When you hear the term, “OCD,” what do you think of? Do you think of people maniacally washing their hands 100 times over? Or organizing hundreds of pencils by color? Perhaps ironing every wrinkle on a shirt until it is perfect?
While having the impulse to keep things organized may be a trait exhibited by those with OCD, it certainly is not the disorder itself. OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, is an anxiety disorder that causes individuals to obsessively think intrusive thoughts. Thoughts can also take the shape of overarching feelings, perceptions, or images. In order to cope with those thoughts, the mind turns to physical reactions, or compulsions, which temporarily ease the intensity of the thoughts. The key word here is temporarily. These thoughts are difficult to manage, and are therefore often reoccurring.
OCD is different for each person, yet the experiences are often overgeneralized. One individual with OCD may need to check all the doors in their house 40 times every night before being able to sleep as a response to fear of intruders, while another may develop body dysmorphia due to an obsession with their appearance. For those who have symmetry obsessions, they do not love order, but rather they feel like they need it to move on from harmful or uneasy thoughts. “I used to have thoughts that lead me to believe the people I cared about would be in danger, so I would count to three until I felt a bit of relief from my anxiety,” junior Nessa Vandi said.
By using the term OCD as a way to describe day-to-day displays of cleanliness, the disorder itself becomes an adjective for first world problem rather than a name for a burdensome, yet curable, disorder. While this may not seem like a poignant problem, it may prevent individuals from knowing they are suffering from the disorder, and therefore they may neglect to seek help for their issues.
Vandi’s diagnosis her freshman year of high school provided her with a sense of self. “For years I thought I was crazy and that there was something wrong with me because that’s what the people around me thought too. But once I found out that there were others like me, it created a sense of comfort I still can’t explain to this day,” Vandi said.
Various ways to treat OCD exist – and one common method is therapy. Medication is also a course of action that some people take. Both in and out of therapy, people can learn mindfulness techniques that assist those with and without OCD. The goal of mindfulness techniques are for individuals to be aware of everything they are presently feeling without making judgments. As a way to manage OCD, a mindful technique that has proved to be effective is developing an understanding that obsessive fears or scenarios are out of the control of the person who imagines them.
The multi-faceted nature of OCD is often overlooked, however, as awareness continues to increase, people can begin to understand the disorder for what it really is.