What not to say to someone with OCD

People say the darnedest things. And sometimes they say the most insensitive things. Whilst it’s great that obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) has received enough media attention that it’s no longer a dirty secret, it is obvious that many people still fail to understand the true severity of this anxiety disorder. When people say things like “I’m so OCD about that,” what they don’t get is that were they really suffering from OCD they would be trapped in an endless cycle of intrusive thoughts and anxiety, held hostage by their own minds, and often barely able to function in their lives.

So whilst it’s great that sufferers of OCD can freely say they have OCD without being confronted with questioning looks, we the listeners need to respond appropriately. And this begins with knowing what not to say.

1)  “How bad can it really be?” So bad that it can take hours just to leave the house. If we even ever make it out of the house.
And the only relief comes during sleep. It's an incessant nightmare that never lets you go, not even for one second.

2)  “I’m also a bit OCD about things like that.” There’s a huge difference between keeping a neat and tidy home and suffering from incessant, intrusive thoughts and compulsions over which you have no control, no matter how exhausted you are.

3)  “Snap out of it.” OCD is not fun. If we could snap out of it, we would!

4)  “Why can’t you just think about something else?” OCD is a biological disorder of the brain. We can’t control our thoughts any more than a diabetic can control their production of insulin.

5)  “It’s because you don’t have any real worries.” We feel guilty enough as it is, you don’t need to make us feel any worse.

6)  “Let’s go out and get drunk.” OCD is an anxiety disorder, and alcohol use only makes anxiety worse.
Interestingly, one of alcohol's many side effects is the depletion of the neurotransmitter, serotonin. Sufferers of OCD already have low serotonin, hence the success of the serotonin reuptake inhibitor drugs in treating OCD. So when someone offers you alcohol, the answer is thanks but no thanks.

7)  “It’s because your parents were too controlling.” Actually for once, parents are not to blame. OCD is a neuro-biological disorder, meaning that we were born this way.

So please, people, think before you speak.



05/12/2012 02:18

Very nice and informative article!

I suffer from a kind of OCD diagnoses myself but which is very unusual: I feel I stare at all people from outside my eye corners all the time which people notice abd reach upon. It's not because I turn my head to the right or left to stare at people, no, I stare out of my eye peripherial vision which is OCD ficsed. As for this I can't for example go for school, job, go by the bus or train or even in the cinema without staring at all people!

And I not the only one with this dianosis! I have found many other people suffering from the exact same where we have made a Facebook group. You are very welcome to join us!

The problem with this diagnosis is that many doctors don't know about this kind of OCD or to speak; very few doctors know about it. There's no official name for it and no proper treatment.

But I have gathered some more information at my website:

Thanks again for this article (SMILES FROM DENMARK) :D

05/14/2012 16:12

Dear Shais
Firstly congratulations on your website. Your message is especially interesting to me, as I too am trying to raise awareness about types of OCD that have no name and are not recognized. It can be very isolating when the only OCD that is ever spoken about is cleaning, checking and hoarding. It leaves out so many sufferers of OCD, which is precisely why I wrote A Life Lived Ridiculously, as a way to give them a voice.
You are doing a great job of raising awareness of your type of OCD and you are extremely brave to be so open about it.
PS I have LIKED you on Facebook :)

06/21/2013 04:38

After reading your post, I start doubting that whether I am little OCD towards things. There are few symptoms that I can match with my character, just like I get easily nervous in front of strangers or crowd. I didn’t know about the reason behind it till now.

07/10/2013 09:22

Brand new moms feel guilty leaving their newborns. As a result, they rarely ask for a babysitter. Explain that as part of the new mother gift, you can't wait to care for the baby while she goes out. Thanks.


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