The acronym O.C.D. stands for obsessive compulsive disorder. It's characterized by unreasonable thoughts or fears and is usually accompanied with anxiety and feelings of guilt. Ritualistic behaviors, such as the meaningless repeating of words or actions, are symptoms of O.C.D. as well as, compulsive hoarding, hyper vigilance, social isolation, agitation and hyperactivity. It's a havoc wreaking and burdening disorder but is often written over as someone's desire for cleanliness or organization.
I've heard it a million times. "I'm just really O.C.D. about the way my room is set up," or "Your house is so neat! You must be O.C.D." Although these statements are seemingly harmless, they are incorrect and potentially harmful. When we use diagnoseable disorders as throw-away terms, we are minimizing the severity of the disorder itself.
For instance, the acronym is just that, an acronym. It's, in a grammatical sense, a noun. It's not an adjective nor a verb but it's thrown around so carelessly, so insensitively, as if it's almost a compliment. But the reality is that behavioral, anxiety, personality and other disorders or mental illnesses, are not to be taken lightly. They can become so debilitating to someone suffering from them and to use the terms in a frivolous manner, can be demeaning and belittling to the sufferer.
If someone who was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder were to overhear a friend or peer say something like the statements above, how do you think that person would react? Would they feel as if their disability was nothing more than a laughing stock or a common ailment? Would they feel vulnerable to their disorder and no longer seek treatment for themselves? I would like to think that such words wouldn't affect someone suffering and, at times, that may be the case. Unfortunately, our society has deemed mental disorders taboo and often, the punchline of a bad joke. Misconstruing phrases and redefining diagnosable conditions for the sake of a passing joke, is ignorant.
Using mental illness terms as every day descriptors isn't a phenomenon exclusive to obsessive compulsive disorder. Bipolar disorder, depression, dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality disorder), schizophrenia and others are used in the same manner. Sometimes, much to my frustration, these mistaken connotations are even used to sell merchandise.
Bipolar Disorder is not synonymous with a feeling of otherwise normal mood changes. Bipolar disorder is often misrepresented as a condition that causes rapid mood change (from happy, to sad, to excited, to angry in the blink of an eye) when, in fact, bipolar disorder is a disorder that is characterized by the cycling of depression and mania. A patient can experience depression anywhere from weeks to months but it's diagnosis lies within the subsequent period of mania that can also last for weeks or months. Stop calling your normal mood swings bipolar disorder.
Clinical depression isn't the same as being in a depressed mood. Everyone, at some point in their lives, will experience a depressed mood that will typically pass like any other emotion. Overwhelming feelings of uselessness, despondency, lack of interest in activities, uncontrollable crying along with other possible symptoms that last two weeks or more, can be diagnosed as clinical depression. This can also be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, just like many other disorders and illnesses.
Schizophrenia is not the same as Dissociative Identity Disorder. Again, for the people in the back, schizophrenia is not the same as D.I.D! Google defines schizophrenia as "characterized by thoughts or experiences that seem out of touch with reality, disorganized speech or behavior, and decreased participation in daily activities. Difficulty with concentration and memory may also be present." Though the symptoms can range in severity and some may not experience certain symptoms at all. There can be a spectrum of symptoms pertaining to schizophrenia. D.I.D (otherwise known as multiple personality disorder) is vastly different in that it is defined as a person having two or more distinct fragmented personality states. Each personality can have their own name, back story and personal identity outside of the "host." D.I.D is usually formed because of excruciating trauma during childhood when the child's identity functions "split" in a way for the brain to protect itself from abuse. D.I.D is becoming recognized more and more but for years there was a lot (and still is) of stigma and perplexity surrounding the disorder. Possibly more than any other disorder.
Sometimes, we get so used to hearing things or using certain phrasing that we forget to think of how those words may affect others. We must own the culpability from our ignorance and seek truthful information on mental health. Perpetuating false information in the form of misrepresenting these illness and disorders, only further facilitates that narrative. Learn to become mindful of your words. Mental illness, and the stigma surrounding it, is a topic in America that is often overlooked in the conversations we are having about healthcare. This is a huge disadvantage for those suffering. Educating ourselves and helping to educate those around us, can help break down that stigma.
If you or anyone you know is suffering with a mental health disorder, please do not hesitate to seek help.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: Call 1-800-273-8255
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This website has been helpful to me in the past. It's free to register and use.
Affordable-ish online therapy can be found here.