What It’s Really Like To Live With Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, According To People Who Have OCD

It’s very misunderstood.

By Dylan Brethour

People just don’t get OCD. Since I’ve started talking about my diagnosis publicly, I’ve been surprised by the number of well-meaning people who are happy to let me know that they have it too.

No, they haven’t been diagnosed, and no, they aren’t actually struggling. 

But really, aren’t we all just a little bit OCD? The answer to that is an emphatic no.

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OCD is a well-recognized mental illness which affects roughly 1-2 percent of the population. But despite being one of the more common mental illnesses, it remains badly misunderstood.

People miss that symptoms of OCD tend to be pervasive, rather than a single contained compulsion. They miss how symptoms mutate over time and, perhaps most of all, how impossible the illness can be to live with. 

OCD is also often misidentified as an anxiety disorder, despite occupying a separate category in the DSM-V since 2013. What’s common to all experiences of OCD are distressing, repetitive, and intrusive thoughts. These are followed by repetitive compulsions, either physical or mental, to try and relieve the distress of that obsession.

The contents of symptoms are hugely personal, ranging from the mundane to the wildly esoteric. The illogic of OCD means that both are likely to cause equal distress.