We all want to be noticed. I get it.
Call it the product of a generation where everything we do – from graduating to getting our nails done – is on display for everyone to gawk at.
In moderation, I’m okay with it, too. But, somewhere along the line, this desire grew into a need to be special at all costs, even if it meant inventing a disorder or two.
Think about it: How many of your friends recently complained of a headache? Probably no one because nowadays, it’s always a migraine. Anything to escalate the drama, right?
And, on the list of "ailments we invent to sound cool," obsessive compulsive disorder is probably number one.
I have lost count of the times someone does something totally normal, only to follow it up with, “Oh, that’s my OCD kicking in.”
Well, congratulations, you just turned a serious medical condition -- which, according to the NIMH, affects some 2.2 million American adults -- into a conversational cliché.
This attention-seeking statement, when uttered by someone who is very obviously anything but OCD, is usually accompanied by a superior giggle that almost always means, “Hey, look at me! I’ve got a fancy-sounding health condition. Aren’t you impressed?”
Well no, actually. Your insensitive words just make me want to throw something hard, preferably with bristles, at you.
OCD is not "cool," or something that should be trivialized whenever you get so desperate for attention that you settle for pity instead.
Obsessive compulsive disorder is a very real condition, and no one will thank you for creating a misleading impression about a serious health problem.
Here are five instances when, if you catch yourself quipping about “being so OCD,” you need to take a step back and find other ways to get your attention fix:
1. Wanting to clean your working or living environment
This one is a no-brainer, really. There is nothing special about getting annoyed with a sloppy roomie, or with a messy colleague who treats the office like a rubbish pit.
No one likes to live surrounded by dirt. (Well, some of us do, but it’s them who have a problem, not the rest of us.)
So, there is no need to tell us how you make it a point to keep your place tidy and your closet organized because you’re “so OCD about it.”
No, you’re not. You’re just a clean human being. You’re a fully-functioning adult. Well, sort of.
2. Mentally correcting grammar
A couple of days ago, someone I know mispronounced the word "indignant."
Mispronouncing words is a national pastime where I come from. But, this didn’t stop an acquaintance from pouncing forth with a correction, followed by the predictable, “Sorry, it’s just that I’m OCD about it.”
I glowered, but the hint was ignored.
I've been subjected to further examples of this phantom OCD, which apparently includes the daily correction of (other people’s) typos on Facebook statuses.
No, my friend, you’re not OCD. You’re just a garden variety pain in the butt, and I hereby unfriend you.
3. Not liking specific foods
Then, there was the time when someone’s date refused grated cheese on her Bolognese.
There I was, poised with grater in hand (nothing comes between me and fresh parmigiano), when she imperiously bid me not to go anywhere near her with the cheese: "It’s a medical thing. I can’t have cheese on my pasta."
"Ah, she must be allergic," I thought to myself. So, I did the polite thing: I put the grater away and asked the question she very obviously was dying for me to ask.
Turned out that an allergy wasn't the culprit. It was OCD: "I’m very OCD about having cheese on my pasta. I hate it."
"Maybe there was something about cheese that she found disturbing," I thought to myself.
But, no, apparently she loved cheese, just not on pasta: “I hate the taste of melted cheese. It’s an OCD thing. If there’s cheese on it, I’ll have to eat all around it and throw away the cheesy bits.”
Ah, so what you actually mean is you don’t like melted cheese. Weird? Hell, yeah. But not OCD.
Food likes and dislikes vary wildly in humans, so unless you get seriously distressed when the peas are touching the potatoes on your plate, don’t throw around words like OCD, please.
4. Straightening everything in sight
This is a tricky one because it may very well be legitimate. But usually, it’s not.
People who genuinely have OCD are pretty private about it. This means it's very unlikely they'll order their host to straighten out a picture because it kicks off their OCD.
If they’re sipping their latte calmly while saying that, feel free to get up and purposely put anything that’s hanging on your wall at an angle.
That will teach them not to hijack a medical condition they know nothing about.
5 . Worrying about trivial things
This is one example that makes a lot of people genuinely wonder whether they have OCD. But, humans are worriers by nature.
Every time I leave the house, I wonder whether or not I’ve turned off the lights. And the iron. And whether or not I have my phone with me. And my car keys. And yes, I’ve been known to actually turn back, check the lights and then laugh at myself for being so silly.
But it's still not OCD. It' just being a boring, responsible human.
A specific behavior may be classified as OCD when it affects you in such a way that it disrupts the ordinary course of your life.
Calling my roommate to check whether or not the iron is switched on doesn’t fall within those parameters.
The upshot is if you are living a reasonably functional life, chances are you do not have OCD, even if there are certain rituals you enjoy carrying out.
If you're worried you fall within the spectrum, contact a professional. You may also wish to carry out some further reading.
To all others: Give it a rest, will you? Real cases of OCD are difficult enough to cope with, and those affected by it don't need the whole world claiming to share their very real struggle.