It’s more than just wanting your closet to be color-coded. It’s more than keeping your things neat and in place. It’s more than insisting on keeping a clean house.
It’s a serious mental health disorder that disrupts your life, gets in the way of doing the things you want to do and need to do. It’s a serious disorder that can take those things above—the color coding, the neatness, the cleanliness—and make them into obsessions that can only be quieted by compulsions, repeated behaviors that make no sense from an outside perspective.
Real OCD can look like this: Thoughts tell you that if you don’t wash your hands perfectly, you will spread germs and someone will die. So you carefully wash your hands with soap and water, again and again and again, until you get a satisfied feeling and can stop. But two hours and gallons of water have passed, and the satisfied feeling is temporary. Soon, you again think your hands are dirty and you are going to kill someone with the germs. And it’s back to the sink.
Real OCD can also look like this: You cooked pasta for dinner. You turned the stove off. Or you think you did. You don’t remember doing it. Or you remember doing it, but not doing it the “right” way. You can’t stop thinking about it. If you didn’t turn off the stove, then it could stay hot. Maybe it would even cause a fire. Your apartment building would burn down and people would die and it would be your fault. So you check the stove to make sure it’s off. You stare at the stove. You turn the knob on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off. Finally, you hear the “click” that lets you feel satisfied that the stove is truly off. But three hours have gone by, and your anxiety is making you cry in frustration.
Real OCD manifests in different ways. You may be obsessed with cleanliness, and others may be obsessed with counting. You doubt things other people never think about. You compulsively do things in an attempt to be sure that all is well. You know the obsessions and compulsions make no sense. But you can’t stop having the thoughts. You can’t stop doing the compulsions.
What I want you to know about OCD is that it’s a ball of anxiety that fills you with frustration and depression and hopelessness and fear. It’s a swirl of thoughts that won’t calm down, won’t let you rest for just a little while.
Most of all, what I want you know about OCD is that you are not alone with it. And there are treatments available that can help you live with the disorder. I got treatment, and it made a world of difference. Talk to your doctor or the website of the International OCD Foundation for more information.
Oct. 7 – 13 is OCD Awareness Week!