OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder):
What is OCD? It’s a very confusing mental illness that most people mistake for over the top cleanliness or organization, which is absolutely true. However, that is a sliver of what OCD really is. I found an article that gives a very good insight on the disorder. Here’s part of the article:
“Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a mental illness. It’s made up of two parts: obsessions and compulsions. People may experience obsessions, compulsions, or both, and they cause a lot of distress.
Obsessions are unwanted and repetitive thoughts, urges, or images that don’t go away. They cause a lot of anxiety. For example, someone might worry about making people they love sick by bringing in germs. Obsessions can focus on anything. These obsessive thoughts can be uncomfortable. Obsessions aren’t thoughts that a person would normally focus on, and they are not about a person’s character. They are symptoms of an illness.
Compulsions are actions meant to reduce anxiety caused by obsessions. Compulsions may be behaviors like washing, cleaning, or ordering things in a certain way. Other actions are not obvious to others. For example, some people may count things or repeat phrases in their mind. Some people describe it as feeling like they have to do something until it feels ‘right.’ It’s important to understand that compulsions are a way to cope with obsessions. Someone who experiences OCD may experience distress if they can’t complete the compulsion.
People who experience OCD usually know that obsessions and compulsions don’t make sense, but they still feel like they can’t control them. Obsessions and compulsions can also change over time.”
You can read the whole article here.
The reason I’m even bringing this up is because people seem a little skeptical when I mention I have OCD. I used to be offended by it, but now I know it’s because people don’t really know what it is, and that there are different types.
For me, it’s mostly the obsession part of the disorder. Repetitive thoughts are part of my daily life. Sometimes it’s mild, sometimes it causes anxiety attacks. On the outside I may look fine, but on the inside I’m screaming. I can’t get that phrase out of my head, or that embarrassing thing that happened in 4th grade will play on repeat all day long, or having to count to the number 5 (it’s always the number 5) over and over again.
Although obsessiveness is the main part of my disorder, it can often translate to compulsion in some situations. These obsessions aren’t very noticeable to others, because I do them as sneakily as possible. Sometimes I don’t even notice them.
Organization: This one is odd for me, because I only need to be organized in certain places. Work is a big one for me. I get anxious when something at my desk isn’t placed correctly. Here are some examples of what organization looks like to me, and how it always has too look:
I have to have my small notebook and whatever book I have with me on top of my folders. The highlighter always has to be in the middle, cap facing downward.
My EXPO pens have to be perfectly parallel at all times, all facing the same way. The same colors always have to be next to each other.
This notebook is where I write down all of my voicemail’s. It is always sitting at that same spot, right next to my phone. I have to write the message down in black. Once I call that person back, I have to cross it out in red. The pens always have to be at the top of the page, the black one closest to me, and caps have to be off for easy and quick access.
Here is the most irrational one. These look like two perfectly good pens, right? WRONG. The pen on the left is the one I use to write down voicemail’s. It can ONLY be used for that reason. The other pen is faded, because I use it for everything else, and that makes it easy to not get them mixed up. If I notice I’m using the wrong pen, I start to panic. It’s so dumb, and every time it happens I know how dumb it is, but I really can’t help it.
The other part of organization I need is also really dumb. It can also be wasteful, which stresses me out. It’s another thing I can’t help. My handwriting has to be perfect. If I start writing and one word or letter is out of place, I have to throw it away and start again. I often get hand cramps writing lists, because it usually takes a few times for me to be satisfied with the way it looks. I know, wasteful and irrational, huh?
Routine: This one is not as severe, but can cause a lot of anxiety on bad days. I don’t have many routines, but the ones I do have can get pretty serious. At work, I have a specific parking spot and bathroom stall I highly prefer to use. When someone parks in “my” parking spot, I get incredibly upset. Sometimes I actually get angry that I have to park one stall over. Once my car is out of sight as I’m walking into the office, the anger goes away. When someone is using “my” bathroom stall, I don’t get angry, but I often get emotional about it. For a few seconds I feel like crying when I see that stall door closed.
These are just a few examples of what having OCD is like. OCD and anxiety go hand in hand most of the time. It’s incredibly exhausting to have these disorders. Some days I can’t focus because my brain is too tired from thinking. Some days I’m in pain from tensing up so much from these disorders. Just because someone “looks” fine, it doesn’t mean they are. Those of us with mental disorders are usually pros at hiding it, and we live our lives the same as everyone else on the outside, but the inside is a completely different story.
If you know someone with any of these (or other) mental disorders, please do your best to understand them. Most of the time we don’t even understand ourselves, so when other people don’t try to understand us, it’s very frustrating. Everyone suffers differently, and have different coping mechanisms. Do your best to get to know what those are, so you can help if needed! Thanks for reading!