You’ve likely heard people say things like “I’m so OCD” or “quit being so OCD” when they or someone else are just particular about things being a certain way. You’ve probably also seen t-shirts, signs, and other items with sayings like “I’m CDO. It’s like OCD, but in the correct order,” meant to imply just how ‘OCD’ someone is in a supposedly humorous way, even if they’re neurotypical but they like things to be neat and orderly.
Using ‘OCD’ as an adjective is harmful to those in the OCD community and someone else’s neurology should never be used as your catchphrase or point of humor. These flippant uses of OCD can cause a lot of harm to those of us with OCD, and people often don’t realize how invalidating their words can be.
So, how’s it harmful?
It’s not possible to be a ‘little’ OCD.’ It’s not an adjective to be used to describe someone who likes things to be neat or who’s a perfectionist.
OCD doesn’t equal simple personality quirks, & it isn’t something that can just be turned on and off. Our obsessions and compulsions are unwanted, difficult to control, and we often wrestle with them a great deal. Most of us don’t fit your stereotypical notions of what you may think OCD is.
Saying that because someone has a love of cleaning or organizing, they must be ‘so OCD’ is dismissive of the very real challenges those of us with OCD face.
OCD is an anxiety disorder that can impact every facet of someone’s life and wellbeing. It’s not a surface-level desire to have things tidy and color-coded, and it isn’t remotely enjoyable.
It Increases Stigma
It perpetuates the falsehood that OCD is about having an affinity for cleaning, organizing, and having perfectionistic tendencies.
In reality, OCD is characterized by obsessions (intrusive, distressing, and unwanted images, thoughts, or urges) and resulting compulsions (physical or mental behaviors a person utilizes as a means of decreasing the anxiety caused by their obsessions). Those of us with OCD do not derive any pleasure from engaging in our compulsions.
Around 1 in 100 adults have OCD and it can emerge at any time, from preschool age to adulthood. Despite its prevalence, OCD remains highly misunderstood and stigmatized.
The World Health Organization has named OCD one of the top ten most disabling diagnoses, yet the average time it takes someone with OCD to seek support is 17 years, because the stigma surrounding it is so heavily rooted in society.
The ways in which we talk about mental health and neurotypes like OCD matters. It can mean the difference between someone feeling like they’re able to reach out for support and them battling in silence.