The classic stereotype of people with Obessive Compulsive Disorder (or OCD for short) can be related to obsessive cleaning or checking. While those are indeed relatively common forms of OCD, they are not the only ones. Some people also think that OCD is just liking things being orderly. I’m sure many of the people reading this have heard someone exclaim something like “OMG I’m SO OCD today!” However, OCD is a complex psychological disorder that can manifest in thousands of ways. Today we will be learning about other ways – more unexpected ways – people have experienced OCD. In this way we hope to help people understand what it can be like to have OCD and beat the stereotypes that surround it. To do this we also conducted interviews with people who have experienced it.
If you’re sensitive to these topics, some of these things may be triggering.
Firstly, we will address two major concepts related to OCD: intrusive thoughts and magical thinking.
Intrusive thoughts: can turn into OCD
Some of us, if not all of us, have had intrusive thoughts at some point. You may have thought “what if I throw my keys off of this bridge? What if I kicked this toddler?” While having a thought like this may scare you a little bit at first, having this occasionally is actually quite normal. As long as you don’t act on it, and it doesn’t interfere with your rational thoughts, you’re alright. It’s a mechanism of your brain looking out for risks that can sometimes overcompensate. However, it can actually turn into a form of OCD when you have them so often you start relying on these thoughts to function.
Also, when you worry so much about having them that it starts interfering with your ability to function in daily life, it can also be leaning towards the OCD side.
It is not necessarily a type of OCD but more of symptom or underlying mechanism. Magical thinking is a concept that describes how you may think that your thoughts and rituals directly influence outcomes of things that logically have no connection at all. This can range from fairly innocent: “If I use my pretty looking pen, I’ll surely do amazing on that test!” or “If I wear something orange I’ll be better at football.” But it can also turn darker: “If I don’t walk on all the red stones in the correct order, and put my shoes in a row exactly the right way, there will be a massive natural disaster.”
People with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder often have rituals they do because they consciously or subconsciously believe that it prevents something bad from happening. Logically you may know that repeating a certain number sequence in your head may not help much. Yet, to people who have suffered from OCD tendencies however, it’s genuinely a pattern they can’t easily let go of.
Now, you must be curious as to how Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can show up in different individuals. Some will also address stereotypes about OCD.
“I hate the stereotype that OCD is just about wanting things perfect a certain way. Humans are so complex and OCD is therefore expressed in many different ways. In my case I actually want paper to be imperfect and not the other way around.”
- i-get-sidetracked-kitties (tumblr)
Don’t throw around “OCD” like it means nothing
“I struggle with fear or contamination. And even if I know it’s absolutely irrational it’s such a struggle to just get by each situation. I’ve had times when I washed my hands with dishsoap until it all cracked into open wounds that took weeks to heal. And all the times I couldn’t go out and had to isolate myself cause I couldn’t go out cause fear of contamination. I find it so disrespectful when this diagnose is just thrown around and washed out when people don’t seem to understand that OCD destroys lives. It’s a never ending battle with your own mind.”
“I’ve never been properly diagnosed but I clean my house intensely several times a week. I will never flush a toilet without the lid being down first. If I’m in a public restroom (my worst fear) I cover the sensor with toilet paper and then run like hell when I take it off for it to flush. I hold my toothbrush under hot water for 60 seconds then put the paste on it then hold it under the water again for 5 secs. If that order gets messed up I have to start over.”
OCD is not just centered on the individual
“My OCD is centered aroundt “right places for stuff” and I also have some rituals. The most terrifying thing about my OCD is when I start to clean someone else room without permission or friends’ home.”
“My intrusive thoughts are really dark and ugly sometimes. The only way to stop them was to hit myself because they were driving me crazy.” – ohletsgotoneverland
“My OCD drives me so mad sometimes that I get physically sick. My heart just races so much and my breathing gets very quick when I feel the need to perform my ritual.” – Emma*
It’s in the details, from clothes to food
“I put my left sock on, then the right Next the left shoe, then right Then I tie the the left shoe, finally the right if I am distracted and do it in the wrong order, I take them all off again, take a minute to breathe – then do it right – otherwise I get all freaked out that bad things are going to happen to me and the people in my life. It’s almost impossible for me to NOT garnish something before eating it or serving it to a friend.”
“Mine manifests mostly in the obsessive sense; like how I can’t stand even numbers or multiples of five. I have an aversion to them. I also need the silverware drawer to be how I want it and if it isn’t, I will put it back. Little things like that. I have a very mild case, but I notice it.”
“My OCD actually started this year, when I began to have a massive fear of swallowing foods unless if was like an almost liquid form. Everytime I would eat, this thought of “I might choke on this” pops up, so I would have to blend/chew the food down into something like a smoothie. I cannot eat my favorite foods anymore and in some circumstances, I get so scared that I refrain from eating all together. I never knew this was a form of OCD until my mom pointed it out.”
Numbers and food combined
“I have to chew food on both sides of my mouth. If I have three pieces of popcorn I eat two and give away the third. I can’t eat odd numbers.”
“When you’re in a restaurant/office/hallway that has panel ceilings, you have to count them across both ways, and calculate the approximate square footage of the space you’re in.”
So, as you can see, OCD can occur in many different ways, shapes and sizes. What was the most unexpected one? Have you ever experienced it? What are some of the stereotypes you are annoyed by?
Feel free to let us know if there are any other conditions or disorders you feel are stigmatized and you would like us to write about!
*Some names are fictitious, as some responders have stated they would like to remain anonymous. Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.