If you ever want to see me angry and frustrated, get me to look at the hashtag #OCD on Twitter or Instagram for about 10 seconds and I guarantee I will get into a rant about some of the ignorant and misinformed people that use that hashtag on photos of things that are just not OCD what so ever! A tidy cupboard, a neatly ordered plate of food or something claiming that they love the smell of bleach and this must make them OCD.
Like no...please! Just like any mental illness, OCD is debilitating and can completely rule and ruin your life. Obviously, different people are affected in different ways. Some more seriously than others but still the overuse of the word OCD bugs the absolute hell out of me. But then again, you can't really blame these people. I know I said it!
Why? Because people with OCD don't like to talk about OCD. They are embarrassed, ashamed or frightened about what others will say if they tell them, so what do they do? They don't tell anyone at all. They bottle it up and let people misuse the word. If you know me, you know I am pretty open about my OCD and mental health. Today I hope to help you understand what it really means to be OCD by busting some of the common myths. If this helps just one person, think and stop using the term to describe behaviour that really isn't OCD at all, I will be so happy!
1. We all have incredibly neat, clean and tidy homes
Yeah... Do you want to come and see my bedroom? Don't judge me but my top shelves haven't been dusted in months...I fill them full of stuff but let's be real who actually has the time to go and move everything every week? Not me that's for sure!
2. We are all perfectionists.
We are not perfectionists. Someone with OCD will have an internal bullying voice inside their head that is telling them they need to clean because something horrific will happen, not because they want it just to be perfect because they are a perfectionist. I am definitely not a perfectionist in everything, but I am in other things.
3. We all like everything organised by colour, height or in alphabetical order.
Nope! Yes, organising may be someone with OCD compulsion but that's not to say that we all do the same. OCD can be so specific. I have OCD and yes I fold my socks instead of rolling them but that's just because of practical reasons not because I have any voices inside my head telling me to do it!
4. We are all afraid of germs, bacteria and contamination
Okay, yes I have contamination OCD which makes me wash my hands over and over again but not everyone with OCD is afraid of germs. Some people with OCD will check things over and over again or do everything a certain number of times etc. Washing hands repeatedly is a very stereotypical view of what OCD is which has not been helped by the media, portraying OCD in such an inaccurate light.
Omg please stop! Just stop! I can't stand cleaning! Like I hate coming into contact with objects so why would I enjoy cleaning. Cleaning and washing my hands every day for hours on end, does not give me enjoyment it causes me pain. No one with OCD wants to carry out their compulsions, whatever they are! We are forced to by the voice inside our head.
6. OCD is a quirky personality trait that we like having
OCD is not a personality trait and we do not enjoy having it. I would do anything to lead a normal life again and be able to wake up in the morning without the first thing I think about being how dirty and contaminated I am. OCD is no fun. Yes, I may not be sad all the time or washing all the time but it doesn't mean that I am not fighting an internal battle. You just can't see it!
7. OCD is something that affects us more one day and not the next
I have my OCD every day. Fortunately, some days are better than others. Some days I have more control over my obsessions and compulsions than other days but that doesn't mean I don't have OCD every day. You might not see me wash my hands over and over again because I am trying to pretend it's not there. I am still fighting an internal battle.
8. OCD doesn't affect our physical health at all
Obviously, when you wash your hands compulsively they are going to hurt. In fact, they bloody hurt. This is obviously affecting my physical health. But even if you don't wash your hands compulsively there are an infinite number of compulsions that someone with OCD can perform that our damaging to their physical health. Not to mention it's physically exhausting every single day.
9. You can always see our compulsions
For most suffers you will be able to see their compulsions, these are called overt compulsions, however, that is not the same for everyone. Some sufferers, of OCD, will have to repeat a certain set of numbers or words in their head over and over again to stop the voices inside their head telling them all these bad things are going to happen. You can't see this compulsion but it doesn't mean that it's not there nor does it mean that person is not suffering.
10. If we have contamination OCD it means we spend hours and hours cleaning
Nope! Although I do have contamination OCD, and I wash my hands for hours and hours on end. This does not mean that everyone with contamination OCD does the same. That may have you puzzled but let me explain. Someone with contamination OCD may have a fear of smelling bad or bad smells in general and spend their whole day avoiding coming into contact with these smells not necessarily cleaning every hour of the day.
11. We all need everything in order and symmetrical lines
There is a type of OCD called symmetry OCD but this is fuelled by the intrusive thoughts and obsessions in their head not because someone just likes to be neat.
12. We all go around supermarkets making sure everything is straight
This is such a stereotypical image of an OCD suffer but it is a complete myth. Many people with OCD can even bare to touch what they want to buy in the shops with their bare hands, do you really think they want to go around touching everything, that potentially hundreds of people have touched before them?
13. That we can switch on and off our OCD depending on the situation we are in
Definitely not. Although through the help of medication and therapy we can get our OCD under control and stop it ruining situations we want to enjoy sometimes it can get the better of us at times when we really don't want it to. Sometimes it may be impossible for us to perform our compulsion but that doesn't mean the obsessions aren't there. You just can't see them.
14. We have all had a disturbed childhood where we have been abused as a child
There are many different reasons why people suffer from OCD, for example, genetics, traumatic experiences or just because of a reduced serotonin level in our brain. Okay yes, an unsettling childhood may contribute but for the most part, OCD is not caused by being abused as a child. Most of us have had happy and enjoyable childhoods.
15. Or we have all been through a traumatic life event which has started our OCD
Although this can be the cause for a lot of people, it's not for everyone by far. I believe it was a series of stressful and traumatic life events that triggered the onset of my OCD but I also believe that I may have been predisposed to OCD because of genetics and just generally being an anxious child growing up.
16. We are no fun to be around because we are stuck up and don't know how to have fun
I know how to have fun. My idea of fun may be different from most teenagers my age, but I can still be a laugh. Certain situations I found difficult to cope with so I avoid these situations, which is why I enjoy nights in rather than a night out. No one with OCD is stuck up. It's something they did not choose to have. OCD suffers are actually some of the kindest and most compassionate people I know.
17. We can't sit still for more than five minutes without needing to clean something.
Not all suffers of OCD have compulsions based around cleaning for starters but even if they do, it doesn't mean they can or will act on them. Someone with their OCD under control may be able to resist the compulsion until it causes them too much distress emotionally. Although people with OCD do often find it hard to concentrate on one thing, I find a distraction to be the best help for my OCD. If I can get engrossed in something I am less likely to go and act on an obsession.
18. All OCD suffers wash their hands over and over again
Not everyone with OCD has contamination OCD and therefore doesn't wash their hands over and over again. Oh also just because you like to wash your hands once or twice it does not make you OCD.
19. We will happily come and clean your house for you
OMG seriously?! This idea that everyone with OCD loves to clean and will clean everything with joy, is so wrong and so far from the truth it's unbelievable. I couldn't think of anything worse than going into someone's home and cleaning it for them. This is where certain TV programmes such as obsessive compulsive cleaners have not helped portray OCD in an accurate or factual light at all.
20. That we all have 'a little bit of OCD inside of us' which means there is nothing wrong with us. We are all mad.
No no no! Just because you have to check the door twice or use hand sanitiser before you eat, that does not make you OCD. We all may have a bit of perfectionist within us or be a bit of a neat freak but we are all certainly not OCD and it's about time people start understanding what the word means and not using it so carelessly. It only adds to the stigma and struggle that OCD and all mental health suffers have to go through which to be quite frank, we could really do without.
I hope you enjoyed this post and it has educated you a little bit more about OCD, what is OCD and what isn't etc. If this post will help one person stop, think and refrain from using the word OCD so carelessly, I will be delighted!
Please let me know if you think the stigma around mental health needs to be removed and if so, what we can do to remove it in the comments below!
Thank you for reading, as always xx