Throughout my childhood, I didn’t understand the obsessive thoughts controlling my mind. Before I went to bed, I would check to see if my alarm clock was set 5 times. Prior to school, I would flip my light switch on and off 7 times. These small tasks weighed on my mental health and stole so much time from my day. Overtime, these actions progressed into compulsive thoughts. If I didn’t think about my mom, would something bad happen to her? If my breathing pattern seemed off, was something wrong with me? These thoughts consumed my mind and flooded my judgement, directly interfering with my social life, relationships and work.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a mental illness that causes undesirable thoughts, obsessions and compulsions. OCD isn’t biting your nails or being a “clean freak,” it’s much more complicated. A person suffering from OCD doesn’t clean their room just because they like it clean, they do it out of fear of what will happen if it’s not cleaned. People with OCD, including myself, get so fixated on certain ideas, that it affects how we act with others. Our brains go into overdrive, and if we don’t complete our task, we are overwhelmed with anxiety.
OCD is a serious mental illness that isn’t self-diagnosable. This is how the stigma around this illness begins. Some of my old friends use to organize their school-work, by color coding, keeping tabs and creating calendars. They would use the word “OCD” to describe how organized their things were. In today’s world, OCD is synonymous with being “anal” or “picky,” but it’s actually a serious illness.
The stigma surrounding OCD is why I didn’t get help sooner rather than later. It’s hard for people to speak-up, when they’re uncertain if their feelings are valid. People fear stigma in the workplace, at home and in their everyday lives. It keeps us from wanting to open up and ask for help.
Battling OCD can lead to many invalidating thoughts, such as...
- I’m never going to accomplish my goals.
- My family doesn’t love me.
- I’m not worthy because of my thoughts.
- I won’t be a good enough partner.
Fighting the stigma around this disorder starts with understanding your worth. Mental illnesses, such as OCD, shouldn't define who you are. After I started receiving medicine and going to therapy, my OCD has been in my control. I started doing Exposure Response Prevention Therapy, where I face my fears at hand, without acting on my compulsions. Overcoming my negative thoughts has been the most rewarding feeling. The media has taken OCD into a trendy-adjective phase. People throw around the word in sentences such as, “OMG you’re so OCD”. In reality, OCD is a serious mental illness. Living with OCD is very mentally challenging and takes a toll on our bodies. Let’s start breaking this stigma around OCD by dismantling these misconceptions.
Written by: Chloe West