Stop romanticizing OCD

Photo courtesy of Hannah Jane Baumann

Be a little OCD. The title belonged to a section on the front page cover of a magazine I had glanced over while waiting in my doctor’s office a few weeks ago.

The section was centered around ways to keep your home “clean & tidy” and how to keep small things organized around the house. As someone medically diagnosed with OCD, I just had to laugh at the outrageous title.

No wonder people don’t take mental illness seriously, I remembered thinking. Apparently it’s more of an advantage than an illness.

I’ve always had a feeling I was OCD, and that I suffered from anxiety but I was always afraid to talk to my doctors about how I was feeling.

Society seems to portray mental illness as a condition that isn’t serious and that those who are affected by it are simply weaker than everyone else.

I was too ashamed to admit I needed help. A few months ago, I was at an all time low. The pandemic brought my anxiety levels through the roof and the little rituals and things I used to do to calm myself were no longer enough.

I needed help and finally admitted that. I was referenced to a psychiatrist by my doctor and was then diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and OCD and put on medication to help what I could no longer control.

Being OCD is not simply being tidy and organized, it is not an asset to my everyday life. It is a condition I have to overcome every day to function just like everyone else.

It is not something worthy of romanticizing. It does not belong on the front cover of magazines as something worthy of praise. Yes my friends tease me about being a “clean freak” but that isn’t even from my OCD.

My OCD causes me to be late to an online exam because the pencil holder on my desk is at a weird angle and I can’t quite get it right. I fixate on it until it is satisfactory and then realize I’m 5 minutes late. My OCD causes me to turn around and walk another way to the same building because I feel like I “did it wrong” and something is off even though it will make me late to the meeting I am supposed to attend. It is an illness I deal with everyday, not a trait I should flaunt and romanticize.

By claiming you have OCD because you are organized and tidy, you diminish those who actually suffer from the condition. You praise something someone is suffering from. The same goes for any mental illness. It is one thing to get help and a professional diagnosis if you feel you are truly suffering.

It is another to joke about being “a little OCD” or to claim you are depressed simply because you are sad for a few days. This trivializes mental illness, and dismisses those who are truly suffering from such conditions.

Stop romanticizing mental illness, stop praising it on the front cover of magazines. Instead, help your friends who suffer from such illnesses like depression, anxiety, and OCD. Having any of these mental illnesses are not hip or cool. It does not make you seem quirky or more fun because you claim you have mental illness as a joke.

On the other hand, if someone seems like they genuinely identify with a mental illness, do not just write them off.

Check on your friends and check on yourself as well. Go get professional help and get a real diagnosis before self-diagnosing and diminishing the effects of mental illness on those who actually suffer from it.

Having a mental illness is not something to be ashamed of, I am not saying it is something we should hide and be embarrassed about.

I am saying the romanticization needs to stop. Instead of writing articles on cleanliness and titling it Be a little OCD, write articles on people with OCD and their experiences with working around their mental illness and overcoming it.

So, next time you decide to refer to yourself as “a little OCD” and you actually are not, keep all this in mind.

Having OCD is not a game to me. It is my life. It is something that I cannot change about myself, so for someone to throw around the term like it’s nothing is really insulting.

We are not victims of mental illness, we are survivors. We are people who overcome more than the average person each day.

We praise cancer survivors, not cancer itself. So why do we do this with mental illness? Praise those who work hard in spite of their illnesses rather than the illnesses themselves.