What is OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a conditon that makes people do actions (compulsions) or think about things (obesssions) involuntarily. This happens repeatedly and without choice.

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OCD is not:

OCD is a mental condition. It's disrespectful to joke or spread memes about it.
Feeling upset when something is not aligned correctly is human, not having OCD.Misaligned road surface marking over a drainage hole
People can't be "OCD". It's a mental condition, you either have it or you don't.
OCD is not quirky. It is a mental condition that you don't want to have.
Compulsions are sometimes in a person's head, possibly invisible to others. They still take up considerable time and can cause a lot of anxiety, often resulting in the person being constantly distracted, restless and on edge.
We all have things we choose to obsess over. We might rewrite a message to make it just right or replay a moment in our heads multiple times. But someone with OCD cannot "snap out of it". They feel like there is nothing they can do but continue thinking about it. The brain is stuck and driven by anxiety.
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OCD is:

Having OCD means that you feel like you have no option but to do something that you do not find logical or have any pleasure doing.
Dealing with OCD means that time you would rather spend on other things must instead be spent managing your symptoms. The criteria for being diagnosed with OCD includes a requirement that it takes up at least 1 hour of your day.
OCD is not something to be jealous of. Everyone with OCD wishes that they didn't have it.

Common behaviours

The following are some common behaviors for people with OCD. They do not apply to all people, as the condition is individual and varies from person to person.

  1. “Recurrent and persistent thoughts, urges or images that are experienced, at some time during the disturbance, as intrusive, unwanted, and that in most individuals cause marked anxiety or distress.”

  2. “The individual attempts to ignore or suppress such thoughts, urges, or images, or to neutralize them with some thought or action (i.e., by performing a compulsion).”

  1. “Repetitive behaviors (e.g., hand washing, ordering checking) or mental acts (e.g., praying, counting, repeating words silently) that the person feels driven to perform in response to an obsession, or according to the rules that must be applied rigidly.”

  2. “The behaviors or mental acts are aimed at preventing or reducing distress or preventing some dreaded event or situation. However, these behaviors or mental acts either are not connected in a realistic way with what they are designed to neutralize or prevent or are clearly excessive.”

Why should I care?

Talking about or mentioning OCD as the reason for you being annoyed about something spreads an incorrect definition. This is bad for multiple reasons:

  • It trivializes the condition by making it seem less painful than it is, invalidating the experience for people suffering from it.
  • It makes it harder for people suffering to get diagnosed.
  • It's disrespectful for people with OCD.

What can I do?

  1. Avoid using the word OCD for things that have nothing to do with the actual condition. Here are some examples of phrases that should be avoided:

      I'm so OCD
      That is triggering my OCD
      My OCD can't handle this
      _ is giving me an OCD attack
      I'm so OCD about that
  2. Stop spreading and endorsing jokes/memes about OCD. The vast majority of them are disrespectful to people suffering.

  3. Spread awareness instead! The next time you hear a joke or incorrect use, send them this page.

  4. Support groups for OCD. There are many organizations that raise money to support people with OCD and their families. Even if you can’t support them yourself, you can help share these groups with others, so they can support these groups.

The contents of this page is based on a Google doc. Feel free to suggest changes.