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You Are Not Allowed To Joke About OCD

Illustration by Alex Jenkins
Illustration by Alex Jenkins

It’s exhausting. On the Internet, in real life, even on shirts. People seem to think that OCD, a disorder that pretty much ruins my life and prevents me from living a healthy life, is funny and cute. Not only do people not understand what this disorder is, as it is rarely spoken of in the media, but they also think that it should be taken lightly, as if it weren’t a real illness. What people don’t realize is that this kind of behavior is extremely offensive and harmful for people who actually suffer from OCD. It reinforces the stigma around mental illnesses in general, but also erases a disorder that should be talked about more.


In case you don’t know what OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) is, I will explain it briefly. It is a mental disorder that causes a person to have irrational fears and thoughts, and therefore behave in a repetitive way. OCD has many forms : it can be characterized by an intense fear of germs, causing you to repeatedly clean your hands, but it can also be an fear that you forgot to lock your door and that someone will break into your house, for example (read more about the symptoms here).

OCD is exhausting, because you constantly think about your fears and, no matter what you do, they are always in your head. For those who don’t suffer from it, imagine being constantly terrified that the things you touch are dirty and will give you awful diseases. Tiring, right ?


So yes, I am a bit angry when people think it’s okay for them to joke and laugh about this illness. And actually, there are quite a lot of them. In November 2015, Target, which is one of the biggest discount retailers in America, decided to sell a sweater which said “OCD Obsessive Christmas Disorder”. It might seem harmless to people who don’t suffer from OCD, but for the ones who actually have it, it’s very offensive. It makes our disorder seem like something cute and funny. Even some celebrities, such as Jennifer Lawrence, joke about our mental illness and qualify it as “cute” or “quirky”. This kind of behavior is absolutely disgusting and harmful. It makes it look like our fears and repetitive behaviors are just a bad habit, when in reality, they ruin our life.


When you suffer from it, OCD is constantly in the back of your mind. It makes you check your door twenty times to make sure you locked it. It makes you clean your hands all the time so you don’t catch diseases. It makes you check your bag constantly to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything, or that someone hasn’t stolen your wallet. It makes you stressed when things aren’t neat or arranged the way you want them to be. But sometimes it’s even worse : you can be constantly afraid to hurt yourself or those around you. Even if you know you’d never do it, you have images of yourself hurting others, and you get terrified because you don’t want that to happen. You constantly wonder what’s wrong with you. You get triggered by graphic or bloody images, and they stay in your head for a couple of days, weeks, months. OCD makes you lose your mind, and lose control of yourself.

So don’t joke about it. You have no idea what it’s like. If you’re lucky enough not to suffer from it, help sufferers spread awareness about this illness – and make life a bit easier for them.

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