to at least lessen the burden I was carrying. This was only a small part of my OCD from age 11 – 15. I’m medicated now, and I no longer pray or read the Bible. I’m actually an eclectic witch now, and don’t panic as often because I don’t believe in God. But, now my compulsion is to avoid all Abrahamic paraphernalia; as it reminds me of the possibility that I’ll suffer in Hell after I die and that “God hates me”.
3. Stop doing that weird thing! That won’t help you feel less anxious!
Here we go again…
OCD Basics 101: Lesson 2, Compulsions.
Compulsions can be mental (ex. repeating a word in your head “X” amount of times or until you feel better, counting, etc), physical (ex. Tapping your foot, pacing, rearranging things around you, cleaning, etc) or verbal (ex. Repeating words, numbers or phrases out loud, counting, etc). Sometimes (frequently, actually), compulsions can mimic PTSD by causing the sufferer to avoid certain places (avoid them altogether or at certain times), avoid certain objects, or avoid certain people/types of people. Some common compulsions are:
Harm OCD: Avoiding certain objects, activities and/or places in order to “avoid hurting yourself or others”, frequently calling those close to you to see if they’re alright, etc)
Sexual OCD: Avoiding being alone with the person/people/thing your obsessions revolve around
Religious/Afterlife OCD: Compulsive praying, hoarding of religious items or avoidance of religious objects, etc
Health OCD: Excessive doctor visits, looking up conditions to match your “symptoms” constantly, etc
Germ OCD: Excessive cleaning, hoarding hand sanitizers and other sanitizing solutions, avoiding hospitals, restaurants, buses and subways, any other highly populated areas, etc
Symmetry/Order OCD: Rearranging objects around you to create symmetry, ordering/arranging everything in alphabetical, numeric, or color order, etc
Hoarding: Keeping many unnecessary objects
These things are how people like us cope and get by in this insane world. What seems weird to you, is totally natural to us (kind of). A note about compulsions though: they aren’t always easily recognized; even by the sufferer themselves. A lot of people have something called “Pure-O”, OCD without physical compulsions.
4. Just take some pills, then you’ll be fine.
This is extremely disrespectful to anyone who’s told this, not just OCD sufferers. If anyone has the nerve to treat you like this, then I would recommend just getting up and walking away. They aren’t worth your time and effort. Many of us do need medications since our symptoms are too severe for natural remedies to help, but that doesn’t mean you need to be an ass about it.
5. You already told me about this. Haven’t you gotten over it yet?
No, I haven’t gotten over my OCD yet. Don’t expect me to, either. Even if I am medicated and/or seeing a therapist, that doesn’t mean my OCD will magically disappear. Medications and other medical treatments are just to help us cope, not to cure us. This goes for every disorder. The only thing that has a chance of curing us is Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT).
6. I’m not going to listen to you talk about the same things over and over again. Go find a therapist.
This one is similar to the previous entry, but much more direct and rude. I’ve been told this and similar other things before. It hurts a lot. Another aspect of my OCD is reassurance, so I apparently have a tendency to drive (fake) friends away with my need to vent and thus, be reassured. Hmmm, in a sense, my OCD is good for something… filtering out the assholes from my life.
7. My OCD is way worse than yours; stop whining already. You could be like me.
This is unfortunately another ignorant thing that gets thrown around. Usually, the people who say this are too busy feeling sorry for themselves to let you try to help them/for them to help you… or they’re just saying their “OCD is worse than yours” to get you to feel sorry for them and to shut up about your problems. Either way, this is a disgusting statement to make in ANY regard. I had no idea we were keeping score on how bad our mental health is. Once again, this applies to all disorders… but in this case, physical health is included. Everyone experiences things differently, so what seems minor to you could be debilitating to someone else. It’s okay to honestly think your health is worse than (enter name here)’s… but don’t tell it to them. Haven’t you ever been told “if you have nothing nice to say, then don’t speak at all”? No? Well, now you’ve been told.
Well, there you have it. This concludes my little list of things OCD sufferers want to clobber you for saying. I hope you enjoyed! Feel free to share your stories about your OCD in the comments below!