“My O.C.D. is so bad, I’ll straighten the picture frames on the wall.”
“My O.C.D. is so bad, sometimes I don’t want to be around my parents because I’m afraid I’ll try to murder them.”
We, as the Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (O.C.D.) community, are familiar with the misinterpretation surrounding the condition. To many, it simply represents the need to have things organized and tied up in pretty ribbons. The predominance of people associate the illness with being a type of personality rather than the actual mental torture it entails. In actuality, however, O.C.D. plagues the minds of almost 1 out of 100 people in the United States and can occur without any outward indications of the torment brewing inside. It’s denoted as a mental condition for a reason—the intrusive thoughts swirl around inside and distort reality for us. We may get ideas that everything we eat is poisoned, or that we want to murder our siblings. We may think that we are bad people for having these thoughts, and if people knew the truth about what we were thinking they would hate us.
“My O.C.D. makes me keep the kitchen clean.”
“My O.C.D. makes me yell out random things to stop myself from assaulting other people.”
Of course, there can’t simply be an overarching description of what O.C.D. is, since it varies from case to case. While I occasionally have vocal episodes and involuntary motor tics in response to my dark thoughts, I’ve heard stories at the annual International O.C.D. Foundation Conference from people needing to do certain rituals as a form of mitigation against intrusive thoughts; and yes, in some circumstances, this can involve incessant cleaning habits from which the fallacy of “being O.C.D.” possibly originates. Every mind is unique in itself, leading to a physical response to intrusive thoughts in a myriad of different ways. This is perhaps the most detrimental stereotype of O.C.D., that every single instance involves the same category of cleanliness symptoms and there are no deviations from this in terms of symptoms.
“My O.C.D. is so helpful because I remember to organize.”
“My O.C.D. has caused me to seclude myself at parties out of fear.”
The perpetuation of O.C.D. as a neat quick has made appearances in numerous T.V. shows, books and movies, and ultimately is a sole contributor to the reason O.C.D. is still such a stigmatized mental condition. On the other side of this polarizing epidemic is the dramatic portrayal of O.C.D. sufferers turning into murderers and arsonists at the hands of their condition. Both depictions of O.C.D., one representing a tidy individual with color-coordinated books and the other representing an erratic terrorist that kills people for interfering with their order, are far from beneficial to the overall image of O.C.D. as a condition. Representation does matter; but not to the point where it only reinforces ideas that O.C.D. victims are to be feared or patronized.
“I’m so O.C.D.”
“No, you’re really not.”
The general population needs to recognize several things regarding the contemporary image of O.C.D.: Firstly, that it is a mental condition with serious implications; not a need to sweep up stray crumbs in the kitchen because you prefer things clean. Second, O.C.D. manifests in a variety of ways and should not be relegated to the idea that there is only one set of symptoms applicable. And lastly, the representation of O.C.D. in the media does not always accurately convey what O.C.D. is in itself and should not be utilized to self-diagnose.
The stigma and misinterpretations of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (O.C.D.) are only further embellishing the harmful ideas associated with the condition; but as advocates for what real O.C.D. is, we as a community should not shy away from rectifying how it is viewed by the rest of the world.
For more information on O.C.D., click here.
Photo: Kat Jayne