Sometimes people use the term OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) in a casual manner to describe their traits related to cleanliness, organization skills or perfectionism. However, using this term inappropriately can have significant consequences. First, using the term OCD casually often minimizes the real struggles and hardships that individuals diagnosed with OCD face on a daily basis. People might not understand that OCD is a serious anxiety disorder that causes unwanted intrusive thoughts and repetitive behaviors that interrupt their daily lives significantly.
People with diagnosable OCD may spend hours performing ritualistic behaviors to relieve intense anxiety, which can interfere with their work, social life, and relationships. Some examples include checking and rechecking things like doors or switches, counting objects over and over again, arranging things in a very specific way or rhythm, repeating words or phrases silently in your head, and avoiding certain places or situations altogether. Imagine feeling like you have to check the locks on your doors twenty times before leaving the house or washing your hands until they’re painfully raw because of an irrational fear of germs. These behaviors aren’t just personality quirks – they can seriously impact someone’s quality of life by consuming their time and energy, causing debilitating anxiety and distress, and even leading to physical harm if carried out to an extreme degree.
Your everyday organization habits, such as arranging books alphabetically or color-coding your closet, are not the same. While both OCD and regular organization habits involve keeping things tidy and in order, there are significant differences between the two. OCD is a mental disorder that manifests as persistent, uncontrollable obsessions and compulsions. Regular organization habits, on the other hand, are generally seen as voluntary actions taken to improve productivity or efficiency. While people with OCD may display similar organizational tendencies to someone without the condition, they take their routines to an extreme level and often experience severe anxiety when things do not go according to plan. Their ritualistic behaviors are not intended to improve productivity in their lives. Just the opposite, OCD compulsions can cause extreme problems with keeping up with day-to-day responsibilities.
Therefore, using the term OCD to describe your love for organization is simply not accurate. Using the term so casually in this manner downplays the seriousness of what OCD is and it also reinforces the dismissive attitude towards mental health. It is disrespectful and insensitive. This makes it difficult for people with OCD to be taken seriously for what they are struggling with and to seek help and support.
In addition, saying “I’m so OCD” as a joke may discourage people from seeking help or coming forward to talk about their symptoms due to fear of ridicule or misunderstanding. Because individuals with OCD may already be feeling a sense of shame due to their behaviors (which they often know are irrational but are still unable to stop them), it’s so important that we as a community do everything that we can to help reduce shame and stigma associated with OCD. Shame among people with OCD can be a barrier to seeking professional help, it can cause people to hide their symptoms from others, and it can contribute to feelings of isolation. This only makes the experience worse for people with OCD, but through education and understanding, we can reduce stigma surrounding this disorder and encourage those who are struggling to seek out effective treatment options.
Overall, using the term OCD casually when you’re not is problematic for several reasons. It diminishes the severity of the disorder, perpetuates feelings of shame, and contributes to widespread misunderstanding about OCD. Instead of mindlessly throwing around labels, we should be mindful of our language and educate ourselves about mental health conditions. We can promote understanding, empathy, and acceptance by listening to those with firsthand experience living with OCD and allowing them to share their authentic stories.
Written by Lauren Presutti