The Harm of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
OMG I'm so OCD!
I'm sure you've heard it before - you're walking down a road with some people and see the stone pattern lining the path was placed incorrectly, causing the pattern to break. Someone will say "Wow, that triggers my OCD pretty hard!" in a joking way, and you all continue on your way. That's wrong, and I want to tell you why.
What's the matter? It's not like OCD is a real problem anyway.
It's happening less often than when I was younger, but I still see people thinking this way. They just think OCD is some buzzword people use to describe a neat freak. Ultimately I can't blame the everyday person, as the media is the one to blame. How many lists and articles have you come across called something like "60 pictures that will trigger your OCD!". I would like nothing more than to go on rant about the harm these kinds of articles cause, but that's something for another day. What I want you to understand after reading this is how dark this mental illness can be.
So What is OCD Then?
This is why there is such a misconception about OCD - at it's core, OCD is illogical. Let's start with the acronym itself. OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, an illness that forces someone to have intrusive thoughts. These thoughts then cause a tremendous amount of anxiety, causing the person to do anything they can to relieve that anxiety. This can be anything from flicking the light switch on and off a certain number of times, to staying in their room, avoiding everything they can.
What's an "Intrusive Thought"?
An intrusive thought is exactly what it sounds like - an involuntary thought that is unwanted and causes extreme negative emotions. There are many examples, many of which can be quite horrifying. They can be thoughts of hurting loved ones, causing mass damage, or even infecting people with disease. This can be distressing, as often times the thoughts come out of nowhere and can make someone feel like they might do something dangerous.
Wait - So What Does This Have To Do With Cleaning?
One of the symptoms of OCD can be excessive cleanliness - I'll give an example.
Let's say Jeremy has OCD. One day, a thought pops into his head. "I'm going to spread disease if I don't remain clean at all times." This might sound like not a big deal, just an overactive imagination. But have you ever tried being completely clean all the time? It's not possible. So Jeremy goes about his day, but that thought isn't going away. After some time, he decides to try to wash his hands, but the thought doesn't go away. So he washes them again. And Again. Half an hour later, his hands are bright red and burning from the hot water, but he finally feels clean, and experiences some relief. He decides to go for a walk with his dog and enjoy a nice day. After he puts the leash on his dog, he realizes his hands are dirty again because he touched something. "What if that leash had some infectious disease on it?" The anxiety comes back, and he goes to wash his hands to relieve his mind. Half an hour later, he can barely hold anything due to his sore, shriveled hands.
This cycle would continue, until eventually, Jeremy would just shut himself in his room, refusing to interact with anything or anyone for fear of contracting and spreading a disease that isn't there.
Seems Like They Just Needs To Think About Something Else.
As with any mental illness, blaming someone for something they can't control is not only ignorant, but downright harmful. The issue is that they can't think about something else. If they could just feel better by thinking about something else, it wouldn't be labeled an obsession, would it?
So What Do I Do About It?
First off, stop using OCD as a placeholder for cleanliness. If someone has OCD that forces them to think about harming others, they'll be scared and won't want to bring it up with people for fear of being labelled a psychopathic maniac. However if factual info about OCD becomes commonplace, people suffering might have more confidence to tell somebody.
Second, do some research. There are way too many obsessions and compulsions for me to list, and so many people affected. Fair warning, the thoughts can be violent, sexual, even existential at times, so be prepared to read about some dark things.
Finally, understand that there is help. As with any mental illness, sufferers can be scared, confused and lonely. Just because someone locks themselves in their room to avoid social contact doesn't mean they don't want to be all alone - they just don't want those horrible intrusive thoughts to come true.
This Is A Lot To Take In
It can seem pretty daunting trying to understand something that's so illogical, but the fact you read this far is a good sign! If anything, I simply want more people to know that OCD is not to be taken lightly, and that help is available.
I Think I Might Have OCD! What Do I Do?
My advice is to see a doctor as soon as you can. It's never a good idea to self diagnose. If you're struggling to see a doctor, therapist, or any other professionals, tell someone closer - be it a friend, family member, teacher, or someone you trust wholeheartedly. I also suggest looking up some testimonials of people who have been through the process of being diagnosed and received treatment.
I got diagnosed a few years ago, and I can remember the feeling of relief knowing that the irrational thoughts in my head were something I could get help for.
OCD is versatile, and it often rears it's head randomly, so sufferers can often be caught off guard. A therapist once told me something that has really helped me understand how to combat and accept my own intrusive thoughts.
Thoughts are not actions.
Whether you suffer from OCD or not, I believe this is something people forget on daily basis. It seems obvious, but everyday we beat ourselves up just for thinking something weird - even if that thought has no basis in reality. So next time a strange thought pops into your head, remember that thoughts don't hurt people, and having a bad thought doesn't make you a bad person.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2019 Wyatt Frazer Scratch