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OCD: What it is, What it’s not, and Why You Should Stop Using it as an Adjective

[dropcap]L[/dropcap]iving with Obsessive Compulsive disorder (O.C.D.) is an everyday struggle for 2.2 million Americans. For those of you who are unsure of what O.C.D. is, it’s clinically  defined as: a disorder in which a person experiences intrusive thoughts. In order to get rid of the intrusive thoughts, they must perform an action. These actions include, but are not limited to: repeating words, counting, praying and washing hands. Obsessive-compulsive episodes can be time consuming and have the capability of disrupting someone’s day. In some cases, episodes can last an hour or longer. These behaviors are triggered by the intrusive thoughts, and therefore can happen at any given time. It’s exhausting, and as a person who struggles with O.C.D. myself, I’m quite frankly, tired of people misusing the term.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been living with O.C.D. It doesn’t consist of obsessing over keeping every aspect of my life organized, cleaning my room constantly and assuring that everything is perfectly aligned at all times. It’s quite the opposite actually, my life is usually in shambles — with my depicting my mind, in disarray. On good days, my obsessions don’t push me to my limit. On bad days, O.C.D. can make a person feel like they’re losing their mind. The intrusive thoughts and acts of compulsive behavior can be too much to handle.

O.C.D. is a Mental Illness, Not an Adjective

“I’m so O.C.D.”

“You”re so O.C.D. about keeping things in order”

People say things like this on a regular basis, not understanding that O.C.D. has the potential to be a life ruining mental illness. It’s not something a person can be, it’s something one has and is forced to deal with, whether they’d like to or not. It’s a monster in someone’s head, and it isn’t something someone can turn off. It’s invasive and complicated, so hearing people use it lightly is not only offensive, but hurtful.

Using mental illnesses as adjectives in general is dismissive and insensitive towards those who have to battle themselves on a daily basis. Understand that it’s not okay, and discontinue usage of these illnesses to describe what you may “think” qualifies as a free pass.

The Difference Between O.C.D. and O.C.P.D.

If you were to conduct a survey asking people how they define O.C.D., chances are a decent amount of people are going to describe it as being overly neat and/or perfectionism. I hate to break it to you, t’s not. One of the major differences between the two is that O.C.D. is an anxiety disorder, while perfectionism can be linked to Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (O.C.P.D.), which is a (duh) personality disorder.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Symptoms:

Fear of germs

Constant thoughts of illness/death

Repeating an act as a way to ward off obsessive thoughts

Repetitive/Obsessive actions (such as, checking, counting, reading)

Excessive doubting

Feeling as though something has to be perfect (can result in performing an act until it feels right)

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder Symptoms:

Life interfering perfectionism


Extreme fixation with lists and detail

Feeling as though your actions are the proper way

Note: Not all symptoms have been listed and a person does not have to experience all of these to suffer from either disorder.


For those of you who aren’t living with O.C.D., please stop using it as an adjective. It isn’t fair to those who are trying their best to stay afloat in this terribly rough sea of obsessions and compulsions. If you are suffering from O.C.D., understand that you’re not alone. Also understand that it’s okay to call people out when they’re using the term improperly. Your feelings are as valid as you are.

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