Let's talk about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
I hear a lot of people throw around the terms "OCD" and "Obsessive Compulsive" when they are referring to having a Type A personality, being particular about something (especially cleaning), etc. But Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a real disease, that affects real people, and has real consequences.
Hello, my name is Lauren and I have OCD.
Multiple times an hour I have intrusive thoughts about vomiting. These thoughts are particularly intense when I am out of the house (especially at restaurants) and when I am driving. Wherever I am I have to know where the bathroom is and the quickest way to get there. I will picture myself throwing up in that bathroom and what it would be like. I always make a game plan. When I am driving I constantly think about what I would do if I needed to throw up. Would I pull over? Would I find a bag in my car or would I open the door? Would someone stop to help me? How would I get home? What if R was with me?
I have been diagnosed with Emetophobia (the fear of vomit/ vomiting) but phobias can also manifest through OCD. Year ago I used to preform a variety of rituals to assure myself I wasn't going to vomit especially if I was nauseous.) They included entering and exiting the shower in a particular way, wearing certain clothes, drawing certain symbols in certain areas, repeating a certain chant, pacing a certain way, placing certain objects in certain places, etc. Therapy, medication, and time has helped me conquer most of my compulsions, but it hasn't stopped the intrusive and obsessive thoughts. Today I'm classified as having “Primarily Obsessional OCD” and it is the greatest struggle I have in my life.
This is OCD. And it's not pretty like a clean house.
I wasn't diagnosed with OCD until very recently because I was afraid to tell my psychiatrist about my obsessions and compulsions. I was already having mood and anxiety issues, I didn't want him to know I was really crazy. But that's because I didn't realize what was going on with me was OCD. Popular culture would have you believe that OCD is just being a clean freak, and I just felt like a freak. This cleanly, anal-retentive myth is HARMFUL. It keeps people like me from getting help and people like you from understand what this disease is and what it really does.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, apprehension, fear, or worry; by repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing the associated anxiety; or by a combination of such obsessions and compulsions... Obsessions are thoughts that recur and persist despite efforts to ignore or confront them. People with OCD frequently perform tasks, or compulsions, to seek relief from obsession-related anxiety.
Here is what OCD isn't: Feeling a little anxious or uneasy if your house isn't clean because you like it clean. Enjoying the cleaning process.
Here is what OCD could be: Having crippling panic attacks when your house isn't clean because you feel there are germs that could kill you and your family. Hating the cleaning process but having to do it anyway because of said killer germs.
There's a big difference.
So here is my plea; please have compassion. Please stop using the terms OCD and Obsessive Compulsive to refer to anything other than what the disease really is. It's not a quirky obsession with having a clean house, it's obsessions and compulsions that stem from deep seated fears and anxieties. Please educate yourself and spread the word!
Here's are some quotes and links to great articles about this subject:
“’OCD’ is not an adjective; and more to the point, it is not a synonym for fastidious or anal-retentive.”
“When people use the terms ‘obsessive’ and ‘compulsive’ incorrectly, it leads to misunderstanding about OCD and belittles and trivialises the true suffering that the disorder can bring.”
“Because even if color-coding your closet is an annoying habit -- and I'll give it to you, maybe even an "obsession" or "compulsion" -- your comment comparing this to actual, medically-diagnosed OCD comes off as an underhanded way of telling me that it's not only something that everyone has, but something that doesn't warrant psychiatric or therapeutic attention. For my disorder, it's a response that I would equate to saying that you understand someone's pain over the death of an parent because you once had a pet that died. Thanks for the effort, but no thanks for comparing my dead mother to your dead goldfish.”