COLUMN: OCD is not a joke

We’ve all heard someone say, “I’m OCD,” and then describe a situation that may or may not be a symptom of the disorder.

When people do this, it bothers me for two reasons — the first is obvious.

One can’t be OCD. You can have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; you can’t be it. By saying you are a disease, you’re taking away the validity of the disorder and insulting those who suffer from it.

The second reason this bothers me is because some situations described don’t sound like one someone with OCD would experience. I know because I was actually diagnosed.

I was told I had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder when I was in the fifth grade. It started off small — I would have to do everything in groups of five (itch my arm five times, eat five goldfish at a time, etc.) or flicker the lights an even number of times before I left a room.

It prohibited me mildly, causing me to only focus on this until these goals were met, but it didn’t affect me too much.

As I got older, it became a little more intense. In middle school, I went through a phase where I couldn’t be the last to go to sleep. If my dad would fall asleep before I did I would have an absolute meltdown, crying and breathing heavily. Some nights I did not sleep at all.

As a college student, I still deal with it. It’s mostly sparked by messes or areas of my life that feel cluttered.

Sometimes I have to put off writing a paper or getting a full eight hours of sleep so that I can clean the tiles in my bathroom or wash my sheets that I washed just a week ago. It might sound ridiculous, but it’s not something I can control.

OCD is not just a quirk some people acquire that makes them like things a particular way. To me, it is a roadblock. It prevents me from hanging out with friends, studying and even sleeping without thinking about the pillow that isn’t in the right place on the couch.

The burning feeling I get in my hands and feet when a sheet of paper is crooked on my desk is not something that just goes away.

OCD affects a lot of college students, but those who aren’t affected by it should understand the severity.

If someone you know has OCD, do your best to meet their accommodations. If you know they like something a particular way, do your best to keep things in that order so that you don’t trigger them.

And most importantly, don’t mock them by saying you have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder if you don’t actually feel your heart speed up when things aren’t in the order you prefer them.

OCD is an actual disorder that affects people mentally and physically, and those who have it want you to treat it as such.

Anne Dawson is online editor.

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