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Obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that, for some reason, everyone thinks they have. Apparently, it’s kind of a trend. You’ve probably heard someone talk about their books and, as they arranged them according to height, flippantly say, “Ah, I can’t stand it when my books aren’t aligned smallest to tallest. I’m just so OCD!!”

Well, chances are, they probably aren’t. Not even a little bit.

Hurrah for belittling real disorders and contributing to a complete misunderstanding of people who suffer from it.

First, OCD isn’t some whim that you can take or leave. It is something that you have no control over. Indeed, for most people with this condition, their rituals control them (not the other way around).

Being OCD does not mean that you have a habit; it doesn’t mean that you have a personal preference; and it definitely shouldn’t mean that you are trying to jump on the latest “trendy” bandwagon. OCD is an “obsession” (hence the name). And the fact is, very few people have true obsessions (though, apparently, many people like to use hyperbolic statements).

In order to be diagnosed, individuals must spend at least 1 hour a day on repeating their rituals or going over the same, reoccurring thought. Ultimately, OCD is a medical condition, and it’s one that only a doctor can diagnose.

Second, although it is certainly not the rarest mental issue in the United States, it is fairly uncommon. There are some 3.3 million people who have OCD, 0.3 to 1% of the pediatric population and 2% of the adult population. That’s quite a few people who suffer from this disorder; however, it’s a lot less people than my Facebook newsfeed would have me believe (unfortunately, statements like “omigod soooo OCD” abound).

While I am all for talking about conditions, reclaiming words (or even various disorders), and being humorous as a way of combating suffering… the way that people talk about OCD does not seem very helpful to people who actually have OCD. Indeed, the way that we discuss OCD belittles the condition and disparages those who suffer from it. By making it seem like it’s something that everyone deals with, we make it seem like OCD isn’t a real thing. Consequently, it would behoove us all to get informed about what this disorder really is.

OCD sometimes runs in families; however, we’ve yet to identify the exact cause. That said, brain imaging studies have given us some clues. Images using a technique called positron emission tomography (PET) indicate that several parts of the brain are involved, and it focuses  on areas related to fear and anxiety. The MRCV notes, “There is growing evidence that OCD represents abnormal functioning of brain circuitry, probably involving a part of the brain called the striatum.”

To learn more about what OCD really is, check out the video below:


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