I recently came across this article in “The Atlantic” magazine written by Fatima Tipu titled “OCD Is Not a Quirk”. It was a nice piece highlighting the misconceptions of the disorder and why it is important that we stop using OCD as, how Tipu puts it, “jokey shorthand”. As someone who has been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder I know first-hand the paralyzing effect it can have on your life as your brain runs around in circles looking for a corner to hide in. It’s not pleasant and, if left untreated, can be debilitating. I’ve had it all my life, as have most people with the disorder, since it’s not something that you “catch” like a cold or the flu. While many have OCD all their lives, it is not normally diagnosed until an individual is in their mid-twenties. It is no coincidence that this is also the first time that many adults move out on their own and start to have many of life’s responsibilities placed squarely on their soldiers. These new responsibilities tend to exacerbate the existing issues which create many more opportunities for their Obsessions to come out in full, triggering the accompanying Compulsions.
Luckily there is treatment readily available. It normally involves medication and therapy. The extent depends on the individual, but you can normally start to see positive changes in the first few months of treatment. Since OCD is ultimately a physiological disorder involving the chemicals of the brain, medication is used to help regulate this process. Therapy comes along to help provide emotional support, as well as many tools and perspectives to help you better understand the disorder and how to identify and handle the Obsessions and Compulsions.
The question now is what’s the harm in joking about OCD? Personally, I try to make light of the subject because I think laughter is great medicine and I’m not embarrassed about a health condition completely out of my control. However, retardation, schizophrenia, and many other diseases and disorders are out of an individual’s control as well, but it is a faux pas, and rightfully so, to use these terms as slang, or worse, insults. I want to make it clear that I’m not stating that OCD is equivalent to mental retardation or physical deformities. What I am saying though is that I think we’ve reached a point where the term OCD is so commonly used as a pun or joke, that the disorder itself is getting lost in the discussion. I hear things like, “I’m having an OCD moment right now”, “forgive me, I’m a little OCD when it comes to my blah blah blah”, and so forth. Let me put it this way, being a little OCD is like being a little pregnant; it simply doesn’t work that way.
While I don’t want to get militant on its use, I would like to bring caution to its overuse in common, everyday discourse. The more it’s used in trivial circumstances the more that the population as a whole becomes desensitized to the fact that OCD is a very REAL disorder, which causes very REAL pain, to very REAL people.