Many people believe that having OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) means being incredibly concerned about being organized or having every detail correct. Everyone has seen that person who has exclaimed “I’m so OCD!” after organizing their closet according to color or fixing that one item that was out of place. However, this can be incredibly harmful to those who actually have OCD as this is not really what those with OCD have to endure every day.
What is OCD?
Being “obsessed,” when used in every day language, does not mean having issues in day-to-day living. For instance, you may be “obsessed” with a song or TV show but you are still able to get ready for bed quickly, get to work on time, go with a friends to see a movie, etc. People with OCD may not like hearing that someone is “obsessed” or “so OCD” since it diminishes their hardships with OCD symptoms. This is why it is important to stop using language like that since it is disrespectful.
Many people have worried about getting sick or a loved ones being safe or making a large mistake but these obsessions may not be OCD symptoms. Someone that does not have OCD may think about these thoughts, be nervous for a little while, and then move on. With OCD, intrusive thoughts come often and cause extreme anxiety that disrupts day-to-day functioning.
Some common OCD obsessions are contamination obsessions, including fear of being exposed to perceived contaminated objects or things like bodily fluids, germs or disease, environmental contaminants (asbestos, radiation, etc. ), household chemicals, or dirt. Another one is responsibility obsessions, including fear of being responsible for something catastrophic occurring like a fire or fear of hurting others by not being careful enough. There are also perfectionism-related obsessions such as being overly worried about evenness or exactness, being overly nervous with a need to know or recall, fear of losing or forgetting important information when discarding something, excessive concern about doing a task “perfectly,” or fear of making errors. There are also sexual obsessions, religious or moral obsessions, identity obsessions, relationship-related obsessions, obsessions relating to death/existence, real event/false memory obsessions, emotional contamination obsessions, and others.
Symptoms of OCD
OCD can start in the teen or young adult years but may even begin in childhood. Symptoms often start gradually and may vary in severity as life goes on. The types of obsessions and compulsions someone goes through may change over time. Symptoms can get worse as someone goes through more stress. OCD is often thought of as a lifelong disorder and may have mild to moderate symptoms or severe ones. If obsessions and compulsions are impacting someone’s quality of life, it is important to see a doctor or mental health professional.
In summary, OCD is not necessarily being a perfectionist or trying to organize your desk. OCD is a disorder where an obsession followed by a compulsion becomes debilitating and disrupts someone’s life by becoming time consuming. So if you happen to organize your closet by color just for fun, don’t say you are “so OCD” since this may be insensitive to those actually struggling with the disorder. Also, it is important to keep in mind that if someone is struggling with obsessions and compulsions, treatment is available to help. There is nothing wrong with getting help and receiving treatment can help drastically improve someone’s life. No one should be ashamed of having thoughts and actions that are simply out of their control. Again, mental health conditions are not any different from physical conditions. Just like someone would not be embarrassed if they broke their leg, there is no reason to be ashamed of getting help for a mental health disorder.
Help your child understand the concept of time by saying what time it is during routine activities. Use and explain words like morning, noon, night, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Make a timeline together showing a typical day, with drawings of regular events and the time of day written beneath each one.
2. “What Is OCD?” International OCD Foundation, https://iocdf.org/about-ocd/.