Obsessive Compulsive Disorder affects 2.3% of the population. Many individuals living with OCD are ashamed of their own behavior and suffer in silence, experts estimate that less than 10 percent of those with OCD currently receive treatment.
Not only is OCD highly stigmatized, as mental illnesses are, but it is also glamorized. Many view OCD as a “cute quirk” and throw around the term as if it is an adjective. It is not uncommon to hear, “oh my god, I’m so OCD,” “that stack of papers is so uneven, wow I'm so OCD.” Mental illnesses are not adjectives, they are debilitating disorders that affect millions of people each year. OCD presents differently in every person, is not a one size fits all disorder.
For me, OCD did not take shape in the form of needing every pencil to be sharpened at exactly the same length.
For me, OCD took form in ways no one would ever think of. I remember showing signs of compulsive behaviors around the age five or six, but it was not until I was fifteen that I received an official diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
For me, I can list out my diagnoses faster than most people can say their address. By the age of eighteen, I had received multiple diagnoses: Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, Excoriation Disorder, Trichotillomania, Impulse Control Disorder, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, just to name a few.
For me, OCD is debilitating. The amount of obsessions, compulsions, and delusions I experience are unfathomable. I had this certain delusion, “an idiosyncratic belief or impression that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality or rational argument,” that my cell phone was going to take pictures of me and post them onto social media. Sounds irrational right?
For me, my compulsions seemed rational, necessary, imperative. For over three years, I would not change if my phone was in the same room as me, I would not be in the same room as my phone if I was wearing a sports bra or a swimsuit. I was certain that if I was in the presence of my phone and I was not fully clothed, somehow, this inanimate object was going to take a picture of me and post it on the internet, by itself, this glass object, capable of performing an action not possible without a human doing so.
For me, this is my daily life. I feared that by downloading social media apps like Instagram and Snapchat and Twitter, that the amount of anxiety I would have would be unbearable. By allowing myself to use these modern applications that so many peers and young adults utilize, I was in part, signing away two to three hours of my day checking every post I scrolled by, every picture I liked, every tweet I submitted. This irrational compulsion was driven by my belief that I had accidentally written something on someones picture or post, accidentally commented something horrible and despicable. Again, these actions were only capable by a human performing them, yet OCD told me that my phone was capable of accidentally commenting vicious words or mistakenly liking someone’s post. Sounds like hell right? It was.
For me, I joke that my room is messy, but my brain is organized. If you know me, you know that my room is a mess. Pretty contradictory for someone with severe OCD right? Wrong, having OCD does not mean that everything has to be neat and tidy. Having my clothes strewn on the floor or papers on my desk doesn’t give me anxiety, but having someone touch my hairbrush or try to put a hat on my head overloads me with panic.
For me, OCD does not control my life as significantly as it used to. Partly due to medication, partly due to therapy. Having a mental illness does not make you less of a person. To anyone suffering from OCD or another mental health issue, you are so much more than your diagnosis. You do not even need a diagnosis to be struggling. Some days are more of a struggle than others, but I am trying the best I can, and I’m trying to be the best Natalie I can be for myself and others.
If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.