"I am so OCD about that!"

"That really sets off my OCD tendencies!"

"I have OCD when it comes to that!"

People put on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as if it were an accessory to certain situations, not a mental illness. If you have OCD, as I do, I don't mind if you make such a comment. If you don't, please stop the casual use of a very serious condition.

People can be obsessive or compulsive about things without having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. OCD is life-altering, interfering with one's function in everyday life - every single day. Some are hospitalized because of OCD, until they get their meds and/or behaviors under control. OCD looks different for different people.

My OCD manifests in several ways. I compulsively count things - sounds, tiles, patterns, steps, stairs, words. It was nearly impossible for me to get through eating a bowl of Cheerios when I was little without them getting completely soggy, because I'd have to count the top layer of Cheerios in the bowl before each bite. In third grade, my desk was right next to the door, over which hung a clock. I literally counted every second of time sitting at the desk all of third grade to the ticking of that clock. I used to be able to tell you how many tiles were in my grandmother's bathroom, how many ceiling tiles were in each patient room at my pediatrician's office, and how many stairs were in any staircase in any building I frequented. I still count things, but can usually reign my brain in and not drive myself (quite literally) crazy counting everything. On bad days, though, I count every mouse click my husband makes while I'm trying to fall asleep.

I also obsess over the worst case scenario of just about everything. This made learning to drive incredibly nerve-wracking, but did prepare me for any incident or accident. It's especially challenging in parenting, and in marriage. Heaven forbid my husband is thirty seconds late for work - I can go from looking forward to his arrival to panic that he's been in an accident in a split second. If my child says they need to talk to me about something, I imagine the extreme worse and can't stop the stream of what-ifs from consuming me, when all they need to tell me is that they would like their own room or that they want to dye their hair a different color. I sometimes can't sleep nights, my brain making up crazy and disturbing scenarios associated with loved ones.

My youngest child has OCD. It's been evident since she was around 11 months old sitting next to a friend at a restaurant. Said friend moved Alia's placemat a half inch to the left to give herself more room. Alia moved it back. I took Alia to the bathroom. Upon our return, I put Alia in her highchair and she immediately moved her placemat back to the place it had been before my friend moved it when we were in the restroom. Nothing can be out of place if Alia thinks it was in the right place. You also can't do anything for her that she has her mind on doing - she'll undo whatever you did and redo it herself. Throughout her first six years of life, she could not wear matching socks. I would actively have to seek out a different sock, should I pull out a matching pair. She has to finish a song she starts singing or listening to, in its entirety, or it plays over and over in her head, sometimes for days, until she is able to finish it...and not in an annoying, I-have-a-song-stuck-in-my-head way, but in an I-can't-sleep-or-think-or-function kind of way. 

An amazing young man I know and I had a heart to heart about living with OCD earlier this year. His struggle with OCD is sometimes greater than his ability to cope and he needs to know that that's nothing about which to be ashamed, and that it isn't and shouldn't be a joking matter. He also doesn't need to hear his intense experience being made light of on a daily basis. 

You can be depressed without having clinical depression. You can have mood swings without being bipolar. You can be particular about something or have a way you need to do something without having OCD. So please, if you are very particular about something and don't have OCD, simply state that you're very particular about it. OCD isn't an occasional happening. It can be life-crushing for those of us living with it. 


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