Aarica Marsh: Obsessing over OCD

However, as I began to really listen to the lyrics, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the song.

It’s no secret that my family is full of people with mental health issues similar to those that Eminem suffers from. My dad and his three siblings all have severe anxiety and depression, passing along these wonderful traits to nearly all of their offspring. Their dad, my late grandfather, took several medications most of his life for bipolar disorder, a disease that we unfortunately discovered was passed along to my youngest brother when he was nine years old.

Despite recognizing the plethora of mental health problems existing within the Marsh DNA, I never quite recognized the other anxiety-associated issues affecting my family until I heard Eminem rapping about them on the radio.

In the second verse of “The Monster,” the self-proclaimed Rap God admits to experiencing obsessive-compulsive disorder alongside other mental health issues. Other than one episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” in which Dr. Miranda Bailey is forced to stop performing surgery to deal with her problematic OCD, it was the first time I had actually heard someone in popular culture talk about experiencing obsessive-compulsive symptoms.

While the Detroit-based artist was revealing his problems with OCD, the rest of the world seemed to remain silent. According to an article from Medical Daily, “Because there isn’t much public awareness of OCD, (it makes) it even harder for people to cope and find help for their condition.”

Is OCD another case of don’t ask, don’t tell?

According to the National Institute of Health, only 2.2 million American adults, about 1 percent of the population, have been diagnosed with OCD. Yet, a 2014 study found that 94 percent of people experience intrusive, unwanted thoughts associated with OCD in their daily lives. The disorder exists on a spectrum, with most affected individuals being able to rationally cope with their intrusive thoughts.

Unfortunately, the 1 percent of our population who have been diagnosed OCD suffer from severe symptoms that interfere with their lives on a daily basis. There are many classifications of OCD: washers, checkers, doubters and sinners, hoarders, counters and arrangers. The thoughts are irrational, may be genetic and often occur simultaneously with other mental health issues, especially anxiety.

Reading more about OCD made me realize how often I, and several members of my family, perform OCD-like behaviors. I check to make sure my keys are in my pocket three times before shutting my car door, I’m super-organized at work and am irritated when other employees put things in the wrong place (it’s not just because my boss wants me to be). I can’t stand when my housemates use my toothpaste because they don’t use it the right way.

I asked my bipolar brother if he ever experiences similar behaviors; his keys have to be a certain way in the ignition, he walks around the house at night making sure all of the doors are locked, his phone always goes in a certain pocket.

When I was younger, watching my dad perform obsessive-compulsive behaviors — such as walking down three stairs, back up them and then down — I thought he was superstitious. Today, I realize these behaviors are most likely an effect of the anxiety and depression he suffers from.

Yet, psychologists warn, “Just because you have obsessive thoughts or perform compulsive behaviors does NOT mean that you have obsessive-compulsive disorder.”

So, maybe we’re not technically OCD.

Our behaviors don’t necessarily disrupt the way we live our lives, yet sometimes they’re still problematic. Listening to Eminem has assured me that I am not alone and has helped me finally recognize the way I do things, and why I do the “weird” things that I do. Acceptance is always the first step.

Eminem said it best: “I am nuts for real, but I’m okay with that.”

Aarica Marsh can be reached at aaricama@umich.edu.