8 July 2013

Walking an inch in my shoes

People often say they're 'a bit OCD' about certain aspects of their life, without actually having OCD. This can be a source of frustration - or even anger - for many sufferers, who feel that such comments belittle their experience of the condition and fail to acknowledge its devastating impact.

There is, undoubtedly, a lack of understanding of OCD. However, we can't blame other people for misusing the terminology, if they haven't been educated about the condition, or had direct experience of it. The same is true of our understanding of anybody else's experience of life, whatever it is that determines that experience. 

For me, such comments actually offer a way in to talking about OCD with others. 

Photo: Peter Gettins Photography
So, when a friend revealed that he has 'a thing' about lining up drinking glasses and becomes agitated when they're in disarray, I took the opportunity to explain my experience of OCD. As it happens, I have the same compulsion, but while he orders his in ascending size, from left to right, mine are descending. Frankly, his version of 'order' is as wrong to me as if the glasses weren't ordered at all.

Another friend admitted to obsessively checking that her gas cooker is off, providing me with another jumping-off point to talk about the condition. 

In fact, the way she conducts her checks sounds a lot like an OCD compulsion: she jiggles the dial controlling the gas flow to each ring, while saying 'off, off, off', and has to start again if she's interrupted. That last element really struck me. It's very common in OCD to feel that you haven't enacted a compulsion properly if you're interrupted. Even a small noise can break my concentration and be enough to constitute an interruption.

My view is that if someone has one OCD-style habit, they may be more disposed not only to listen to, but also empathise with, sufferers whose lives are dominated by such behaviours.

And, hard as it can be for OCD sufferers to open up, we have to share our experiences. If we don't, others will continue to misunderstand, undermine or ridicule those with the condition.

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If you don't have OCD, do you have any OCD-style habits? If you do have OCD, how do you respond to people saying 'I'm a bit OCD'?


Lindsay said...

I imagine the claims to be a bit OCD are rather like people saying they are depressed when they are merely feeling a bit miserable or down, which is nothing like clinical depression.

Helen Barbour said...

That is a good analogy, Lindsay.

Jodi @ Heal Now said...

I can imagine why it would be annoying. Almost everyone I contact has some habits. It can come with any stress, and our brains attempt to get control. But they don't distrupt the person's life. <3

Helen Barbour said...

Thanks for your input, Jodi.