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Dear person who is “so OCD”

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How’s it going, being “so OCD”? I bet you’re feeling all “cool” and “different”. I also bet you’re unaware of what it means yourself, despite claiming to be “so OCD”. To be clear, it’s the acronym for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; a mental illness which I suffer from and which is often times accompanied by anxiety, depression, and Tourette’s syndrome. Not a week goes by when I don’t hear the phrase “I’m so OCD” being used in casual conversation just to describe a behaviour which is mildly perfectionistic. So I thought I’d shed some light to you about what it actually feels like to be suffering from this, and you can tell me whether you still want to be “so OCD”. To begin with, OCD is not just about having a clean room, or a tidy study table. It’s an anxiety disorder characterized by uncontrollable, unwanted thoughts, and ritualized, repetitive behaviours one feels compelled to perform.

Any of the actions I do, I tend to do it in secret, to avoid being noticed. In fact, I never spoke about my OCD until 12th grade, when a friend noticed me do something “weird”. Everyone found it intriguing that I had to maintain perfect symmetry in anything I do or come across, and up to date, they casually hit me on one side because “it’s so cool” to see me hit myself on the other. I let them have their laugh and wait patiently, despite wanting to rip their heads off. The extent to which this was trivialized made me think I was just over-reacting, and should stop thinking about it. In fact, it took me roughly over five years to consider seeking treatment.

You see, OCD is the reason I spend two hours having a shower till my skin becomes raw. It’s the reason I sometimes have to stay away from my niece and nephew (the two little humans I absolutely adore) because of my extremely obsessive thoughts. It’s the reason I’m seen covering my face with my shawl most of the time. It’s the reason I roll my eyes sometimes to the point it hurts, just to “set it right”. It’s the reason I tend to isolate myself from social gatherings. It’s the reason I wake up at 2 in the morning to check whether my room is locked.

While these may seem irrational and not severe, these are thoughts I can’t escape regardless of the efforts I put into stopping it. I hope you see now, where I am going with this. OCD is not strictly a disorder of organization, and when you diminish our illness as a way to look different or interesting, you perpetuate the stigma that OCD is something lighthearted and funny. And my friend, that’s not “cool” at all.

I know you don’t have any harsh intentions when you say phrases such as “I’m so OCD,” but they contribute to the trivialization of mental disorders. So, the next time you decide to use the language of mental health to describe common, often insignificant situations, keep in mind that by using and accepting these phrases in everyday language, you’re trivializing the seriousness of mental health conditions. By making a joke of mental health, you’re fueling the stigma surrounding it and creating barriers that discourage people like me from seeking treatment.

So my friend, I urge you to be aware of how your casual words can seriously dwarf the severity of someone’s real struggle, and I urge you to contribute to create a safer environment for those struggling, by being attentive to what you say and the words you use. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a serious mental illness, and to be honest, I’m fed up with how trivialized the disorder is seen in mainstream culture. OCD is as debilitating as any other mental illness. It’s not cute or funny, like Monica Geller from Friends or Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory may have made it seem.

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