People say the darnedest things. And sometimes they say the most insensitive things. Whilst it’s great that obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) has received enough media attention that it’s no longer a dirty secret, it is obvious that many people still fail to understand the true severity of this anxiety disorder. When people say things like “I’m so OCD about that,” what they don’t get is that were they really suffering from OCD they would be trapped in an endless cycle of intrusive thoughts and anxiety, held hostage by their own minds, and often barely able to function in their lives.
So whilst it’s great that sufferers of OCD can freely say they have OCD without being confronted with questioning looks, we the listeners need to respond appropriately. And this begins with knowing what not to say.
1) “How bad can it really be?” So bad that it can take hours just to leave the house. If we even ever make it out of the house. And the only relief comes during sleep. It's an incessant nightmare that never lets you go, not even for one second.
2) “I’m also a bit OCD about things like that.” There’s a huge difference between keeping a neat and tidy home and suffering from incessant, intrusive thoughts and compulsions over which you have no control, no matter how exhausted you are.
3) “Snap out of it.” OCD is not fun. If we could snap out of it, we would!
4) “Why can’t you just think about something else?” OCD is a biological disorder of the brain. We can’t control our thoughts any more than a diabetic can control their production of insulin.
5) “It’s because you don’t have any real worries.” We feel guilty enough as it is, you don’t need to make us feel any worse.
6) “Let’s go out and get drunk.” OCD is an anxiety disorder, and alcohol use only makes anxiety worse. Interestingly, one of alcohol's many side effects is the depletion of the neurotransmitter, serotonin. Sufferers of OCD already have low serotonin, hence the success of the serotonin reuptake inhibitor drugs in treating OCD. So when someone offers you alcohol, the answer is thanks but no thanks.
7) “It’s because your parents were too controlling.” Actually for once, parents are not to blame. OCD is a neuro-biological disorder, meaning that we were born this way.
So please, people, think before you speak.