I was recently privy to a conversation about OCD.
As I listened to these women talk casually about what “kind” of OCD they have, what “kind” they would like or what type they would love their spouse or child to possess, I cringed. I sat in amazement as they compared their affinity for organization and planning or their fondness for cleaning. But it wasn’t until they started talking about their children that I got really pissed.
“If my daughter had OCD, I would thank God—maybe we would be somewhere on time.”
“I wish my daughter had OCD, then, maybe I could get her to clean her room.”
I could throw up. I could literally, physically puke my guts out.
“Really? You people have no f’ing clue. You have no idea what it is like to have OCD or live with someone you love who suffers with it.”
OCD stands for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Sure, we all obsess over things, but this is on a totally different level. Having obsessive compulsive tendencies does not mean you have OCD.
Color coding the clothes in your closet does not mean you have OCD.
Arranging your spice rack in alphabetical order, does not mean you have OCD.
Liking a clean house does not mean you have OCD.
A person with OCD doesn’t organize for the sake of organization or clean every tile on their kitchen floor 30 times because they like a clean kitchen. They do these things because they experience an overwhelming sense of fear and anxiety over the thought of what could happen if they don’t do these behaviors. Then, this thought or image is played over and over and over again in their mind.
They become “stuck.” Once “stuck,” the person must engage in a compulsion. A compulsion is the repetitive behavior that the person is driven to perform to alleviate the obsession. If you are obsessed with germs/illness, then your compulsion might be washing your hands excessively or in a certain way or a specific number of times. These compulsions can be time consuming, debilitating, embarrassing not to mention physically and emotionally exhausting for everyone involved.
Why would anyone want OCD?
They wouldn’t, not if they really understood what it is.
My daughter was diagnosed at age six.
She is a beautiful, smart, loving child who suffers immensely from a disorder that she can barely understand. She struggles every day with her anxiety. She has trouble sleeping because she cannot quiet “the worries” as she calls them, in her brain. She has scrubbed the top layer of skin off her hands from washing them up to 50 times in a two-hour period. She cannot make a decision without agonizing over whether or not it is “the right” decision. She has an intense preoccupation with things being even, exact and “fair.”
Her fear of losing something important has transformed her room into a clutter filled maze from an episode of Hoarders. At her worst, she attended cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) two to three times a week for six months. OCD is not a choice. It is not a joke and it is not something that anyone should desire for themselves or their loved ones.
Support the loved ones in your life with OCD by listening to them.
Really hear them—do not dismiss them. As irrational and illogical as their obsessions and compulsions can seem, they are very real to them. It is a family endeavor…everyone needs to be on board with treatment and how to manage day to day life. I find structure helps my daughter as well as relaxation techniques. Most important, seek professional support and guidance for you and your family. Cognitive Behavior Therapy has made our lives livable again.
Kerri lives in Connecticut with her husband, two kids and two cairn terriers. She can be found at home most days, engrossed in a new book or writing herself.
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Ed: Kate Bartolotta