In the last couple of years as mental health has deeply affected the lives of people near and dear to me it’s become evident that EVERY month ought to be Mental Health Awareness month. There’s simply not enough education about it and there’s not sufficient resources in our Health Care System to deal with it. Instead there seems to be so much stigma and misconception that I feel compelled to say a few things... you might want to continue reading...
First, distractedness due to a caffeine high is not ADHD. Feeling sad after a distressing event is not PTSD. Being nervous about a presentation is not anxiety. A propensity for tidiness is not OCD.
We need to stop labeling ourselves, and those around us, by using mental disorders as adjectives, because when we do we are doing great harm to those who actually live with these disorders. It becomes very difficult for a struggling individual to seek out help when their disorder becomes delegitimized through social talk, likening mental disorders to normative emotions and behaviors.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is an illness I hope you (or any of your loved ones) never have to experience. I know more about how devastating and debilitating this disorder is, than I care to. The level of irrational fixation on irrational stimuli is beyond the comprehension of a non OCD sufferer. No, the sufferer can’t just ‘suck it up’ or ‘snap out of it’. It is often a brutal, brutal condition. 1 in 100 people have some form of OCD – a staggering number. There are 7 billion people on the planet – you do the math! 1 in 200 of the sufferers are kids and teens. Heartbreaking! Chances are your child is sitting next to someone in class who suffers. Or maybe what you thought was just ‘quirky’ behavior in your child really is a lot more serious.
OCD sufferers are not “crazy” – they are brilliant, often highly intelligent individuals whose brains work double time. They are very aware that their behavior is odd, and therefore tend to take steps to conceal it from other people, often feeling great, overwhelming shame, guilt and dread.
Far from simply being obsessed with order or being ‘neat freaks’, people with OCD experience extremely severe anxiety that can only be alleviated by the performance of various ritual tasks, reassurance seeking or avoidance. The ritualistic behavior (compulsion) is sort of like scratching an itch. You feel compelled to do it or the itch will build. The truth is that the more you itch the more powerful the condition becomes.
They also have irrational intrusive thoughts which they know make no sense, but OCD is trying to trick them into believing. It’s a thought in their head, so it must be true, right? WRONG! The thoughts can include things like obsessing over whether a bump in the road was actually a person, compelling them to drive back and check six times in a row. Or it can be a deep fear that they might harm a loved one if they don’t do a specific ritual over and over or avoid the person altogether.
Because there’s still so much misconception and stigma surrounding mental illness, people tend to hide it and suffer in silence. Chances are someone you know is suffering right now - with or without your knowledge. Their illness is hard enough for them and beats them up daily. Please don’t question their behavior, give them weird looks or tell them to just stop it. If they could make it stop, trust me they would. When my child was the sickest many of her classmates thought she was being ‘dramatic’ and ‘faking’ her illness... imagine what their kindness towards her could have accomplished.
Now that you know how truly horrific OCD really is please stop using it as a label for something it’s not. Instead please just be kind️.