When you see someone color-coding their files or putting a coaster under your drink to avoid leaving a sticky circle on the table, it does not mean that they have OCD. I’ve heard so many people casually say that they have OCD because they like things to be clean or organized. The truth is, some of these people don’t even know what the acronym OCD stands for. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a chronic disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, recurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat.
Like any other mental illness, OCD is a condition that affects individuals to varying degrees. Most people who are undiagnosed and are able to lead normal lives probably have mild OCD. Others with severe OCD may find it difficult to perform basic tasks because they are so consumed by their compulsions.
My friend suffers from moderate OCD and was diagnosed when she was seven. She wanted me to write a post on what living with OCD is really like.
She has to take medication that suppresses her nervous system when she feels overwhelmed by her compulsions or obsessions. While she doesn’t consider herself to be a messy person and she likes things to be organized, cleaning is not one of her personal compulsions. Many people with OCD do have extensive cleaning rituals, which is where the stereotype comes from, but keep in mind that being tidy and having OCD are two completely different things.
Being tidy and having OCD are two completely different things.”
Her day usually begins with waking up and shutting off her alarm clock. After that, she turns her bedroom light on and off three times, sometimes as many as six times if she’s feeling particularly anxious that morning. She checks her school bag repeatedly to make sure that she has everything and then pulls the zipper from left to right, always in that direction. Then she checks her pockets to make sure she has her phone, her keys, and her wallet. She repeats those words in her head: phone, keys, wallet until she is satisfied. Then very carefully she puts on her right shoe first and then the left, always in that order. When she opens the door and locks it, she must do it a certain way.
After that, she cautiously makes her way towards the bus stop being very careful to avoid any cracks on the sidewalk. If she does happen to step on a crack, she has to walk all the way back to her house and start walking to the bus stop again. Before crossing the street, she must look both ways exactly nine times. She likes multiples of three for everything except for the volume of the T.V, which must be set to a multiple of five. She thinks her day is going to go well if she sees yellow daisies on the road and a yellow school bus passes right by it. If someone stands too close to her while having conservation she’ll start counting random things in her head for comfort. Every time she feels agitated by little things it’s another setback in her day. Her inner monologue mostly consists of things like “you’re going to be okay” or “you can do this.” Things other people might consider ordinary might make her have a panic attack. Once when she was nine, she saw a red car next to a blue one on the street and had a nervous breakdown.
The worst part is that she has no real explanation for her obsessions or compulsions. Things just have to be a “certain way” and she has no idea why.
People with OCD are very familiar with having constant inner turmoil. For those reading this who have OCD, know that you’re not alone. For those who don’t, next time you casually or jokingly say that you or someone else has OCD please understand what that really means.
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