One of the most annoying things I hear is when people say things like, “My kitchen has to be clean. I mean, I am so OCD.” A clean kitchen does not make one have obsessive compulsive disorder. Sure, some people with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) do have to have things spotless, but that is not a requirement. Take me for example, I am messy. My kitchen floor needs a good washing and my dining room table could use a thorough dose of organization. Yet, I have been diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder for more than a decade.
Obsessive compulsive disorder falls under the anxiety disorder tree. The National Institute for Mental Health states: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common, chronic and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts ( obsessions) and behaviors ( compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.
For example, I once was obsessed with doing things in the “right” order. If not, I would run someone over. Putting on socks was a chore. What if I picked the wrong ones? What if I put them on my feet in the wrong order? Should it be left first or was it the right foot? It took so much of my time and then I would be so unsure of myself I could not leave the house for fear of running someone over. Was this at all logical? No, but I believed it so it was true to me.
I am also obsessed with numbers. I used to be able to do anything, like turn up the volume on the television, to a multiple of two. Then, somehow, that morphed into multiples of five. The radio can only play at ten or fifteen decibiles, and so on. I can only get out of bed at a time followed by a multiple of ten. Why? Because any other way is dangerous. I like the safety of my numbers.
I am also a hand washer. I love to wash my hands repetitiously. I have a method. First, start with very hot water. Next, soap up my thumb top on the inside of my palm and all the way around. Wash the nail bed. Proceed to the index finger. Continue to do all fingers, then do the same process to the back of the hand before giving the opposite hand a go. It is also important to clean the back of my hands and both wrists. I can go on like this for twenty-five to thirty times. It is comforting to me.
In graduate school I had to “check” everything. I had (and still do have) Hope, my Bernese Mountain Dog and part of my checking was to secure her safety. I had to check the outlets, making sure there were no fraying wires or the like. I had to check that the patio was locked, doors were shut, and no food was on the counter that Hope could get. I also had to wash my hands those many, many times before leaving. When it came to leaving and locking the door, I did it five times. This is part of the reason I left graduate school. My obsessive compulsive disorder was only getting worse. It was becoming harder to leave the apartment and definitely more time consuming.
I also have a tendency to line things up, especially under stress – that began in graduate school. I would open the fridge. Close the door. Then open it again to make sure all my condiments faced forward. I do that at home still in my house. If I can do it without getting caught, I do it at my parents’ house. I just feel like I am being ridiculous is the reason I don’t want them to catch me reorganizing their fridge. Everything – all the bottles of shampoos and conditioners and face wash – in the shower are spaced evenly on its appropriate shelf, moved to the edge where I can slip my finger down to the edge of the shelf.
See? It is a disorder and you minimizing it to a clean kitchen diminishes the vast disorder. So please, next time you think of using OCD to describe something, make sure you understand what you are saying.