I’m sure you’ve heard someone say to you, “I’m so OCD!” or “God, my OCD is so bad today!” when their pens aren’t in a straight line or their papers are out of order.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a term most people recognize but few fully understand. It’s usually something people casually refer to — an explanation as to why they’re organized.
But OCD is larger than that, and for many, including myself, it’s a real challenge dealt with daily.
In the United States, 2.2 million adults are affected by OCD, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. This is about 1% of the U.S. adult population.
I’m convinced, however, that the numbers are greater than this in reality.
OCD is an anxiety disorder in which people have recurring, unwanted thoughts that make them feel driven to do something repetitively and cause distress or anxiety, according to the American Psychiatric Association.
There are two parts to OCD — obsessions and compulsions.
Obsessions can present themselves in the form of intrusive thoughts, which to put it simply, feels like a super annoying voice in your head, constantly telling you things you don’t want to hear and that mostly have no validity behind them.
Compulsions are a way for people with OCD to “avoid” the content of their obsessions.
For example, if you fear that an intruder will break into your house in the middle of the night, naturally, you will lock your door. But an OCD brain insists you check the lock again and again and again.
An OCD brain clings onto uncertainty and what-ifs and doesn’t recognize the fear is improbable. Validation and giving into compulsions only fuels the cycle, but it is possible to “cure” yourself — at least I know I have helped myself get out of a lot of my cycles.
For some people, commonly-acknowledged obsessions over germs or making sure everything is perfectly in order is a reality and a struggle.
However, it’s important to understand this is just the tip of the OCD iceberg and should not be the generalization for all those that have it. OCD makes it hard to distinguish between intuition and anxiety, making it feel like you can’t make a clear decision on much of anything without internal debate.
I always thought I was just an anxious, “Type A” person. As a kid, I worried about things other kids didn’t seem to be as worried about — “Will mom and dad get home from dinner safely? Will some unexpected tragedy happen?”
I worried about things past my years, and no decision was made without overthinking.
As I got older, those worries became easier to push aside as I gained a better grasp over my mind, and I subconsciously helped myself to beat some of my OCD.
But new concerns come about with age, and as we all know, the new responsibilities of young adulthood can be stressful.
Of course, the coronavirus pandemic didn’t help anything, and it was at this point when my worries about uncertainty and the future got out of hand.
I started seeing a counselor for what I thought was anxiety, but through my own research and the guidance of my counselor, I started to feel like there was something behind the anxiety. I stumbled across some OCD pages on Instagram and soon found I identified with every issue discussed.
Seven months later, at 19 years old, I had an official diagnosis and a medication plan that has actually proven effective.
The average onset of OCD, according to the ADAA, is 19 years old, which is crucial information for a college student to acknowledge, as many might be suffering without a diagnosis quite yet.
OCD can make you feel like you’re not doing badly enough to need help, or you’re really fine and you’re “making it up.”
This probably proves true for other mental disorders too, but it’s important to understand if you feel that you need help, get help.
Your problems are valid, even if someone else’s situations seem worse. Everyone has the right to better themselves, and although this can feel difficult at first, if you keep your eye on the end goal, it becomes easier to work through the hard times.
You are your own best advocate. Use this to change your life for the better.