So you think you are OCD?

You most likely are not and instead are being offensive to those of us with OCD. I’ve heard it before while working. Someone cleans up a countertop, puts things where they are supposed to go and wipes everything down, then proclaims to everyone in the room, “I’m so OCD!” Well here’s news for you: No, you are not.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is in fact a disorder. You can’t be OCD, but you can have OCD. It may seem like a small difference in wording, but its very important. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is characterized by two things: Obsession and Compulsion. Just because you like things clean or in a certain order does not mean you have OCD. It simply means you are an orderly person. When you scrub that table and then tell everyone you are “so OCD”, you are minimizing what OCD really is and insulting those who really do have the disorder and deal with it every day.

OCD is not simply a desire for order. It is an obsession with having things done a certain way, in a certain order, counting things and making them the same every time. Its a compulsion to check things several times despite the fact that logically you know its already done. It becomes a disorder when it interferes with daily living. Some people have it much more severe than others, but again, simply putting things where they belong is not OCD.

Let me give you an example in my life. I have to do things in multiples of four. Why four? I’m really not sure. But when I go use a public bathroom and it has an automatic towel dispenser, I have to take four. Doesn’t matter if three is enough or five would be better, its always four. When I go to a restaurant and sit down, I unfold my napkin and fold in half twice, making four layers. Could be cloth, paper, or the cheap napkins from a fast food joint, it doesn’t matter, it always happens. Most of the time I’m not even consciously aware of it and do it because it has to be done and it makes me feel right. I would tell you what happens when I don’t do it, but I can’t because I always do it. There is no, “what if you don’t do it?” It simply always happens.

That’s the compulsion part. I don’t have to think about doing things, I don’t consciously go out of my way to make things happen in fours, it simply happens out of instinct.

I also count my steps everywhere I go. Every single step is counted in my head and I make sure if my steps don’t come out to a multiple of four by the time I get to my destination, I adjust my gait to make sure they do. I’m not sure what would happen if my steps ended up not as a multiple of four because, again, it simply doesn’t happen. I sometimes find myself at a door way taking a few steps in place to make sure it comes out to four. I’m usually pretty good about taking longer or shorter steps before it gets to that point, but hey, gotta do what you gotta do.

When I get nervous or anxious, I start tapping my middle finger and thumb together on both my hands. Why? Because its a compulsion. It makes me feel a little better even though there is honestly no way that doing that simple action can somehow affect my mind, but it does. It gives me some small measure of control even though it may seem pointless to you.

I used to work as a delivery driver. When I would go out on a run, I would put the food in the bag the same way every time, and I had to have to receipt in the folder in a particular way. If someone else through it together for me to be ready when I got back, I’d have to redo it to be like its supposed to be. Was there any benefit to how I did it? Not really. It could have been done any other way and every other driver probably did there’s differently. But in my head, it had to be the same way every single time or something would go wrong. I can’t say what would go wrong, because again, I always did it the same way.

So next time you think that cleaning the counter until it shines and putting things in their place means you are so OCD, think again. You like things clean and orderly, that’s fine. But that’s a far cry from having a mental illness that affects everything you do every day. Try being a little more sensitive. OCD is not fun, it is not easy, and it is not just being clean.

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