OCD is not a joke

Kate Murray, Visual Editor

Like most mental illnesses, Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is generally misunderstood.  How many times have I heard that people with schizophrenia are crazy, or that people with depression are just lazy?  The misconception of OCD is nothing new, but it’s unique in that people spread their misunderstanding of it by making jokes.  Comments like “My mom keeps our bathroom super clean. She’s so OCD,” can seem harmless, but can do some serious harm.  However, in order to understand this harm we must first understand what OCD is and how it affects people.

“OCD is a two pronged thing,” said Mr. Stevens, a psychology teacher here at AHS, “There are obsessions and compulsions… ”

Obsessions, he explained, are unwanted thoughts or impulses that the sufferer cannot control and usually are of upsetting sexual or violent nature.  Compulsions are behaviors the sufferer uses to try to reduce the obsessions, and they usually correlate to them.  For example, if someone’s obsessions include getting sick from touching contaminated objects, they may wash their hands compulsively.

OCD is a disorder. It is an illness, not an adjective like “picky” or some such.  Similarly, bronchitis is not a synonym of “cold.”  You cannot be a little bronchitis, and you cannot be a little OCD.  You can be a little cold or a little picky, however.

Unfortunately, people don’t seem to realize this all the time, and do not understand the consequences that OCD jokes can have.

“People with OCD are generally very anxious,” said Mr. Stevens, “and that can be made worse by joking about it because they worry about what other people think of [their OCD.]”

This in turn can make the symptoms of OCD even worse, which can make anxiety worse, which can make the OCD worse, and the cycle continues.

In case you need more explanation on why this is bad, try to remember a time when you accidentally thought of the fact that your parents probably had sex in order for you to be born.  Now imagine having a very graphic image of that popping into your brain all the time, and you can’t make it go away even though you really don’t want to think about that, so you figure out that a good way to make the image go away for a while is to, say, walk in a three foot diameter circle three times.  And you know that it looks weird, so you don’t really want to do it, but you don’t want that image in your head either, and it doesn’t feel like you have a choice to do anything else, so you walk in a circle.  Eventually someone makes a joke about you doing this thing you are very self-conscious about, and it embarrasses you, but you still don’t have an option to do anything else, so you get more upset and the image pops into your head more often so you walk in circles more often so people make fun of you more often.  It doesn’t sound like much fun, if you ask me.

No matter how harmless a joke seems, you may be doing more harm than you know.