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1. This or this (or this, or this… and on and on).Color-coded t-shirts.

2.  A choice.

OCD stands for obsessive compulsive disorder. As our executive director likes to say, emphasis on the capital D for Disorder.  Obsessive and compulsive traits on their own are not a mental illness — we all have things that perhaps we obsess over, (constantly replaying a recent job interview or date in one’s head, examining every last detail for clues to what the person thought, re-writing the same paragraph over and over to make sure the essay or report is JUST right). But for a person with OCD they can’t just “snap out of it.” Research has shown that the brain of a person with OCD actually functions differently in this situation, essentially getting “stuck” on a thought. These thoughts are linked with intense anxiety driving the individual with OCD to engage in compulsive behavior – their only escape.  A person with OCD doesn’t obsessively clean their kitchen just because they like it to be clean. A person with OCD is overwhelmed with anxiety and fear about what will happen if they don’t clean their kitchen properly. Imagine being so consumed about something (such as the previously mentioned job interview, first date, essay, or cleaning the kitchen) that you literally could think of nothing else until you felt sure of the outcome you needed…. so caught up in the thoughts and worries that you could not go to work, or go meet friends, or perhaps even leave the house, because your brain was essentially on overdrive, and completely fixated on that one thing.  I am “obsessive.” However, I recognize this as part of my personality and when things don’t go my way, even if I find it upsetting, I do not feel a crushing, debilitating wave of anxiety as a result.

3.  A quirk.

I had a roommate in college who color-coded all of her textbooks on our bookshelves. Instead of being organized by class or subject or author, they were literally organized by the colors of the rainbow. Perhaps not a practical index system, but it seemed to make her happy.  This is not OCD. It’s funny, quirky, perhaps impractical, but she didn’t organize the books this way because she felt compelled to do so out of a need to alleviate deep-seated anxiety.  She just liked the colors.

Likewise, I have a thing about kitchen sponges.  My house has one sponge for washing dishes, and one sponge for cleaning the counters, and it annoys the hell out of me if people use the wrong sponge for the wrong thing (also, it’s gross). I have a thing about germs, but this is not OCD.  If someone uses the wrong sponge, I throw it away and get a new sponge (and perhaps re-wash the plate that just touched the gross counter sponge) — problem solved. For someone with OCD, there is no obvious “problem solved” moment. Once triggered, their OCD would necessitate doing an elaborate ritual to undo the mistake that was made. These “rituals” aren’t indulgences. A person with OCD doesn’t clean the same corner of the kitchen counter 100 times for fun — they do it because they are terrified about what will happen if they don’t. Perhaps they think they will catch a communicable disease, or worse, give a disease to someone in their family, because they cooked dinner in a kitchen that carried these terrible germs — even when they “know” it isn’t true! OCD isn’t about logic — it’s about anxiety.

Have you ever let your mind wander to the worst possible outcome in a given situation? For example, I’ve been stuck on a bus in traffic and imagined being stuck there forever — playing out Lord of the Flies scenarios in my mind with fellow passengers. This “doomsday” thinking is the bread and butter of someone with OCD. The brain can’t help but go to this deep dark place, no matter the situation. THAT IS NOT QUIRKY. It’s torturous.

4.  A synonym for anal-retentive, neatnik, cleanfreak, etc., etc.

This is how the term OCD is often misused in pop culture.  It has somehow become a synonym for uptight. OCD is not alone is this — think for a second if you’ve ever described someone as bipolar or schizophrenic when you meant “moody.”  Can you imagine if we started using the term cancer this way? Mental illness can be just as devastating to a person and their family as cancer — it interrupts lives, derails plans, and in extreme cases can lead to a person taking their own life.

5.  A joke.

Despite the severity of OCD and other mental disorders, many people do not get help. Why? Because of stigma. People with OCD and other disorders are often afraid to speak up, afraid to ask for help, and ashamed that they are somehow defective. In fact, some studies have shown that only 1 in 3 individuals with OCD will tell their medical provider about their OCD symptoms. Why is it okay in our society to publicly and proudly fight cancer, but not mental illness? Why is a disease of the brain any less real or important than a disease of the body.

Unfortunately, joking about mental illness is part of the problem. It perpetuates the idea that OCD is something that someone should be able to just “get over” already. It infers that a person who can’t get over it is somehow weak or defective. It makes people hide their illness from friends and family, despite the fact that a strong support network is often the thing that makes treatment work.

Because OCD is treatable. Many people respond well to therapy, some to medication, and some to a mix of both. It is possible to recover from OCD and live a full and productive life.  Sadly, on average it takes people between 14 to 17 years between the onset of symptoms and gaining access to effective treatment. Why are we letting all of those years be wasted?

Until we can stop the cycle of stigma, ignorance, and insensitivity, mental illness will continue to be the cancer that eats away at lives.


  • AMEN!!!! When, oh when, will people understand (or at least try to) that OCD is life altering and absolutely NOT a joke!

  • Liz Hood

    I was 8 when all mine started, I also have trichotillomania, & OCD. The hyper focus is so draining, the anxiety through the roof & the deep depression. When I hear someone say “just don’t do it” I could explode. It is my deep dark secret, all of it. It hurts so bad to feel like this, I’m 55 now! 8-55 feeling like this everyday! THIS IS NOT FUNNY! There are days I just do NOT want to be……at all! My faith in GOD is the only reason I am still alive!
    Educate your selves, those who think this is a joke!!!

    • wow you are a iperational person. you have inspired me to face my OCD head on and not let it take me away feom enjoying my life you are tru

    • Dom

      I feel you all. I don’t personally have OCD but I have a couple different family members who have it. It’s no joke. It’s hard for them to function through life even with medication. I hate it when people clean something up so then they think they have OCD. They don’t even have the anxiety or depression and their not obsessive at all. They do their cleaning quick. People with OCD take a LONG time to meet their certain obsession.

  • Bridget Kostello

    I liked an Aussie humor page on Facebook. In the last two weeks, I have seen “humorous” ecards from this site posted saying, “If you’re OCD and you know it wash your hands” and “I’m starting group meetings at my house for people with OCD. Not because I have it, but surely one of them will be bothered enough to clean it.” I have posted both times that these comments aren’t funny, but hurtful to those of us who have a real, debilitating illness. After all, you wouldn’t post “If you’re going through chemo, just throw up.” So why post something like that about a mental illness that is a burden, not a choice?

    A fellow OCD sufferer responded that she thought a sense of humor was a good thing. I agreed. but too many misconceptions abound about OCD to think that either of these comments were actually funny. She said her OCD was under control, but for those whose symptoms are still difficult to manage daily, these kinds of postings both are painful and perpetuate the myths that in turn must be corrected by postings like yours here.

    Thank you for such a concise and accurate blog post about something that has robbed too much from too many of us. Hopefully someday we will be seen as those who suffer from a legitimate illness and not just a “quirky” personality.

    • Giana Brooke

      I was recently writing a story about a boy with OCD, but after reading this, I’m definitely changing it. I was beginning to portray him as a neat freak and silly but I realize now that OCD isn’t any of those things

      • Nichole

        Hi Mikey! I just wanted to let you know not to be ashamed or scared to talk to a dr or family about this. I wish when I was your age what this was. It would have saved me a lot of heartache and pain. once you start getting hel, it my take time, but it gets sooooo much better. And when youre in your twenties like me, you will be so glad that you went and got help. It will be good to get help the sooner the better. and millions of people have wha we have, but are too scared to get the help. Dont feel aloe bc you arent and it totally gets better

      • Norma Gray

        I’m glad you didn’t do that for real! I’m sick of my OCD but can’t get anyone to realize how bad it is much less help me deal with it…

  • Jeanette Murray-Hall, MS, NCC, LPC

    OCD International is such a great resource. I’m an outpatient therapist, and I utilize the resources all the time to give credible information, linkage, and hope to families that I serve. I’ll be printing up this post to give to some of my current clients.

  • Holly B

    My 12 year old was diagnosed with ocd about a year ago. It is NOT a compulsive cleaning disorder. In fact, her ocd I think if as being more chaotic. The couches must be a set distance from the wall, and vacuuming cannot leave lines in the carpet. I never suspected ocd, but the more I learn about it, the more it makes sense when I look at the fail picture

  • OCD is not a joke. It creates tremendous suffering and profoundly affects people’s lives. There is effective treatment, ADAA and IOCDF are also great resources for education and treatment and provide a source of hope. Anxiety is treatable-don’t give up!

  • Emilie

    This perfectly written…Thank you!

  • Liz Hood

    For me, I also count in my head, it could be tiles, anything, everything. I don’t have the cleaning tic..I wish! I have regiments, which have an order (sensible or not), I an order that I have to do certain things. If it is deviated in any manner, It freaks me out, I have to start all over, or something horrible will happen. My heart beats faster, I become agitated quick. I have been to Therapists, Psyc’s, Behavior training, every pill made for my symptoms. Nothing works, I get my peace in prayer. I am so happy that in the last 10 years, I have found out I AM NOT ALONE, & THERE IS A NAME FOR IT! I have lived 45 years in the dark alone. The medical community had no name for this disease, back then…early 60’s. I am totally greatfull for Blog’s like this, & all the websites. Thank You All Liz Hood

  • Justine

    There is a seriously long way to go for people to even begin to fully understand OCD and mental illness. Employers need serious educating from my experience.

  • Anna

    Thank you for this easy-to-understand article. I now understand OCD and can apply this!

  • Ram

    Out of curiosity, what kind of treatments are prescribed for OCD? Is is more of a mental issue?

    Social Security Disability Help

      • Jan

        I am tring to find someone who knows about any adverse affects of being on OCD meds for 20 years. My son has been on Luvox for 20 years. No one ever mentioned to us about going off them to see if rituals would still be there. I am concerned that he is not thinking ‘normal’. He does not seem to get life. Can’t get a real job because nothing seems to make him happy. He has a bachelors degree but just can’t seem to move forward. He seems like he is about 10 years behind his friends. Anyone know of anyone who has been on meds for this long and any adverse side affects? Does it change your personality? My son’s seems to have changed over the last 10 years. Any help with this is greatly appreciated.

  • Tyler

    If you were reading this because you think you have OCD then in my opinion you are probably right. Talk to someone about it now without shame . You are allowed to be you! I am a teacher and I want you to know that you can get help to overcome this. Take care of yourself! Talk to someone! You’re not alone.

  • Kai

    My OCD was at it’s worst around 20 years ago when I was completly homebound. However,
    I was fortunate – my family got me into outpatient treatment with a very knowledgable ocd specialist.
    I was able to `break out’ of the worst of the ocd within a year or two with a combination of
    behavioral treatment and medication. My case of ocd has been relatively calm since 1994,
    and I have been able to live my dream of building a small house from scratch since then – I’m
    not kidding.
    So based on my personal experience, it IS possible to live a relatively normal life with ocd
    after medication and treatment. Just so you know, behavioral treatment does NOT have to
    be a painful process. My ocd specialist used a tactic of behavioral therapy called `baby steps’,
    meaning gradually eliminating fears over a period of time – just like how ocd gradually
    progresses over time. However, it was a lot easier to accomplish this with medication.

    Point being – don’t be afraid to seek help because of the stigma and shame, because those things
    just arn’t worth a person’s life being destroyed by this dibilitating condition. Good luck to you.

    • Mandy

      i’m having troubles leaving the house! i’m afraid it’s going to get to the place that i will never leave what did you do to over come this?

      • Kai

        Hi Mandy

        I was only able to exit my house once a month to go out on
        errands and stock up on groceries – I used one of those times on
        one particular month to do all of those things along with making
        the first appointment with the ocd specialist, and that was the
        turning point for me.
        He prescribed medication on the first visit, and he scheduled me
        to see him once every two weeks. Things gradually progressed
        from there. It improved from once every two weeks to once every
        two days after a few months.
        It’s important to note that I had a few relatives go along with me
        during the first appointment – so any kind of positive support,
        whether it’s from family, friends, or other people with ocd, played
        an important role with overcoming my case of ocd along with the
        meds and tharapy.

        Good luck with your case.


      • Hi Mandy-

        We have a few resources that may be of help. Some therapists will actually visit your home to provide treatment. You can search our treatment provider database to see if there is someone near you who conducts home visits: http://ocfoundation.org/treatment_providers.aspx (select “Home Visits” from the drop-down menu under Treatment Strategies). There are also online and phone-based support groups that may be of help: http://ocfoundation.org/yahoo.aspx. Some therapists even conduct sessions via Skype nowadays, so that is something else you can ask about. If you have more questions, feel free to email us at info@ocfoundation.org

        • Nichole

          Hi Joel! I really am praying for you that your symptoms have let up a little bit. If not be patient. I have the exact same thing going on with my ocd. I just recently got diagnosed a few wees ago, but have been struggling with ocd since I was a kid. I just never knew what it was. I’ve been with my boyfriend for two and a half years now and have noticed that my disorder started attacking my relationship a few months ago. It never used to be that, it was normally stupid stuff like focusing on hurting people, the end of the world, etc. But once I started therapy I figured out that once I would get over one thing, my ocd would find something else to obsess over or try to ruin. I guess I’m just writing you to let you know you arent alone. There will be days you feel like you don’t have attraction, dont want to be with her, etc. And each time it may feel new or not like any other time. But keep in mind those are not you feeling that. It is the chemicals in your body and your disorder. I know how real they feel, trust me. but please remember it is ok. You are not alone and it will go away with time. And maybe even talk to your girlfriend about it. I did. My boyfriend had a hard time understanding at first, but he eventually understood that those thoughts and feelings I have arent me. He actually reassures me all of the time that he knows I love and adore him. AND HE IS RIGHT! If she is the one for you, she will learn to be patient and accepting and learn to understand. YOU arent alone.

  • Kat

    So I have OCD, I told my friend, she said she has minor OCD, for example she said if she finished writing something at the end of the paper but it’s not on the line it will bug her, well that’s not OCD no its not that’s just something that bugs you. I have OCD and I can tell you I hate it, I have to clean places in my kitchen so many times or else I worry that bugs will come to that corner and go in my food and I won’t know and I eat some and then I eat the bug and it will be crawling in my mouth and I bite it and its organs and stuff squirt in my mouth and it will be germy and I get sick and I have a terrible fear of bugs and I will be so TERRIFFIED. Also OCD, I always have thoughts about worst case scenarios, and what would happen if my family died, I think about this almost all day at school, I zone out and my teacher calls me to answer a question an it’s really hard to deal with. I have anxiety OCD is a kind of type of anxiety. I can just tell you it sucks. There is so much more to OCD.

    • Kat

      I somewhat understand, I have OCD and my friend I Skype with and play Minecraft with keels saying he has ‘Minecraft OCD’ because he has to have stuff straight and even and stuff. It bothers me but I haven’t yet corrected him… But I will next time he says it. I also recently came across a post on Pinterest that said things people with ocd would really hate’ or something like that. And in the comments 2 people in a row said “im so ocd about this stuff” and it bothered me so much.

  • IambiggerthanOCD

    Thank you.

  • Joel

    I have relationship OCD. Ive been with my girlfriend for four months now (we’ve known each other five). I am in Australia and she is in China. We literally speak every single day. Many days we will chat from morning until bedtime. We will also spend many days video chatting for hours and every single month I will call her at least once on my phone. Despite this, my ocd constantly changes my feelings and emotions. It also makes me think ridiculous things such as she is a stranger or she is an irrelevant part of my life. Sometimes it will go so far as to put thoughts of other girls in my head (which I try my best to reject). This is torture for me and I have spent so many days crying because of it. I know deep down that I love my girlfriend to death and Im completely lost without her. My ocd attacks the feeling I have for her because she means more to me than anything else ever could. I really cant bear it anymore.

  • Mike

    I’m 18 and have ocd. It seems to be really bad when I have exams coming up because the anxiety just builds up. If I don’t do something then I will fail. My parents just say stop it and just say weirdo, but it really isn’t something that they can understand. When I was younger I used to check that the back door was locked about 10 times every night and would sometimes be there for 10 minutes just checking it. I really hate it when people say that they have an OCD when they like things to be perfectly straight or are clean freaks. By my account that is not at all OCD as you mentioned in this article. The phrase is so overused, but few actually know what it means.

  • Mikey

    I’m 14 and have it, however I feel ashamed to say it to relatives, though. It started when I was about 10 and has literally be torturing me ever since, do you guys see any way of overcoming it without medication and such?

    • Mikey,
      The best treatment for OCD is a combination of CBT and meds. The meds help initially with symptom control while you work on the CBT. For some people (I have been one), meds have been the answer–for others, merely a stepping stone they are able to then leave behind. Please do not shut yourself off to any treatment avenue so early. Trust one who knows–the longer you let it go, the worse it gets, and, just when you think you have conquered it, it will eat you alive. It is a monster as you know–feel free to call in any troops you need to defeat it.

      Please seek treatment and be open to options. There’s a lot of false and scary information out there that a psychologist and psychiatrist will help you sort out. The earlier you get on this, the better.

      You did nothing wrong. You are a sufferer of an illness, just as someone with diabetes, epilepsy or cancer is. They would go to a doctor in a minute and you need to as well. This is not about anything you did–please make sure that, if you are suffering guilt over not being “strong enough” to manage this, that you let that go. You are a strong person just living with it and wanting to go on. You have all of our support in the OCD community and we will cheer you on from the sidelines–my prayer is that you have those in your life that will help you as well.

      Best to you!

      • Mikey

        Thanks a lot for this! It really helps to know someone cares, this has changed my views a lot since I have never really spoke to anybody about it

        Thanks again!

    • Mikey-
      As Bridget explained, OCD is typically treated through Cognitive Behaviorial Therapy or medications such as SSRIs, or both. You can learn more about treatment here: http://www.ocfoundation.org/treatment.aspx

      You might also find support groups helpful — there is even an online support group for teens with OCD. http://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/ocdsupportforteens/info

      Best of luck, and feel free to contact our office if you need more information or would like help finding an OCD specialist in your area: 617-973-5801.

      • Victoria

        I am 24 became mentally ill around 7 years ago. It became clinically significant 5 years ago, and I have been on the waiting list for psychotherapy for 2 years. I believe I have one of the most severe cases of OCD that I know about. I have been unable to work for a long time, in and out of the psychiatric ward and on and off the streets due to my illness. Cognitive behavioural therapy didn’t help me at all. My therapist said it stems from my childhood. I have been on 12 medications, antidepressants, antipsychotics, anti anxiety, 11 did nothing and the 1 that did work almost killed me as I had a severe adverse reaction to it. I agree with most of the information I read about OCD, about it being a serious disorder, not a joke. But sometimes I think it is even more than just an anxiety disorder. A psychiatrist would say I have very good insight into my illness. This is because I acknowledge that, to a normal person, the rituals I do and the things I am scared of make no physical difference to my life and therefore are “not real”. They fail to see that, real or not, the mental effects it has on me are BAD. and no one can tell me that those effects are not real. I believe in the thing I am running from, and every day is dark. Balancing in an awkward place where I don’t have enough symptoms of psychosis to be called psychotic, but too many symptoms for it to be just an anxiety disorder, I have been passed like a hot potato and never received much help from the services. I feel like I am crying out for help constantly and receiving nothing but judgement and contempt. This has destroyed every relationship and most of my young years, I can only hope to recover with psychotherapy and I want to promote awareness about how severe and complex OCD can be.

        • sandi

          My son is now 36 dx at the age of 8 has been on over 80 different drugs behavior therapy hypnotic’s natural healing and no where he is so down is on disability and just wants help. We are looking into acupuncture. He was going to do the ocd surgery not the stimulator about 11 years ago but backed out. He also has Tourette’s and life is rough for him I am his mom and caregiver. I pray for all of you I know from day to day the challenges how sad this disorder is.

  • Kinink

    I feel very frustrated when someone has an habit of keeping things neat and orderly and call themselves OCD – I don’t know, maybe they are, but I doubt it sometimes. It was very, very hard for me just to seek help and tell my most intimates about my problems in the first place – it took several years…maybe 10 or more even to considerate doing it – and them they look about themselves and see that everyone has a little ‘mania’ over this and that and saying this is OCD that they don’t take what I say seriously and think it I’m probably like everyone else – It makes me helpless, because of the amount of strength and effort it cost me – in my mind it even costed peoples lives – and one takes it slightly. Just to write this paragraph is a bit of a miracle if I look back in times that I would freakout just because I couldn’t proceed with my ‘rituals’ because there was people around. Even now, I’m most anxious about hitting enter and what it will follows from that, I’m shaking inside, but I’ll make it.

    • sherin

      Hi i am from south india.Actually in my case it was more like fear.if i do this that way will somebody get hurt or something will fall or sometimes i won’t throw away junk stuffs out.Anyway i had a good friend who helped me a lot and compelled me to go to a psychiatrist.Then i controlled my ocd thoughts and rituals to 70% without medications.The dangerous part what i felt was ocd tricks you into believing these thoughts are real.Yes like one of the guy above said since the doubts are more illogical and stupid,we are afraid to tell someone and also most of the people who cannot understand how ocd works,it would all seem silly!!!

  • Sam Janow

    My friends and classmates always make fun of me because of my OCD and they try to leave books and pencil un straightened, unaligned, out of order, and on the ground just to get me to either respond compulsively violent, depressed, distresses, helpless, or angry, or to immediately fix their ‘mistakes’. They also will sometimes call me names, and get unknowing teachers to ask me to get the lights when they know that every time I turn on or off the light I need to flip the switch seven times while counting to seven aloud. I feel ashamed to practice my counting to seven in class and it leaves me will a great feeling of anxiety until the teacher leaves at the end of the period in which I count to seven while flipping the light off, and then back to the on position seven times. I make sure not to let my family know by never practicing my “rituals” as you call them in front of my family members. I am seeing a therapist, but with all the added distress from friends, family, and peers, it makes it difficult to make any progress, or even to stop the OCD from getting worse.

  • I really appreciate this. It’s like ever since I was diagnosed that the term is used more than ever before. “I’m SOOO OCD, y’all!” Or, “You’re OCD? …Really?” as they look at my chaotic home/car/life. There’s a major difference between OCD and OCPD. The biggest, and probably most defining, part of it is also the one which is never discussed. The intrusive thoughts. The feeling that your body will force you to do something you don’t want to do. Something unspeakable. The idea that the world is sitting on your shoulders and one false move could tear it apart. I’m tired of the false stigma. It leads to people having no sympathy.

    • Your post is spot- on.

      In my opinion, OCD (along with autism and some other conditions) is a spectrum and I suspect that everybody has them to a more or less degree. However, most people’s ‘OCD’/ ‘autism’ (or whatever) is very mild and well within the ‘normal’ end of the spectrum.

      For instance, I have a few autistic tendencies (as do many other people I know), but this ‘autism’ (or slight autistic tendencies) is so mild that I wouldn’t be medically diagnosed as having ASD- and I certainly wouldn’t describe myself as having autism. For me, this term is reserved for people with *significant* levels of autism. Although the average ‘neat freak’ probably does have a very mild form of OCD (albeit within the ‘normal’ range), it wouldn’t be classed as what I’d term *clinical* OCD.

      Clinical OCD is more severe, scary and debilitating. I know some people with very severe OCD *are* mainly fixated on issues pertaining to hygiene, phobias of germs/ viruses and/ or orderliness. I don’t belittle those people’s struggles, but it would make life a bit easier for me if more people realised that OCD sometimes takes different forms, which can be equally difficult. I do have some issues around hygiene and cleanliness, but, for me, this is a secondary and relatively minor manifestation of the condition.

      I suffer from a form of primarily obsessional OCD, often described as ‘harm OCD.’ I have horrible intrusive thoughts and I fear temporarily losing control over my body, or that I’ll stop caring for a brief moment, and do something that I’ll regret for the rest of my life. If the OCD has a particularly strong hold over me, I’ll sometimes confuse the thoughts with reality (thought/ action fusion) and feel like I’ve actually done something terrible when I haven’t. For instance, I once feared that I’d kicked my dog who I love dearly. I later realised that I hadn’t acted on the unwanted thought (he hadn’t yelped, gasped or moved from his original position, and when my head became clearer, I was better able to separate what had happened in my mind from real life.)

      My fears of harming others has sometimes taken over my life and I’ve been under psychologists and psychiatrists for my OCD and depression. Although I now drive a light motor vehicle, I’ll never learned to drive a car because I’m afraid of running somebody over (particularly a child or an animal.) I had to quit a job because I became so anxious at the thought of hurting or neglecting the people in my care and I’ve given up on the dream of becoming a parent because I know my OCD will focus itself upon the child and probably impair my ability to be the kind of parent I want to be, or the one that the child deserves. The weird thing is, other people have told me that I’m a gentle person and great with kids, but part of my brain insists that they’re wrong. I’ve also feared, from a young age, that certain thoughts alone could lead to accidents, disasters and harm to others. However, it took me at least seven years to tell my parents about this (I’d had the fears from the age of ten or earlier), and a further three years to confide in a doctor.

      I was particularly bad with OCD around the age of seventeen (I was sometimes almost convinced that a plane crash or earthquake was at least partly my fault because I’d inadvertently ‘wished’/ ‘willed’ something bad to happen), but I somehow managed, matriculate, complete a degree course and work for a few years. However, the OCD returned with a vengeance when I reached my late twenties, and I suffered a nervous breakdown. I’m doing a lot better now and I’m even hoping to embark on a new career, but it’s taken me three years (from suffering the breakdown) to reach this stage.

      I can now tell people that I have OCD, but, unless the person has a similar form of the condition or is a mental health specialist, I’m not comfortable going into details because I fear their judgment. It’s annoying because I have to tell employers etc that I have a mental health condition if I want any support and understanding (which I often need), but if I mention OCD, I suspect most people will assume that it revolves around cleanliness (and then possibly decide that my OCD ‘can’t be that bad’ because hygiene is a relatively minor focus for me.) It also seems to surprise some people that I can sometimes struggle to distinguish between my own thoughts and reality, regarding my obsessions and phobias, and yet be perfectly rational in other areas. .

      Hugs to anyone else struggling with OCD and the people close to them.

      • Bridget Kostello

        To me, what is in this reply is everything that is wrong with the mental health field today. The entire idea of “spectrum” disorders has made diagnosis more difficult and has made the public at large more weary of people’s illnesses because, with spectrum disorders casting such a wide net, everybody has something. This is wildly inaccurate.

        That’s not mental illness. People can be highly compulsive–doesn’t mean they have OCD, nor does it mean they are symptomatic of OCD. People can be clueless about social cues–doesn’t mean they are autistic or on any autistic spectrum. Sometimes, a trait or symptom is just a trait or symptom. If we went by this criteria, if I was symptomatic of a cold and I walked into a doctor’s office, suddenly I would have a diagnosis of a “pneumonia spectrum” illness.

        Everybody doesn’t have something. I know that making people believe that has eased stigma, but that very philosophy is what has created the “Oh, I’m so OCD” phenomenon. People think being symptomatic makes them sufferers of an illness or at least on the “spectrum.” It doesn’t.

        OCD’s definition is inherent in the name. It is a disorder. People are diagnosed when it becomes a behavior in their lives that takes over, when the situation becomes uncontrollable. That’s OCD, and it doesn’t need the “clinical” modifier. Now, people who are symptomatic may eventually have full blown OCD, the same way that cold may become full blown pneumonia at some point; some people will never progress beyond merely symptomatic. And some people will be more severely impaired by OCD and co-morbid disorders than others (therefore, the idea of spectrum once diagnosed makes sense, much as cancer has a typing system to define the progression of the disease), But this idea that we just treat symptomatic people because they might become worse–that can be as irresponsible in psychology as it is in physical medicine.

        And trust me, I’m tired of talking about this. I’ve been talking about this for 25 years–I met the people that originally started this foundation. The sad thing is that OCD continues to be misunderstood, and part of the reason is because our national organization dropped the ball a long time ago and hasn’t picked it up since. There has been no public awareness campaign; every time OCD is portrayed inaccurately on TV or in the media or even in real life (there actually is a company called OCD Cosmetics and cleaning companies called OCD cleaning, for crying out loud), the national organization should be all over it. This blog post was great, but how many did it reach? What are we doing other than blogging to people who already know what OCD is? How do we take control of the direction of the public image of this disease now?

  • OCD

    This is a good post. I have been living with this nightmare since I was a kid. My parents refused to let me get treatment for it when I was younger and now that I’m an adult on my own I am unable to get proper treatment due to costs. It is hell to live with but everyone thinks that I’m ok because I look fine on the outside.

  • Carol

    I love my life but I hate me. I am 51 years old and OCD has consumed me since I was about 12. How I’ve been able to have a family and friends is beyond me. Everything I do takes up so much more time than the average person. Every ritual from brushing my teeth for 20 minutes to tying my running shoes so that the laces are perfectly aligned, pains me. I guess I should say I hate this part of me. Why do I have it and why can’t I control it when I’m telling myself to stop. I’m a prisoner in my own body. I tried to get help a few years back and saw a therapist for a year. He had me on so many medications. I was tired all the time and I’m a very active person. He actually laughed at me when I told him how long it took me to brush my teeth. He told me to set a timer for 5 minutes. I never went back and haven’t seen anyone since. I will never win this battle. I wish sometimes that my life would just end but I don’t want my family to hurt. Although I really think they might be better off and I don’t think I would be one that would be deeply missed by friends, etc. I worry about everything and I want it to stop so bad.

    • Carol,

      This is exactly the story we hear that is core to our mission at the Foundation. Individuals with OCD should not have to wait decades for effective treatment nor be laughed at when they do reach out for help. Please contact our office to see if we can connect you with a therapist who is trained to treat OCD effectively and respectfully. You can also search for a OCD specialist near you using the Treatment Provider Database on our website:

      Or contact our office at 617-973-5801 or info@iocdf.org

  • Kyle Armstrong

    Thank god I found this page. I don’t have OCD, but I study psychology. I get REALLY ANNOYED when people misuse the term ‘OCD,’ like people don’t take it seriously enough

  • @ Bridget Kostello
    Please, please read all this reply, and not just the part about whether or not OCD etc is a spectrum.

    You wrote: “To me, what is in this reply is everything that is wrong with the mental health field today. The entire idea of “spectrum” disorders has made diagnosis more difficult and has made the public at large more weary of people’s illnesses because, with spectrum disorders casting such a wide net, everybody has something. This is wildly inaccurate.”

    You’ve completely misread what I wrote and I find this comment really disparaging. I don’t mean this in an arsey way, but did you bother to read the rest of my post?

    You wrote: People think being symptomatic makes them sufferers of an illness or at least on the “spectrum.” It doesn’t.

    OCD’s definition is inherent in the name. It is a disorder. People are diagnosed when it becomes a behavior in their lives that takes over, when the situation becomes uncontrollable. That’s OCD, and it doesn’t need the “clinical” modifier.”

    What I said was virtually the same as what you’re saying: OCD/ autistic etc tendencies are fairly common, but this isn’t the same as having a clinical disorder.That’s why I talked about the ‘perfectly normal’ end of the spectrum (i.e. the person has symptoms/ tendencies, but doesn’t have/ doesn’t yet have the disorder) versus the ‘it’s severe enough that it’s a disorder’ part of the spectrum.

    I feel like you’re implying that I’m one of the ‘I’m so OCD brigade’ and I find that really hurtful. The problem with ‘you either have OCD or you don’t have it’ thinking is that people can swing too far in the opposite direction to the problem mentioned here. In other words, people with the disorder are dismissed as just having a few tendencies, like the ‘I’m soooo OCD’ brigade, and this doesn’t help either. It can easily become the case that, no matter how much the person is suffering or struggling, other people refuse to acknowledge they have a disorder because they (the other people) don’t deem it ‘severe enough’ to be ‘real OCD.’ It’s really hard for a lay person to assess how much a person’s obsessions/ fixations or compulsions are troubling them and there’s a danger that a person who is really suffering will be told, “That’s not *OCD*; that’s just… [insert rest of sentence here]

    I don’t know how much of my first post you read, but I have been diagnosed by several medical professionals as having the condition.

    A few years ago, I had a nervous breakdown, from which I’m still recovering, and the underlying cause was my OCD fears and the guilt and confusion this condition can create. However, I’m still occassionally paranoid that I’ve been misdiagnosed (even though the fear of harming people with thoughts is fairly classical OCD), and that the professionals have missed the ‘fact’ that I’m just a bad person who is more dangerous than they realise (I have harm/ primarily obsessional OCD.) It also worries me that people won’t believe I have a real illness (despite the psychological and psychiactric treatment I’ve received, including medication, cognitive behavioural therapy and Exposure and Response prevention.)

    To be honest, I got really upset when I read “”To me, what is in this reply is everything that is wrong with the mental health field today” and “People think being symptomatic makes them sufferers of an illness or at least on the “spectrum.” It doesn’t.” because I took it that you were saying I was one of these people, and that I didn’t have real OCD. I sometimes wonder how bad things have to get before people will acknowledge you have a real illness and stop dismissing you as being ‘trendy’ or just plain weak (I already feel really judged because I struggle to cope with a lot of aspects of everyday life.)

    I identify with the points made by sugarbush43, because this is how OCD affects me too. I do have a fixation with hygiene/ cleanliness, but I don’t know if this is part of my OCD or just a few OCD tendencies. The main focus of my fears is that there’s something morally wrong with me and that I might/ have caused harm to others. I can’t have kids because I’m too scared of harming them in some way and I know that my behaviours and anxieties will negatively affect them (I’m prone to avoidance behaviours and they could easily mistake my efforts to avoid harming them as coldness/ not wanting them around.) I find this particularly hard, because I love children and I always wanted to be a mother, but I just don’t trust myself.

    At times, I cope relatively well with the condition and I seem to have a certain amount of control over my fixations and compulsions. At other times, I feel like the obsessive thoughts completely take over and my fears that I’ve done something wrong/ won’t be able to stop myself from doing something wrong feel so real. I know this sounds melodramatic, but I’ve had periods in my life where I’ve wished I would die and attempted to overdose, because I felt unable to cope with the fear and guilt. My mother admitted that, when I was at my worst, she tried to prepare herself for losing me because she worried that one of my attempts might eventually succeed.

    The thing is, OCD waxes and wanes, but it never seems to completely go away. When I’m at my worst, I believe that I’m a bad person who doesn’t deserve to be loved (or even live), and I question whether I actually have OCD, or if I’m just a horrible and potentially dangerous person. Ironically, when I’m doing well, I tend to worry that I’m just weak and I start to wonder if I exagerated how bad my obssessions were (i.e. to use as an excuse for my failings.) A lot of the time, I feel really confused about a lot of stuff, and I’ve lately taken to asking family members ‘Do you *really* think I have OCD?’ or ‘Do you think most people would think I was *that* ill, or would they just think I was being weak and feeling sorry for myself?”

    • Bridget Kostello

      First, I did read your entire post. Second, it is clear you have OCD. That’s not meant as anything but an honest but sincere and heartfelt evaluation. I can feel your struggle in what you write, and my heart aches for you on your journey.

      OCD does wax and wane. It gets worse when you are stressed emotionally and I know many who find it recurs when they are stressed physically. It is a prime characteristic of OCD and why so many wait so long to seek help. Unfortunately, by the time many do seek help, it has resulted in breakdowns for a lot of us.

      That waxing and waning does not put you on a spectrum, and to me it is clear you are struggling with evaluating yourself based on society’s perception of OCD, but also of mental illness in general–that MI is weakness, not illness. I probably have been dealing with this a lot longer, and I have been where you are. My breakdown came at 17; luckily I was put on Anafranil shortly after that and was back on the road to recovery. After the birth of my second child, I had a recurrence I didn’t think would ever happen and I nearly suffered another breakdown. It has taken me 10 years to get my life back to any kind of normalcy. But I still struggle with societal perceptions–luckily, I’m old enough and have dealt with it long enough to realize that if someone judges me for fighting an illness (because, let’s face it, they wouldn’t judge us if we said we had cancer), that says more about them than it does about me. My recommendation–don’t give a flying fig about whether people think you are weak or sick. Harder to do than to say (it still hurts my feelings), but the sooner you stop subjecting yourself to others’ evaluations, the easier it will be to deal with.

      It’s also clear that you feel I implied that you are not really sick–that, as you said, you are part of the “I’m so OCD” brigade that doesn’t even understand the illness (they couldn’t, or they wouldn’t be saying that). I never implied that. You are not one of those people. You have OCD. And remember that OCD will attack on several fronts–it is very common to have one or two main types of OCD and more than one or two secondary types. For example, my main OCD problem is germs/hand washing. But I also struggle with checking and scrupulosity. So the fact you find OCD in more than one place in your life is very, very normal for the illness.

      However, saying a spectrum runs from “normal” to “severe enough to be treated”–that’s part of what is wrong with mental illness treatment today. It’s that people are taking a few symptoms to mean they have any type of a certain illness. A report came out today stating that record numbers of adults are on meds for ADHD. My guess is that a lot of them diagnosed themselves from lists in newspaper stories or found med-friendly psychiatrists ready to write prescriptions even if not necessarily convinced they have ADHD.

      ADHD and autism rates have exploded not because the illnesses are more prevalent–it’s because the range of those diagnosed is so much greater than it ever was (the spectrum is wider). For example, one of my children could be described as having Asperger’s based on a symptom list. However, he doesn’t meet the clinical definition of it, and, while he presents with some symptoms, some of those symptoms occur because he is anxious socially. Not Asperger’s, but Social Anxiety Disorder.

      Then we deal with people putting diagnoses on what used to be seen as just different personality types. For many Asperger’s patients, we used to describe them as having “engineer” brain. If you’ve ever known an engineer, you know they just think differently than most people you meet. Not bad or good, just different. Well, now that we have a society where everyone has to have something, we call it Asperger’s. While Asperger’s does exist, my guess is about 1/4 to 1/2 of people with it either are so high functioning they don’t need the disorder label or they have “engineer” brain.

      That’s why we need to remember that someone who is very compulsive but functions well isn’t necessarily sick–they’re just compulsive. Those are the people who would say they are “so OCD.” But we know OCD is so much more than that. It cheapens the diagnosis to have people who don’t understand it call themselves that. OCD is a monster of an illness, and it is so much more than a personality quirk. But when we open it up to such a wide spectrum, all those people who are mildly compulsive or focus oriented start diagnosing themselves with OCD. OCD is an illness that is diagnosed when it becomes a problem with dealing with daily living. Other than that, it might be OCD or it might not be. But to say one has “mild” OCD (and I have heard that before) makes me so angry because those of us who truly suffer from it know it robs us of so much and there is nothing mild about it.

      Does that help put my comments in perspective? To summarize, I think “spectrum” illnesses have gone way too far to include too many. OCD is definitively a monster of an illness–it isn’t a quirk and it isn’t mild. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have it. It means too many who don’t understand it (mostly because there has been no major public awareness campaign) think they do and assert they do thinking there is a wide spectrum when there isn’t.

      • ^ First of all, I’d like to apologise for my first post. I can be prone to flying off the handle and getting pretty arsey in the heat of the moment. I wrote the second post after I’d calmed down and I’d assumed the first post didn’t get through the moderation process.

        Secondly, thanks for your kindness in your latest reply, and I’m sorry you’ve struggled so much with this horrible condition. I’m glad you’ve been able to have a family of your own, because I know OCD can make parenthood an even harder job than it is already.

        I’m also pleased to hear that your life is getting back on track. I feel like OCD has sent me to hell and back, but I’ve been supported by some fantastic services and I’m currently doing voluntary work which I love. I’m also hoping to start a course in September on a part time basis, which will qualify me to teach key skills to learners aged 16 +. At my worst, I couldn’t imagine getting to this stage, so I’m just trying to stay positive and move forward at a steady pace.

        I wish you the best with staying well, and I hope you’ll excuse my earlier snottiness. Take care.

    • Lydia

      Thank you. I’m 12 and I have OCD. While I was writing this message all I did was backspace, retype. Backspace, retype. Backspace, retype. OCD is completely a disorder. I come home from school every day crying because it’s so hard. People who think it’s not a disorder just don’t understand. ‘Just don’t do it’ is the most annoying and repetitive phrase in the world. But then I thought, ‘they can’t help it; they just don’t understand what it’s like.’ Then one day at school in 6th grade, someone fixed a small detail on their project, and someone said, ‘You’re SO OCD.’ This made me very annoyed. First of all, you can’t ‘be’ OCD. It’s not even the right grammar. Second of all, there are so many types of OCD, and people only seem to know one. Being a clean freak. I do not wash my hands 3 times to feel better because I’m afraid of germs, but because it makes me very uncomfortable and I don’t know why. It’s the weirdest thing. Anyway, anyone who thinks that OCD isn’t a real life struggle, your so wrong I can’t even explain it. Please research a disorder next time you want to say rude things about it.

      P.S. Ravenfirebird thank you so much for writing that. I really appreciate it. :):):)

  • Katie

    I struggled greatly with my OCD when I was younger and still do, just in different ways. People want to say it’s an illness but it’s not, it’s a condition. It cannot be cured or dismissed, it will always be there. I’ve learned to live with it and how to sustain it all because I got lucky with an amazing therapist as a teenager. I never took a drug for it and I was never told by him that there was anything remotely wrong with me but only that I had a different mind. People need to read this article and know that it’s not that simple and saying things like “I’m so OCD” or “I’m just really depressed lately” should not be thrown around like a hot potato when you actually know so little about it. Being on the receiving end of somebody saying those things when you’ve actually experienced it is hurtful and you feel insecure. Real anxiety is not be glamorized, but shouldn’t be described as bad either because my experiences personally, have given me a unique outlook on people and life and as well as utilizing my sometimes, obsessive analytical skills in a positive way. I love this article so I needed to rant as well (I never comment these types of things but I had to for this one) thank you so much for writing this article!

    • Mr Hawk

      Well said. I have been saying this for decades. Its not an illness, but it is a condition. This is comforting to read that there are others like me.

  • I am so sick of people posting those dumb 15 photos that will trigger your OCD crap. I have OCD. I almost ended up dead from being unable or unwilling to cope with it any more. I’ve spent thousands of hours and dollars on cleaning and rituals and supplies. I’ve stolen when I was unable to pay any more. Because I had to or is get diseases. It’s hell. I’ve lost friends. I’ve been left out of family events. I’ve pissed my pants when I was stranded at a school overnight for fear of the restrooms. Not before I threw up from holding in my urine so long I ended up with near kidney failure. My home safe space was a 6ft by 3 ft area. It’s where I felt safe and clean. My life was resigned to that small a space. Yet people find it okay to post dumb stuff making fun of OCD. Then they tell me to get over it when I’m upset. Google OCD is not funny. You get jokes and pages of people making fun of it. You won’t see 15 photos that will trigger your leukemia. Or 20 things to trigger your breast cancer. If anyone posted that they’d be shunned. Thank you for being a voice for those like me who his due to stigma, almost died, then fought back. Much love.

  • ct25

    I am on here because as i type im having an episode.. i woke up and looked over and saw things on my husbands night stand that should not be there (crumbled up receipts and coins) so i got up and tried cleaning it up and then as i walked over i felt sand where he took his pants off.. he started waking up and so i walked back to the bed.. its as if im hiding the fact that im trying to clean up because im ashamed.. but now its been over an hour and i cant stop thinking about how im going to wake up and clean.. people think its cool that i have this obsession because i literally organize and clean anywhere i go(work or family and friends houses) but its the fact thatif i dont clean i get this over whelming anxiety where i think of my son and husband dieing from cancer… im ok with being clean.. i just want the anxiety to go away.. if something is not where its supposed to go i literally can not stop thinking about it till i fix it and god forbid something gets in the way.. and i dont know if this has anything to do with it but ive come up with this reward system that if i feel like its clean enough then i want and deserve a glass of wine.. im so over it

  • Marisa

    I didn’t finish writing. My rituals change with time I always have at least a few rituals at once and I’ll keep the same rituals at least for a few years. My mom suspected I might have OCD when I was 10. She said don’t do any of your rituals today at all so I didn’t so she thought I must not be OCD, but what she didn’t know was when I didn’t do the rituals I felt a sense of anxiety but I could still reassure myself after a few minutes to let it go there was no reason to feel anxiety. It’s still that way I can almost always stop my from doing the compulsions, rituals, and compulsive thoughts – except late at night I can almost never control myself late at night – but I always feel the anxiety not doing the things I want to do. So I think I’m OCD, I just think that I’m good at not letting it control me overly much.

    • Marisa

      Also I meant obsessive thoughts.

  • Emma

    I have a ‘friend.’
    Every time I say something about my OCD–which was honestly much worse when I was a kid–she goes “Oh my gawsh, yeah, I have OCD tooooo, haha! It sucks having to make sure everything’s alphabetical, ahhahaa!”
    And I nod and grin and say, “Okay.”
    She doesn’t have OCD.
    Fact is, she wouldn’t know anxiety if it tore off her nose and threw it in a pond, and she certainly doesn’t understand the debilitating fears I had as a child just knowing that if I didn’t call my parents’ cellphones every two seconds to check up on them or go with them wherever they went, they were going to die a miserable death in a car accident somewhere and I was going to be left alone in the horrible(1) foster care system.
    And it *kills* me that she thinks having OCD is making sure her freaking pencils are color-coded correctly or her room looks clean, because that will never, ever, ever amount to the pain that people with actual OCD go through on a daily basis. I hope she reads this article–I shared it on Facebook–and maybe realizes that her ‘cute’ & ‘funny’ quirks don’t equal OCD, which is labeled a disorder for a reason.

    1: I’m not saying the foster care system is horrible, only that’s what little me thought. Little me was uneducated and kind of rude.

  • Emily

    It wasn’t until a friend of mine told me about her OCD symptoms that I became aware that I myself suffered OCD and sure enough a week later after speaking to a doctor I was diagnosed. What really upsets me is that I lived for years and years under the common misunderstanding that OCD was an issue to do with cleanliness, due to pop culture references (as you mentioned) and what I personally suffered psychologically was extremely unnatural and wrong. I feel like a bit of a hypocrite for getting angry at people who reference OCD as being “a thing about being clean” but it truly upsets me I wasted a fifth of my life (when symptoms became inescapable) suffering a disease I didn’t even know was possible to have. The truth about OCD needs to be shed on youth because how many others are living like my past self? Scared, depressed and living in fear and anxiety because they feel too much of a freak to ever admit their issues to people. It needs to be changed!

  • Jason Guess

    Hello everyone. I have read a lot about Pure OCD an Scrupulosity and believe I have these. I am currently seeing a mental health therapist. He hasn’t officially diagnosed me yet but he talks to me like he believes I suffer from this. I trusted and accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior back in my early childhood. Then one day when I read a passage in the Gospel of Matthew about how the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of demons I immediately had the same terrible thought about Jesus and quickly asked The Lord to forgive me for it and from then on I have feared and obsessed over whether I have committed the unpardonable sin. I remember the first time I felt the searing anxiety that thought gave me. It’s been about 12 years ago since that day and frequently I still deal with blasphemous thoughts that cause great anxiety and immense depression. It makes me believe I can’t love my Lord and that He can’t forgive and accept me. I have scoured the web, family and friends for constant reassurance. I guess that’s my compulsive ritual that gives temporary relief. I also have had fears of being a serial killer, pedophile, rapist, or other terrible things that I have never done nor want to do but feel the need to seek reassurance that I’m not any of those things. I have struggled with the relationship form of it as well. I have often thought about taking my own life because I have seen myself as just a curse to everyone especially my wife and 2 year old daughter. I feel so depressed and despairing a lot if the time even though I force myself to go to work and church and do family things. Recently I have avoided Bible study except for a verse a day app on my phone. I just feel beyond spiritual hope and don’t want to have blasphemous thoughts and such. I guess what I’m wondering is does it sound like I have OCD in the Pure O Scrupe? Maybe it would help me if I knew that is what I suffer. Sorry for long post. Thanks.

    • Doe-a-dear

      Hey it’s ok I was raised as an extremely conservative Christian and I had similar problems with my OCD targeting the unpardonable sin as a source of anxiety. I had terrible thoughts that would have been total blasphemy if ever voiced, and I was terrified of them. But then I realized that it’s not me thinking these things. I didn’t want them in my head, and I certainly hadn’t asked anyone to put them there. I think once you realize that this is not your fault, you’ll finally be free from them. In addition, you have to believe that God is greater than your perceived sins, and his grace has already covered them.

  • Jason Guess

    Well my therapist officially diagnosed me with PURE OCD SCRUPULOSITY and depression as a result. But I still would like to hear from any of you out there. If anyone is still there that is.

  • Anonimous

    Actually >.> Colour OCD exists.. My mum found out mine when I was four, She saw me placing everything in order and placing it by colour, she took me to a specialist and I discovered I have OCD, fearing that people will think I’m disorganized and messy, and that I’m colour blind.

  • […] not having collections of erasers or having an irrational fear of bandaids. And according to this blog (read it, it’s actually interesting), it’s not a choice, a quirk or a […]

  • Yergaderga

    You are my stinkin’ hero….

  • OCD-freak

    Thank you for this post. It is absolutely ridiculous when people try to claim they have OCD simply because they’re neat and they think it’s quirky. I actually had OCD and this one girl had the nerve to claim that she had it simply because she didn’t want to do the tough work in our science class, and just wanted to clean up instead. People claiming to be “so OCD” need to stfu and realize that it’s not some cute personality trait. I had the obsessive thought kind of OCD where I would constantly see visions of myself having sex with old men or family members, and being raped by or raping others. I obviously did not want these thoughts. Having thoughts like those as an extremely sheltered, very conservatively raised child was extremely traumatizing and horrible. It took a while to realize that this was my disease and not me thinking, and the healing process came after that. However, before I knew it was OCD, this was my deepest darkest secret, and I would never have thought of bragging about it, let alone telling anyone about it. I thought I was a monster.
    So to all the people who talk about having OCD because they think it’s cute or interesting, grow the f*** up. Some people have actual problems.

  • Cat

    Thank you for this article. I struggle to explain to people that OCD is a severe anxiety disorder, not just wanting to keep things tidy (and I’m actually one of the least tidy people I know, mostly because obsessive thoughts get in the way of everything!).

    On a more positive note, I had a look at the comments on the first BuzzFeed post you linked and was pleased to see most of them pointing out how wrong it was.

  • Augusta

    I have just learned to accept im not crazy or a bi $@h, thats what people call me alot. If not could prevent being consumed by this I would. I cant help it. Most people play it off as a joke, I hate that. They don’t know how this feels or how it controls my life. Thank you for making me not feel crazy

  • nisa

    At first,i’m not sure if i have ocd or not,but then i learned i do.I used to have intense religious fear last year (i think i shouldn’t bring it up because i’m over that tremendous phase) i started repeating the same phrases,imagining the same things over and over again thinking it was normal to do so.i also felt fearful as if i don’t have the courage to stop.My mother is a lecturer and teaches psychology,but when it comes to me,she always ignores the symptoms of ocd in me if i told her.I’m so afraid to recover.Any word of advice?I’ve been suffering for 9 months now (october 2014-present june 2015) i do have a history of depression.i was just recovering from depression last year but next i have ocd

  • Roswell

    Hey, can anyone help me. I think I probably have OCD. I think it started just around 8-9, about a year after my Father died (Im 17 now). Story short, somewhere I seemed to have developed an overwhelming fear of contamination. I feel the need to be clean, but the need is never satisfied. I have a hard time touching door knobs, ive gone around my own house cleaning them more than once. If I have intrusive thoughts i’ll wash my hands until I think they are fine, but they rarely seem fine. It’s very hard to keep up with this kind of stuff when you have to go to schools. Usually i try to stay calm and make my way to restrooms, waiting until someone opens the door. Often i cant sleep because I have intrusive thoughts and try to fight them, but I always surrender and have to wash my hands. Its never about being physically clean, its always about being mentally clean. I think my mom shows some of the same signs, just not as bad, and she refuses to acknowledge that she has it or that i do. And my Grandmother shows a lot of signs of schizophrenia, if that has anything to do with it, i don’t know. I just hate keeping up with this anxiety. In times of stress its unbearable. Im usually very calm around others, but there are too many times i feel overwhelmed and that i cant handle anything and out of control, so I tend to turn to isolation. I just have no fucken clue what i should do. I think its getting worse, like when i was young. I feel like im at a crossroad here, where I either can confront this or just let it continue and hope i’ll be able to manage it, and look where that’s gotten me. If i do get help, it might as well be while im 17 and not to where i push it off and confront it when im 27. I kinda need advice or something of the sort. Help?

  • norelief

    Beautiful article. My mother is OCD and now also schizoprhenic. She covers everything with newspapers and hoards them in the house. I have OCD, too. Mine is the need to check, check, check and fear of harming others through something that I do. I have actually driven around the neighborhood trying to check to see if I accidentally ran over someone. I have horrible obsessive fears about poisoning people due to unsanitary food prep which makes it hard for me to entertain. I obsess for 72 hours after a party until I can be sure nobody has botulism. I am extremely fast and people do not know what I am doing. I am also a physician and I cannot let people know about my problem. However, the good news is that I am 100% sure I have never made a mistake with any treatment, drug, or dosage, because I check everything three times, even though I KNOW the treatment, drug, or dosage and actually do not need to check. However, the anxiety was too much because I could not check people after they left my care and I don’t actually practice in that way anymore because the cost to me personally is too intense. I can only smile grimly when people say, “you are the best, most thorough doctor I have ever encountered,” and they think it is a compliment. Yes, I am very high functioning but it literally kills me on the inside and I cannot form memories of my life. My life is kind of a blank after 52 years because I have spent my entire life inside my head. I wish I could have lived and been present and enjoyed a moment or experienced happiness. As I get older, I just can’t keep up the pace that the facade requires of me. I am just not fast enough, and I get tired. Now I am very afraid that my daughter is like me. And I am afraid of getting worse like my own mother. And this whole thing just sucks pretty hard.

  • A

    Excellent article I am so sick of hearing “oh I’m so OCD!!!!” If only they knew and I’m glad they don’t what it’s like to be stuck in your body or mind and cannot step even a foot forward. Or having to put down the answer a on a multiple choice question when you know it’s b.

  • Anon

    I appreciate this post as one of my friends has OCD and people have commented on her mental illness like it’s a personality trait not a serious problem. Thankfully she is doing well in treatment and she even helped me with my own anxiety issues. I’m inspired by her bravery.

    I wanted to ask my friend this question but I didn’t want her to worry about me: Is it possible to have OCD and NOT have the compulsions? For years I’ve been dealing with horrible thoughts that I can’t seem to shake. For a couple years they lessened enough that they didn’t bother me too badly but I recently made an educational choice (I can’t explain in detail or I will start thinking about it again) and now the thoughts came back intensely. It’s been almost two weeks and they haven’t gone away. I try to remind myself that I won’t do what my thoughts make me think I’m going to do and I avoid certain situations because I’m afraid I MIGHT do what my thoughts make me think I’m going to do. Sometimes I wonder if I am a _______. and I need to be locked up. (I can’t write it otherwise I will feel disgusting.) Sorry, it’s hard to explain but I HAVE to be vague otherwise I’m going to be bothered for a while. Like I think about this shit for 30mins-3hrs a day and but I don’t line things up, wash my hands or check things in order to stop the thoughts. Although if I had a way to stop them I would damn well use it. Sometimes I find ranting to myself in my head about how I would NEVER do that or thinking about ______ in safe situations helps but usually I just avoid _____ or do ______ to feel like I won’t do _______. Is that a mental illness of some kind? (If you can even figure out what I’m trying to explain.) It might not be ocd but could it be something else? Anyway, is it possible to have the O but not the C?

    Also, it’s awful because I can’t even see a psychologist because then the psychologist might think I’m a monster and put me in jail even though I’ve never done anything illegal and I DON’T want these thoughts or do ______. Will they just go away on their own again? This stuff started six years ago but it went away for almost two years before it resurfaced a week and a half ago.

    • Sydney Nolan
      Sydney Nolan

      Thank you for the comment. Dr. Jeff Szymanski, a clinical psychologist and the executive director of the IOCDF, reviewed what you posted and thought it would be most helpful for him to respond in several places to different parts of the comment. His answers are marked in bold below, and start with his initials (JS).

      Please let us know if you have more questions or would like clarification on any of this as well! A great way to get in touch with us is by emailing info@iocdf.org or calling our office at (617) 973-5801 during regular business hours so someone here can speak with you.

      Here is the original comment, with responses from Dr. Szymanski marked in bold with initials:

      I appreciate this post as one of my friends has OCD and people have commented on her mental illness like it’s a personality trait not a serious problem. Thankfully she is doing well in treatment and she even helped me with my own anxiety issues. I’m inspired by her bravery.

      I wanted to ask my friend this question but I didn’t want her to worry about me: Is it possible to have OCD and NOT have the compulsions? For years I’ve been dealing with horrible thoughts that I can’t seem to shake. For a couple years they lessened enough that they didn’t bother me too badly but I recently made an educational choice (I can’t explain in detail or I will start thinking about it again) and now the thoughts came back intensely. It’s been almost two weeks and they haven’t gone away.
      (JS): In general when someone reports that they have obsessions and no compulsions, what we find out is that the compulsions are mental or internal. Or, the individual engages in avoidance as a way of managing the obsessions and anxiety (which would also be considered a compulsion). The best way to think about it is that obsessions are automatic and intrusive. And they come with a lot of anxiety and distress. Compulsions are any behaviors, internally or externally, that are purposefully done with the intention of trying to get away from the obsession or intended to minimize the distress that was generated by the obsession. For example, you wrote
      I try to remind myself that I won’t do what my thoughts make me think I’m going to do and I avoid certain situations because I’m afraid I MIGHT do what my thoughts make me think I’m going to do.
      JS: In this case “thought suppression” and avoidance would be the compulsions. Similarly, you wrote
      Sometimes I wonder if I am a _______. and I need to be locked up. (I can’t write it otherwise I will feel disgusting.) Sorry, it’s hard to explain but I HAVE to be vague otherwise I’m going to be bothered for a while. Like I think about this shit for 30mins-3hrs a day and but I don’t line things up, wash my hands or check things in order to stop the thoughts.
      JS: In this case “mentally reviewing” and trying to reassure yourself would be the compulsions. “Thinking about this for 30mins-3hrs a day” means that you are both experiencing obsessions, then responding with mental compulsions like the reassurance statements you write below.
      Although if I had a way to stop them I would damn well use it. Sometimes I find ranting to myself in my head about how I would NEVER do that or thinking about ______ in safe situations helps but usually I just avoid _____ or do ______ to feel like I won’t do _______.
      Is that a mental illness of some kind? (If you can even figure out what I’m trying to explain.) It might not be ocd but could it be something else? Anyway, is it possible to have the O but not the C?
      JS: The reason to differentiate between obsessions and compulsions is because of how the treatment works. Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is the most effective treatment for OCD and works by having the individual with OCD experience the intrusive and automatic obsessions (“exposure”), but to not engage in the compulsive behavior (“response prevention”). For more about treatment go here. In terms of a diagnosis, OCD is having obsessions and compulsions AND it is time consuming and interfering with your life. The only way to know if you have OCD is to consider talking to an OCD expert.
      Also, it’s awful because I can’t even see a psychologist because then the psychologist might think I’m a monster and put me in jail even though I’ve never done anything illegal and I DON’T want these thoughts or do ______. Will they just go away on their own again? This stuff started six years ago but it went away for almost two years before it resurfaced a week and a half ago.
      JS: A spike in OCD symptoms is also common during periods of stress and transition. Consider reading the book “Imp of the Mind” by Lee Baer. He describes hundreds of people he has worked with who all have reported to him the worst possible thoughts imaginable. There are also great expert opinions on our website here.

  • Robert

    I know I have intrusive thoughts, I would get thoughts stuck in my head. However I don’t have compulsions that are visible. However it is odd I used to think something it would get stuck, i kept asking myself why did I think that. Then it would not go away. However the nature of the thoughts are most horrible and unwanted thoughts. However I have the thoughts now but they are not as strong as they were. They pop up they are still there the same thoughts. Then they are mental visual images or like a video, then it can get stuck and I feel i have to avoid even if it is a person I had the thought about. Then i had a problem with triggers like if a certain word was spoken or a image or person seen it would cause the intrusive thoughts to resurfaces. I will describe a case i would take the Bible with me everywhere and in the care I would get intrusive thoughts where I would throw it out the door. it started with I don’t want to throw the Bible out the door and why did I think this? and every time for awhile I would get the same thought stuck i my head and I would be basically arguing with my own mind.

  • Sandi

    Thanks for telling it like it is!

  • steve

    Im 18. I suffer from Trichotillomania and pyrophobia and haphephobia. I recently had an obsession with a HTGAWM character to the point of almost being a stalker. Im afraid of killing people, yet I dream of doing some very nasty things to people I dont like, and im afraid of becomimg a stalker and accidentally hurting someone. I cannot stand sleeping without noise or with my arms not under blankets. I love Art to the point where I feel like im going to drop dead if I cant do it at school and I have an irrational fear of the dark and of being forced to swim

  • steve

    I am a girl, just clarifying that


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