Ten things not to say to someone who has OCD

After reading Charlotte Walker’s (@BipolarBlogger) post “Ten things not to say to a suicidal person”, I was inspired to write a similar piece regarding OCD. Some of the things in this post have genuinely been said to me and others are things which I’ve heard people say. So here goes.

1. “You’ve got OCD? Do you want to come round to my house to clean for me?”

Someone said this to me a while back after I nervously disclosed that I was suffering from OCD. I don’t know where to start with this comment; it is wrong on so many levels. Firstly, it reinforces the stereotype and commonly held view that OCD is a disorder based around cleaning which is completely wrong. Yes, an obsessive fear of contamination and germs is one of the common symptoms of OCD and with it comes rituals to prevent contamination, but these are not the only symptoms of this disorder. Many other debilitating symptoms include obsessive sexual thoughts, fear of harming yourself or other people and many more.

As well this comment also implies that sufferers take some form of pleasure in their illness. Why if someone did have an intense fear of contamination would they want to go to someone else’s house and clean where their anxiety would most likely go sky high? It’s like asking someone who’s worst fear is heights, to do a bungee jump. When this comment was said to me I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach.

2. “OCD is an expression of creativity”

Sorry. What? This illness which is torturing me and I have no control over is just an expression of my creativity? Of course…

To this day this comment still makes me angry. OCD is not cool. It is not quirky. And it is 10000% not an expression of creativity. If it was, do you really think that it would be listed by the World Health Organisation in the top ten most disabling conditions of all time? No I don’t either.

3. “Germ freak”

This was a popular one amongst the girls in my high school. Making fun of someone who has a mental health condition and is unwell is outright bullying and discrimination. Nobody deserves that.

I don’t think I need to justify anymore as to why that comment is wrong and shouldn’t be said. All I’m going to say is, just don’t.

4. “Are you one of those OCD people?”

OCD is not an adjective, it is a disorder which people suffer from. Everyone has a personality individual to them and OCD isn’t a part of this. Yes I have suffered from OCD but I AM NOT OCD. I am Georgina, I love music, reading, playing the piano, shopping and all sorts of things. See people for who they are and not what they are suffering from or going through at that moment in their lives.

5. “Can’t you just stop doing that?”

No. If only it was that simple. Someone suffering from OCD is carrying out compulsions or rituals such as counting, checking, hand washing, walking a certain way, tapping (etc.) in order to prevent their worst fears from happening. They may have images in their head of their closest relatives dying or of themselves dying or of them harming someone and to this person doing the rituals would prevent these dreadful things from coming true. So no, you can’t just stop doing it.

6. “I have CDO. It’s like OCD but the letters are in alphabetical order like they should be”

Fuck off. Which genius came up with this one?

7. “I’m so OCD when it comes to… (insert: grammar/DVD collection/wardrobe/making my bed etc.)

OCD is a debilitating disorder and is diagnosed by a medical professional like a general practitioner or a psychiatrist, you can’t self diagnose. You wouldn’t say you had diabetes or pneumonia or asthma or any other physical health condition so please don’t do it with OCD. As well, OCD is diagnosed if obsessions and compulsions are interfering with an individual’s daily life and causing them a lot of distress.

8. “I wish I had OCD then my bedroom would be tidy all the time”

You wish you had OCD? Feel free to take mine because I bloody wish I didn’t have it.

OCD is not something sufferers enjoy and I suggest before you make a comment such as that you find out about what OCD is and how horrific it is to live with. Also throughout the years I’ve suffered from OCD I couldn’t have cared less about my bedroom being tidy.

9. “Everybody is OCD about something, I’m OCD about handbags, I love them”

Everybody isn’t ‘OCD’ about something and again, OCD is not an adjective. Please don’t use it interchangeably with words like ‘obsession’, ‘quirk’, ‘habit’, ‘trait’, ‘craze’, ‘desire’ etc. The very fact that the person who said this expressed that they gained pleasure and enjoyment from “being OCD” shows that they really do not understand what actual OCD is.

10. “My OCD is kicking in”

If you really had OCD you’d know that it doesn’t just kick in now and again. You’d know that OCD is constantly in your brain tormenting you, questioning everything you do, telling you to do things and never leaving you alone. OCD is a mental illness.

 

Throughout the time I’ve suffered from OCD, I’ve had numerous encounters of people saying ridiculous things (like what I’ve listed above) about OCD which is mainly through lack of education and understanding which has then been further fuelled by stereotypes shown in the media. However it is worth noting that I have had positive encounters with people as well. People who’ve been so great to me and really cared. And people who have looked beyond the ignorance in society and actually know about OCD.
I do hope that this post will help some people to realise what OCD really is and what it is like to live with. If you wanted to learn more about OCD then visit http://www.ocduk.org/.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

12 thoughts on “Ten things not to say to someone who has OCD

  1. ladytabatha

    This is brilliant. I’ve heard most of these. Others include ‘no you dont have OCD I would have noticed’, ‘we are all OCD’, and when telling someone about my compulsions ‘are you stupid?’ xx

    Reply
  2. ruth murray

    Brilliant, thank you! My favourite response is your one to number 6. In fact, I think it would probably work in answer to most of the comments!

    Reply
  3. The Office Freak

    Once my boss reacted to me by singing “Little Miss, Little Miss, Little Miss, Little Miss O-C-Deee!” to the tune of “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” by the Spin Doctors (well after they’d fallen out of fashion). I suppose I could’ve turned the effer in but, at that point, I was too wearied by the other “othering” from other people about other traits—and I had rent to pay. Corporate culture: a tiny slice of hell.

    Reply
  4. PookiePrada

    Well said, and thanks for sharing. You’ve made me think about the casual way I have used the phrase myself; I will no longer do so, and be thankful that my tidiness is a choice, not a disorder.

    Reply
    1. georginalord Post author

      Thank you! Your comment has made me realise the reason I wrote the post in the first place, in order to help people realise how hard the OCD is to live with and how it isn’t something to joke about or casually call quirks or neatness. And the fact that now one less person will do so makes me so happy! Thank you so much :)

      Reply
  5. Thomas

    I don’t have OCD, though
    I do have severe Crohns Disease which has led to, amongst other things, osteoporosis, arthritis, short bowel syndrome, a dentist’s nightmare.

    I have a stoma (where the bowel is brought to the skin and faecal matter is passed uncontrollably in to a bag) which, for multiple reasons, is extremely troublesome and leaks frequently, daily. I’ve had the stoma since I was 18 and it was a hard thing to deal with; it is very loud, it leaks constantly, the rectal stump -due to other problems they are leaving surgery until they have too- left in situ will eventually become cancerous. I have been laughed at in a packed Uni lecture hall, had snide remarks. One partner, before sex, suggested I should take it off. I then explained she might not appreciate it if I did. Point being: I too have heard the ‘I wish I had’ a stoma. Their reasoning being they wouldn’t have to bother using the toilet! Jesus.

    I am also on TPN (Total Parenteral Nutrition). I receive all of my fat, nutrients, vitamins, trace elements through a central/Hickman line (a line sitting in the main vein directly above the entrance to the heart). This will knock off, if no other problems were added, ten years of my life expectancy. It takes hours each day to set up as it is situated in so delicate an environment a sceptic technique – that used in surgical procedures – must be followed to the letter (as each infection, the average is one every so many years even following this, leads to a hospital stay and, crucially, a 10-15% mortality rate each time). I am connected to a pump 18-24 hours a day, 6-7 days a week. When I am very bad, often, I must rely on those closest to me to perform all tasks related to TPN. This thing keeping me alive will probably kill me – I’ve already had kidney failure as a result. A dentist I recently visited suggested that if he tripped over my central line, pulling it out, necessitating surgery, and a life/death situation, that it would be more painful for him than me. Seeing my reaction he pointed out he was just joking! In addition a family member said, only the other day: I could do with that, save time, etc. I was aghast! Luckily my partner was on hand to tell him of his stupidity. She was sharper than I usually am!

    Though this family member later said ‘I wish I could stay at home all day’ to which I replied that, frankly, if he didn’t mind halving his life expectancy, kidney failure, cancer, constant pain, inoperable bowel obstructions, inoperable gallstones, surgeries, wrecked teeth, no social life, and all of his dreams disappearing like smoke he could carry on. ‘I’m just joking’ he said, confrontationally; I’d burst his bubble, ‘you’ve got to laugh about it’. Said a perfectly healthy, normal, person with so few true problems it barely seems fair. Utterly insane. Especially given he knows I take 200mcg of Fentanyl patches, pregabalin, and copious morphine just to control pain on a good day, lost my chances at normality, and aimed far higher than the layabout lifestyle he envied so only to be curtailed by this voracious illness. Mind you I might be having a great time, just the drugs make me forget!

    Sometimes worse though, are those who have mild forms of the illness. ‘Well just control it with diet’, ‘It goes in to remission, though’, ‘ manage to work’, ‘ stoma doesn’t leak like that! it must be how you fix it, I can work all day without worries, yet you don’t work at all?’ (said by a nurse). Always with a heavy hint of disbelief, followed by glazed eyes as you try to explain just how bad your illness is, how bad the hospital view it (there are two of us out of a three hospital trust across the entirety of Gastro, nigh on over a thousand patients, that my Doctors view as having Crohns this serious), how you’re at the hospital so often it is a second home. I think they don’t like knowing that their defining problem could be worse, that perhaps they might just be luckier in that regard, or that at some point it could happen to them. Even so they never want to hear why yours is worse, though why I always feel the need to explain I don’t know. Shame, I guess. Have you ever experienced that from other OCD sufferers (if that isn’t your preferred term, sorry), or is there more understanding of the spectrum?

    Sorry for the length of the post but your blog about a disparate illness really brought home our shared similarities and my amazement at the average human’s lack of empathy. Invisible illnesses really are the bane of the bane of disabilities. And of course these comments are a fraction of what I have experienced and, probably, that you have too. The frequency of them makes them a common part of your life, like chores that are really grotesque, or squeezing a painful spot, over and over again. At least we smile though,. ;-)

    Reply
    1. Thomas

      Oh, and I forgot (how could I), ‘I’ve got IBS, I understand’. No. No you don’t. Most recently said by a delivery man who said ‘you look better today’, so I revealed that it was due to opiates and luck at the time of answering the door. He asked about my illness, I explained, and he pulled the IBS card. He asked about my frequency going to the toilet (such intimacy is a normal part of the to-and-fro with strangers, it seems), and I mentioned that before my stoma I was going between 30-50 times a day. Unperturbed he replied ‘I know, I’ve been going 2-3 times a day with only twenty minutes between! It is awful! At least I understand where you’re coming from!’.

      I nearly fainted, such was my internal apoplexy. I had so many fissures they couldn’t, or didn’t bother, counting them; I was bleeding and embarrassed between 8-18 almost constantly; it was a nightmare of epic proportions even away from the rest of the illness, with its pains, its years of NG feeding, and its years spent in hospital having awful tests and treatments. But, blood brothers right! And it sounds churlish, because people say it wanting a connection. But it often is because people aren’t capable of seeing past their own noses and realising the life you’ve lost, and the life you live, are so very bad that it hurts to have someone compare all of that to a problem that, to you, is negligible. Like someone I knew who said ‘oh, yes, well I can’t eat chocolate either, I’m allergic’! Blimey!

      And lastly, I promise, but why must people insist on greeting the news of opiates as ‘fun’? ‘I’d kill for them’, ‘I bet you’re always happy’ (dear readers of this post may guess that isn’t true ;-) ), etc. Opiates are horrid. I’ve never had a high from them, they’ve just made me tired, sleep most of the day, have trouble concentrating, and wrecked my short-term memory. Kids, don’t bother trying them, I have; they suck. The only drug that has ever gave me a ‘high’ (mild hallucinations/feeling swaddled/difficulty breathing – what larks), is IV cyclizine. An anti-sickness drug that buggers your IV, stripping the vein, and meaning you go through IVs like the political parties go through promises. Drugs, altogether, are no fun. You are missing nothing. Trust me. Imagine I’m FRANK, if it helps ;-).

      PS: What about how governments view folks like me, and, I’d imagine, severe OCD sufferers?! Brings me out in a cold sweat.

      Reply
      1. georginalord Post author

        Thanks so much for your comments! I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through all this, it sounds awful and I hope you don’t suffer much more as it sounds like you have had so much to deal with already! I’m glad you found some comfort/similarities in my post and what I’ve experienced. I think that some people who haven’t suffered with an illness like Crohn’s disease or OCD or anything really depression, arthritis, anorexia, multiple sclerosis etc can’t appreciate the extent to which it impacts on someone’s life. But they can’t be blamed for being fortunate enough to not experience a serious illness BUT they can be blamed for the ridiculous comments they make such as what you said “I wish I could have morphine”. However not everyone is like this, I bet you’ve had (well I hope you’ve had) some kind individuals who can see how much you’re struggling and how unwell you are. I’ve had some lovely people who’ve been supportive and took the time to understand OCD and how it was affecting me, without jumping to conclusions and making assumptions. And I thinks it always worth remembering these good experiences, but I know it doesn’t make the bad experiences seem any less hurtful or upsetting, but it does provide a bit of comfort.
        Take care of yourself xxx

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