Outlines of Black, brown and tan faces with a dialogue box. « Blog

By Shaun Flores

Race OCD, is a theme I rarely see spoken about in the OCD community, it's a taboo among taboos, shame amongst all shames. We need to open up these conversations. As a  young black man living with OCD, I see the hardship OCD causes, and yet through living with OCD I want to see others living with OCD and the many themes also live a life they deserve to live.

In our society currently, we work towards being as far away from any of the “ics” in society: Racist, homophobic, transphobic and misognistic are some of the few I am able to name.

Whilst scrolling tik tok a while ago I saw a young white girl post up a video informing her followers how her OCD intrusive thoughts make her believe she is a racist, chaos on social media ensued. Other ethnic minorities simply said she is “racist”, what was sad is that once again this shut down any sort of conversation. The video has since been removed which inspired me to write this blog.

Race OCD is defined as : “unwanted, repetitive racist thoughts accompanied by fears of being a racist.” I myself have had Race OCD, but it popped in and out, thoughts of being a racist and the racial slurs in my head for every single race.

Movements such as Black Lives Matter brought to the forefront difficult conversations around race, which were swept under the carpet by society. Through this we saw the racial landscape change and conversations were being had which were uncomfortable, difficult, but most importantly needed.

A Black Lives Matter poster.

A brain like a sponge clinging onto a new theme, as we say goodbye to one theme another one waits in line. OCD latches onto themes and makes people question every single one of their values. OCD thoughts are ego-dystonic meaning they are against your morals and values.

In the wake of The Black Lives movement and in particular, George Floyd’s murder where we saw several weeks of protesting, and allies coming out to support black people. I am sure many people with or without  OCD questioned their values, and wanted to be seen as “anti-racist” and I am of the strong belief that many would have developed Race OCD, due to the fear that if they weren't in solidarity with the movement the were simply “racist” alongside the media onslaught and constant coverage of black trauma.

Through this was the sinister idea that all white people were racist, and for us who live with OCD, we already have an overactive imagination.

When social media was littered with death, protests and proposed solutions many posted black squares in solidarity with the black lives matter movement. Someone with Race OCD would be worried they were a racist. A compulsion could potentially be to post the square out of sheer guilt, worry and anxiety. A wider society plays an effect on mental health in places where we don't expect it.

By no means am I justifying racism or excusing racism, but when someone with Race OCDSexual Orientation OCD (SO) or Paedophilia OCD has a mental disorder like any other form of OCD, it causes grave pain.

I still live with SO OCD and Harm OCD, and it's not the issue of sexual orientation, it is the loss of identity. Many people have misunderstood OCD and it's why I do a keen amount of work surrounding it to get an understanding on a level where we can speak free of shame and taboos. We need more research as to whether more white people suffer from Race OCD, due to the way society is currently and the pressure to either be an “ally” or “anti-racist”. It create a black and white box, pardon the pun that you are locked into.

Race OCD and SO OCD are just two examples of OCD where the intrusive thoughts would be determined as “inappropriate” in society, therefore worthy to be shut down’. Many of the current discourse surrounding societal topics in many ways prevents people from coming forward with thoughts or ideas that the dominant narrative may detest. Outrage and reactive individuals constantly shut people down and this is not as a society where we should be.

Many new symptoms of anxiety and OCD are emerging due to the way society is being reconstructed and, through this construction, we are reimagining ideals for humans to be almost perfect.

Yet that is wrong, humans make mistakes and we can make the world a better place, by allowing space to have difficult and necessary conversations without excluding other individuals. It is through conversation we criticize and polish the diamond that is the truth, everyone has the ability to do this. I feel whilst we have progressed with mental health conversations, and more are openly speaking about difficult topics, we need to ensure conversations are allowed to happen irrespective of our bias.

3 Comments

  • Sue Donim

    Thank you for this article. I feel really understood. I definitely have race OCD (I’m a white woman) and it used to be almost debilitating. It felt like something that utterly counter-acted any of my other thoughts or actions; automatic and indisputable evidence that I was a bad person. I wouldn’t even tell my therapist about it.

    It’s gotten better in the past few years, partially because I finally began to tell people about it. But the shame and taboo around admitting to racist thoughts, even intrusive ones, is incredibly heavy. Think about how our curse words have evolved. “F*ck” used to be largely considered the worst word – that was when sex was considered the largest taboo. Now most people would agree, the “worst” word is the “N – word”. Racism, and on a larger scale dehumanisation, is easily the largest taboo nowadays. I think that says something good about our society. But also, taboos only lead to silence, and silence never leads to progress.

    Sorry for the rant. Thank you again.

    Reply
  • Skully

    I just recently found out I have OCD and I think this is one of the areas I have it in. I’m still terrified to talk about it but this article has made me feel a lot better and less isolated. I broke down talking to my therapist about it as I feared it would spark controversy. With me being white and her not, I was mortified of accidentally offending her. I hope someday this stuff will be easier to talk about, but I feel better with her reassurance and knowing I’m not alone.

    Reply
  • Erin K

    Thank you for posting this! This is something I struggle heavily with and it’s really impacted my social and work life. It’s humiliating and frustrating.
    What has helped me is knowing that this is my OCD and not my morals and that there’s a huge difference between experiencing white discomfort (which often provides great opportunities to expand awareness of racial bias, discrimination, oppression and privilege) and experiencing OCD which is when it becomes intrusive, all-encompassing, and debilitating.

    I agree that morality intrusive thoughts about racism, homophobia, and hate towards other marginalized populations are so much harder to discuss and felt really moved when you described them as the shame amongst all shames.

    Reply

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