Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is used, by those who do not have it or understand it, as a jest to mean someone who is very neat and clean. This idea only serves to perpetuate stereotypes about this serious mental disorder and make light of its detrimental and lasting effects on people who are diagnosed with it.
The National Institute of Mental Health defines OCD as “a common, chronic and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that the person feels the urge to repeat over and over” Obsessions are fueled by ideas or images that cause anxiety or fear of harm. Whereas compulsions are the behaviors that work to lessen the obsessions (e.g. fear of germs is accompanied by constantly watching their hands).
When OCD is experienced by adults, the may be aware that their fears are irrational but they still feel helpless in stopping their compulsive behavior. People who have OCD may find that they spend more time in their compulsive rituals to an extent that they are unable to live their lives without them. These rituals can extend between minutes to hours. The obsessions and compulsion can be physically and emotionally detrimental as they take a lot of will power to stop and lot of time to complete.
The International OCD Foundation offers examples of what it’s like to have OCD. They also offer a table that explains the most common obsessions for people with OCD. The International OCD Foundations also offers a directory of therapists and clinics that specialize in OCD. It also offers resources for family members and how to help and support someone with OCD.
Though invasive and detrimental, OCD can be treated and people who have been diagnosed with it can live normal and healthy lives. Learning how to work with, and not against, your mental disorder is part of treatment and recovery. There is help and there is hope.